asks for “an independent review and assessment of the plan for the U.S. magnetic fusion burning plasma experimental program … [and] recommendations on the program strategy aimed at maximizing the yield of scientific and technical understanding as the foundation for the future development of fusion as an energy source” (see Appendix A). The committee notes that apart from being presented with some short-term budget plans from the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (OFES), progress reports on the state of the ITER negotiations, briefings on the activities and reports of the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC), and reports on the status of the various elements of the current research program, the Burning Plasma Assessment Committee was not presented with a coherent and singular strategy for the OFES program. The committee strives to present a foundation for such a strategy in this report, as detailed in this chapter. It should be noted that because the committee’s charge was limited to the consideration of magnetically confined burning plasmas, none of the inertial confinement fusion programs is considered here.

Since the decision to reenter the negotiations on participation in ITER has been made by the U.S. government, it is necessary to consider the context and impact of this decision on the U.S. fusion program. The pursuit of a burning plasma experiment is a large undertaking that will necessarily require a significant shift in the distribution of activities in the U.S. fusion program. Even on a success-oriented schedule, experiments on ITER will not begin for approximately 10 years, and they will run for a decade or more. The Department of Energy’s fusion program must be designed both recognizing this timescale and addressing the importance of balancing the pursuit of the other critical issues of fusion science needed to establish the basis for fusion energy.

In its interim report, the committee listed some minimal level of participation in the ITER program to which the U.S. fusion program should commit in order to gain sufficient benefit from this opportunity to study burning plasmas. It said, “The United States should pursue an appropriate level of involvement in ITER, which at a minimum would guarantee access to all data from ITER, the right to propose and carry out experiments, and a role in producing the high-technology components of the facility, consistent with the size of the U.S. contribution to the program” (see Appendix E, p. 157).1 The committee reaffirms this conclusion.


The committee notes that the text in the interim report has a comma between the words “facility” and “consistent” in this quotation. Since publication of that report, the committee has become aware of the potential for the original formulation being interpreted in a manner inconsistent with the committee’s intent. Therefore, as shown in the Summary of the present report and in the list of recommendations later in this chapter, the committee has removed that comma. The removal of the comma reasserts the committee’s intended meaning, namely, that the U.S. role in producing the high-technology components of the facility be consistent with the size of the U.S. contribution.

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