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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program 3 Recommended Elements for Future Development of the DOE Plan for U.S. Plasma Science Community Participation in ITER RECOMMENDED GOALS OF U.S. ITER PLANNING ACTIVITIES It is clear that planning for U.S. involvement in the ITER project must be recognized as a dynamic and evolving process due to the lengthy construction phase of the experimental facilities. During the construction phase, technical advances will continue to be made, new problems are likely to be identified, and political challenges will arise at the international and national levels. Accordingly, a successful plan must display flexibility and ingenuity and must reflect continued access to a broad range of top experts from the U.S. fusion science and technology—and, more broadly, physics—community. Consistent with previous advice, the committee suggests that the following goals be the underpinning of U.S. planning activities: Encouraging broad academic and industry participation in ITER, to help ensure that the knowledge gained at ITER is brought back to the wider U.S. scientific community; Enabling U.S. ability to contribute substantially to ITER, and maximizing U.S. ability to act on the results produced by ITER, in order to fully reap the enormous scientific and technological reward possible as a result of U.S. involvement in the project; and Rejuvenating the U.S. fusion workforce by the recruitment and training of young fusion scientists and engineers.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program Recommendation: The committee recommends that the following goals be adopted as the foundation of Department of Energy planning activities for U.S. participation in ITER: Ensuring broad academic and industry participation in ITER, Enabling the United States to contribute substantially to and reap the rewards from ITER, and Recruiting and training young fusion scientists and engineers. RECOMMENDED PROCEDURES TO FACILITATE FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE DOE PLAN The committee suggests that the following procedures be implemented to accomplish the goals recommended above: A long-term strategic plan for the U.S. burning plasma fusion program should be created with ITER as an important, but not the only, piece. It is essential to understand the long-term research goals in order to ensure that U.S. research activities on ITER adequately prepare the knowledge base for future fusion energy development. A broad, long-term, burning plasma fusion research strategy within the context of global fusion energy development activities will facilitate the achievement of the goals recommended above. The committee endorses the recommendation in Plasma Science: Advancing Knowledge in the National Interest encouraging the development of a 15-year U.S. strategic plan “for moving aggressively into the fusion burning plasma era … [and to] lay out the main scientific issues to be addressed and provide guidance for the evolution of the national suite of facilities and other resources needed to address these issues.”1 The creation of such a strategic plan will help the Department of Energy (DOE) ensure that the activities of the U.S. fusion program interact synergistically with the ITER project, focus U.S. research strengths, and, ultimately, bring fusion power home to the United States. With the maturation of planning activities, and as progress is made in constructing the experimental ITER facilities, the United States should maintain a home team to encourage broad cooperation and collaboration among all U.S. participants in the ITER project throughout ITER research and operations. The flexible and technically encompassing U.S. Burning Plasma Organization (USBPO) has been serving in this role and should continue to be relied on as an essential point of communication linking the U.S. fusion community, the International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA), and the DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (OFES). A broadly 1 National Research Council, Plasma Science: Advancing Knowledge in the National Interest, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007, p. 150.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program constituted home team would be most capable of bringing together elements from across the diverse U.S. plasma science community and other disciplines of physics. This home team could also help DOE and the fusion community to implement this committee’s guidance. To maximize the value of ITER, whose technical results are to be achieved on a scale of more than 10 years, the DOE plan should consider how current U.S. plasma science facilities will support ITER research and what capabilities will be needed in the future, feeding into the long-range strategic plan for the U.S. burning plasma fusion program. Careful planning will be required to ensure the continued relevance of U.S. facilities to the ITER project and beyond. It will be essential for the United States to maintain a vibrant domestic fusion program, in terms of both basic research and facilities. “Transformation of the present portfolio of aging U.S. facilities into a new portfolio designed to expeditiously address key fusion scientific issues,”2 made possible through new domestic construction or partnering in new foreign facilities, will enable the United States to maximize the scientific return on its investment and position itself to be among the world’s leaders in the development of fusion power and technology. To that same end, U.S. ITER research should be guided by advice from a program advisory committee, as is research in other DOE science programs. A vibrant domestic program will also help maintain U.S. researchers’ skills at the forefront of the field and stimulate interest among younger scientists and engineers and the general public. The current generation of large tokamaks operated by the international ITER partners plays an important role in ITER. Experiments on these devices have provided crucial input to the recent design review of ITER, and even after ITER is operational, improved scientific understanding will come from experiments done on both ITER and at other experimental facilities. The importance of maintaining and operating smaller tokamaks among the international partners is underscored by the expected cost of running ITER and its extended operational planning process. Many physics and technical issues that may arise during ITER operation can be effectively addressed on smaller devices, which will help optimize ITER operations. Unfortunately, budget restrictions in recent years have not allowed the U.S. tokamaks to operate at full capacity, limiting their contributions. These facilities are unique and represent valuable test beds for ITER research ideas. Within the scope of the entire fusion enterprise and its budget, the DOE plan should consider if it would be beneficial to increase the operating availability of these tokamaks in support of ITER. 2 Ibid., p. 151.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program This approach could yield a highly leveraged opportunity to improve U.S. participation in the ITER program. Recommendation: The committee recommends the following procedures to accomplish the U.S. planning goals recommended above, and to facilitate the further development of the DOE plan: DOE should create a long-term strategic plan for the U.S. burning plasma fusion program within the context of global fusion energy development activities. The U.S. Burning Plasma Organization should continue to be an essential point of communication, and serve as a home team to encourage broad cooperation and collaboration among all U.S. participants in the ITER project. DOE should maintain a vibrant domestic fusion program through strong support for basic research and facilities. The DOE plan for U.S. participation in ITER should consider what capabilities exist and need to exist at U.S. plasma science facilities. The DOE plan should consider the needed operating availability of domestic tokamaks. RECOMMENDED METRICS FOR MEASURING ROBUST U.S. PARTICIPATION IN THE ITER RESEARCH PROGRAM Metrics Included in the DOE Plan The committee finds that the DOE plan includes well-thought-out metrics for evaluating U.S. participation in the ITER research program. These metrics will help to inform policy makers and project leaders about the level of participation of the U.S. fusion energy program in the ITER project. The metrics given in the DOE plan are quoted in the bulleted entries below:3 “Number of U.S. researchers, students and technologists participating in ITER,” and “Number of experiments and technology tests proposed or led by U.S. participants.” 3 U.S. Burning Plasma Organization, Planning for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program, June 7, 2006, p. 33. Available at http://www.ofes.fusion.doe.gov/News/EPAct_final_June06.pdf, last viewed July 22, 2008.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program The level of participation of U.S. researchers in the ITER project, U.S. contributions to ITER experiments, and related research are indicative of the vitality of U.S. involvement in the ITER research program. Conversely, these metrics will also provide insight into the contribution of ITER research to the U.S. fusion energy research program. As U.S. researchers continue to participate in ITER research and development activities, they will bring back the knowledge gained and apply it for future advances in the U.S. base program. “Achievement of scientific and technology milestones on ITER.” ITER is a scientifically, technologically, and organizationally challenging project. Setting and then meeting ambitious, yet realistic, milestones will not only demonstrate progress toward achieving the planned research but it will also support and encourage the international partners in ITER. “Number of research and technology publications on ITER produced by U.S. participants,” and “Citations of U.S. publications.” Bibliometrics is a widely recognized method of evaluating research impact, and it will help policy makers and researchers to assess the health of U.S. participation in the ITER project and research. The committee emphasizes that the citation of U.S.-based research appearing in publications from ITER is also a valuable metric because it directly reflects the U.S. influence on ITER research. However, program managers should not rely on bibliographical figures alone, but should run complementary analyses using the metrics outlined in this section and the next. It is understood that data on publications are influenced by a variety of factors and can vary from project to project, and so having a suite of assessment tools is critical. In fact, the U.S. fusion community is already robustly engaged in the ITER research program and in the design and construction process at all levels, through the USBPO, the Virtual Laboratory for Technology (VLT), and the U.S. ITER Project Office (USIPO) and their close affiliation with the other ITER organizations. Recently, the U.S. program has participated strongly in the international ITER design review, organized by the ITER Organization, to complete the ITER baseline design. The USBPO has applied some of the metrics in the DOE plan to recent activities, with the following results:
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program 278 U.S. researchers from 49 institutions are members of the USBPO. Approximately 124 U.S. researchers participated directly in the ITER design review. Approximately 50 percent of the experiments planned for 2008 on the largest U.S. experiments (C-Mod, DIII-D, NSTX), taken together, are in support of ITER. U.S. scientists constitute 73 of the 273 authors (27 percent) of the nine articles documenting Progress in the ITER Physics Basis, published in the journal Nuclear Fusion in 2007.4 U.S. scientists constitute 30 of the 68 authors (44 percent) of the 13 articles on diagnostics for ITER and burning plasmas, published in a special issue of the journal Fusion Science and Technology in 2008.5 U.S. scientists were the lead authors on 10 of the 65 papers on ITER at the 2006 IAEA Fusion Energy Conference (Chengdu, China) and were co-authors on an additional 9 papers. These activities came about from proactive engagement by the USBPO, the USIPO, and OFES, and provide early evidence that the DOE plan is working well. When evaluating the results of applying these metrics, it is important to compare the results to the 1/11th share of the project that the United States has agreed to contribute. It will be equally important to bear this in mind for future evaluations. The USBPO’s evaluation provides early evidence that the United States has been engaging effectively in international ITER planning activities, although this level of participation will remain contingent on U.S. support for the project. Finding: The committee finds that the DOE plan includes well-thought-out metrics to measure the robustness of U.S. participation in the ITER program. Recommended Additional Metrics The committee recommends that five additional metrics be considered during the future development of the DOE plan for U.S. participation in ITER, namely: 4 International Atomic Energy Agency, Progress in the ITER Physics Basis, Vol. 47, No. 6 of Nuclear Fusion, June 2007, IOP Publishing, Vienna, Austria. 5 American Nuclear Society, Fusion Science and Technology, No. 2, February 2008.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program Periodic evaluation by expert and knowledgeable members of the scientific, engineering, and industrial community regarding the U.S. return on its ITER investment. Periodic assessments by independent, external bodies of the effectiveness of domestic project management. The committee stresses that peer review evaluations of U.S. participation in the ITER project could provide the most reliable measure of robustness. Until the ITER Organization is fully staffed and the international research plan is set in motion on an operational ITER, numerical metrics may not be sufficient to judge the robustness of U.S. participation and the ITER project’s effect on the domestic U.S. fusion program. Similarly, to properly gauge organizational progress in establishing an effective participatory relationship with the ITER Organization’s management structure and the project that it runs, independent advisory assessments will be needed. These assessments will give U.S. decision makers early and independent insight into the vitality of U.S. involvement. Balance in the fraction of U.S. published research conducted on ITER according to authors’ institutional affiliations (university, national laboratory, and industry). The DOE plan’s metrics are concentrated on measuring the level of activity of the U.S. program but do not characterize that activity. Strong U.S. participation in ITER will require the involvement and coordination of researchers from universities, national laboratories, and industry. Ensuring that a healthy balance is struck will be critical. This balance will need to be determined by an advisory committee. Number of research and technology publications documenting results obtained on ITER that are cited by or produced in collaboration with U.S. researchers, students, and technologists across U.S. plasma science and physics. Although the metrics currently included in the DOE plan indicate the level of involvement of U.S. researchers in the ITER project itself, they do not provide insight into the unique synergistic effect that ITER research “coming home” will have on the U.S. base program. The fusion community and DOE expect that research conducted for ITER will provide a tremendous intellectual boost to the U.S. base program, and having a tool to measure this invigoration will be valuable to policy makers.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program Achievement of predictive capability that will offer another effective measure of the success of the U.S. ITER program. If the United States demonstrates the capability to predict ITER operating parameters, as well as other important measures such as component lifetime or suitability in a commercial fusion device, it will be a good indication that the United States is participating robustly in the ITER research program, although expert panels must necessarily address such questions in a peer review process because of their technical complexity. Recommendation: The committee recommends that the following five metrics be considered for inclusion during the future development of the DOE plan for U.S. fusion community participation in ITER: Periodic evaluation by expert and knowledgeable members of the scientific, engineering, and industrial community regarding the U.S. return on its ITER investment. Periodic assessments by independent, external bodies of the effectiveness of domestic project management. Balance in the fraction of U.S. published research conducted on ITER according to authors’ institutional affiliations (university, national laboratory, and industry). Number of research and technology publications documenting results obtained on ITER that are cited by or produced in collaboration with U.S. researchers, students, and technologists across U.S. plasma science and physics. Achievement of predictive capability, to be evaluated by peer review.
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