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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program 1 Introduction HISTORY OF THE ITER PROJECT The idea to utilize a controlled, sustainable, magnetically confined plasma to generate energy by fusing together light nuclei was first envisioned in the 1950s following research stemming from the Manhattan Project. In 1958, fusion energy research was declassified, triggering a decade of nascent research efforts around the world. In 1968, the Soviet Union reported a major breakthrough in magnetically confined fusion—a concept for a confinement device called a “tokamak,” an acronym based on Russian words for toroidal magnetic chamber. Following this breakthrough, fusion research developed rapidly, consistently doubling tokamak performance every year, as countries competed to improve the performance of the tokamak concept over successive generations of experiments. As technical capabilities expanded, worldwide interest grew regarding the potential benefits of fusion research for society. Harnessing fusion energy for domestic energy production became an element of U.S. energy policy during the energy crisis of the 1970s. As the crisis continued, President Jimmy Carter’s administration highlighted the importance of fusion energy in the Magnetic Fusion Energy Engineering Act of 1980, which specified aggressive pursuit of fusion research. But just when the act took effect, the energy crisis began to retreat owing to various world events. As a consequence, the recommendations of the 1980 act were never implemented by the U.S. government. Later, at the Geneva Summit in 1985, the United States joined the Soviet Union,
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program the European Union (EU), and Japan to undertake joint design of a tokamak experimental reactor. This design provided the early foundations for the current ITER project. By the mid-1990s, two tokamak devices achieved the generation of controlled fusion power of more than 10 megawatts for a period on the order of several seconds. The devices were the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom. The experimental milestones achieved at these facilities in the confinement, heating, and control of the plasma and the first use of tritium fuel were significant. Scientifically a critical finding was that the energetic helium ions produced by the deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion reaction were well confined and behaved as expected; that is, they “gave back” essentially all their energy to the plasma itself. These experiments provided the technical and scientific confidence that a burning plasma could be achieved in a next-generation device, the device currently designated as ITER. In such “burning plasma” devices the 20 percent of the energy generated by the fusion reactions found in the He ions mentioned above is used to maintain the necessary high temperatures—that is, the fusion reactions will self-heat and sustain the plasma. This is the fundamental feature of an energy-producing tokamak plasma that will be found in fusion reactors, but not in present devices. Although the United States was one of the original ITER partners, in 1998 Congress ordered DOE to withdraw from the international collaboration. In spite of the U.S. withdrawal, partners in Europe, Russia, and Japan continued to advance the design of the project. These efforts, although they resulted in a slight descoping of technical objectives, led to the present ITER design that provides access to burning plasma regimes at a reduced cost. In parallel, the U.S. fusion community held a series of workshops that demonstrated broad support for advancing a burning plasma experiment. Several burning plasma options were examined, and the U.S. community gave the new ITER design a favorable technical assessment. The community also noted that the ITER project had adopted changes advocated by the United States. Motivated by the renewed prospect of a positive next step in magnetic fusion research, in 2002 the DOE Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee voiced its support for a renewal of U.S. participation in ITER negotiations. Similarly, the U.S. National Research Council’s Burning Plasma Assessment Committee in its 2002 interim letter report reaffirmed this recommendation to rejoin talks and stated in its subsequent full report that “the U.S. fusion program, after many years of research, is poised to take a major step toward its energy goal. It is clear that a burning plasma experiment is a necessary step on the road to fusion energy and of scientific and technical interest to the U.S.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program fusion program and beyond.”1 On January 30, 2003, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would rejoin the collaboration.2 In addition to the original 1996 members—Russia, the United States, the EU, and Japan—the project also included as new members the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea (followed by India in 2005), indicating the broad international appeal of and support for the project. In November 2003, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced that ITER would be the top priority in the 20-year facility development plan of the DOE Office of Science. Although complicated, the history of U.S. participation in the ITER project highlights the project’s resiliency, both in terms of its science appeal and as a groundbreaking international collaboration. Lessons learned from earlier international collaborations, such as the Large Hadron Collider, have contributed to effective organization of the ITER project. In fact, ITER is being considered as a model for future large-scale, international science projects. THE PRESENT ITER PROJECT As stated in the ITER Joint Implementation Agreement (JIA), the objective of the ITER project is “to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes, an essential feature of which would be achieving sustained fusion power generation.”3 According to the ITER Web site, “ITER will accomplish this objective by demonstrating high power amplification and extended burn of deuterium-tritium plasmas, with steady-state as an ultimate goal, by demonstrating technologies essential to a reactor in an integrated system, and by performing integrated testing of the high-heat-flux and nuclear components required to utilize fusion energy for practical purposes.”4 The current plan is that construction of ITER will begin in 2008. ITER seeks to achieve its first plasma in 2018 and is expected to operate for 20 years. It aims to produce 500 MW of fusion power for 400 seconds by 2024. Commensurate with agreed-on levels of involvement in the ITER 1 National Research Council, Letter Report: Burning Plasma Assessment (Phase 1), The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2002; National Research Council, Burning Plasma: Bringing a Star to Earth, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2004, p. 38. 2 George W. Bush, Promoting Energy Independence Through Cooperative Research to Develop Fusion Energy, Presidential Initiative, released January 30, 2003. 3 ITER Organization, Agreement on the Establishment of the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project, Article 2, November 21, 2006. Available at http://www.iter.org/JIA_text.htm, last viewed March 6, 2008. 4 As defined on the ITER Web site at http://www.iter.org/Objectives.htm, last viewed March 6, 2008.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program project, the host, the EU, will provide 5/11 (45.4 percent) and the six nonhosts will each provide 1/11 (9.1 percent) of the in-kind contributions for construction, which for the most part consist of components for the machine. The formal site selection process for ITER began with Canada’s proposal to locate the experiment at Clarington, Ontario, in 2001, followed by proposals for a Japanese site at Rokkasho-Mura, a Spanish site at Vandellos, and a French site at Cadarache. The EU decided to consolidate the European site proposals to a single one at Cadarache, which ultimately proved successful on June 28, 2005. On November 21, 2006, the United States and its international partners signed the International Fusion Energy Agreement, cementing the seven member countries’ participation in the project. Less than a year later, on October 24, 2007, with the signatures of the ITER parties, the ITER Organization was officially created, and the United States, along with its six foreign collaborators, became official, fully participating members. The purpose of the ITER Organization is “to provide for and to promote cooperation among the Members … on the ITER Project.”5 As it becomes operational, the ITER Organization will coordinate the construction and operation of ITER and will interface with the seven nations involved in the project. In addition, the EU and Japan negotiated a separate bilateral agreement (the “Broader Approach” agreement) to jointly construct and operate a number of fusion facilities in parallel with ITER to be sited in Japan.6 RECENT U.S. DEVELOPMENTS Since the U.S. decision to participate, domestic progress on the project has been smooth until recently. In the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-58, August 8, 2005), Congress authorized negotiation of “an agreement for United States participation in the ITER,” and participation in ITER is identified by the DOE Office of Science as its top priority for the next 20 years.7 However, in the FY2008 U.S. Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 110-161, December 26, 2007), funding for the project was nearly eliminated for the year. Although DOE had requested from Congress 5 ITER Organization, Agreement on the Establishment of the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project, Article 2, November 21, 2006. Available at http://www.iter.org/JIA_text.htm, last viewed March 6, 2008. 6 See “The Broader Approach,” available at http://www.iter.org/Broad.htm, last viewed July 22, 2008. 7 U.S. Department of Energy, Four Years Later: An Interim Report on Facilities for the Future of Science: A Twenty-Year Outlook, Washington, D.C., August 2007, p. 8.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program “funding of $160.0 million in FY 2008,”8 the FY2008 budget as appropriated allocates “$0 for the U.S. contribution to ITER, and $10,724,000 for Enabling R&D for ITER,” adding that “[f]unding may not be reprogrammed from other activities within Fusion Energy Sciences to restore the U.S. contribution to ITER.”9 This action eliminated funding for the U.S. in-kind equipment contributions to ITER; funding for U.S. personnel to work at the ITER site; cash for the U.S. share of common expenses such as infrastructure, hardware assembly, and installation; and contingency funds for the ITER Organization for FY2008. U.S. financial participation in the international project remains suspended at the time of this report’s writing. Although U.S. funding for the project has wavered, DOE Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach, in a letter to ITER Organization Director General Kaname Ikeda, stated “that the U.S. is firmly committed to meeting our obligations under the ITER Joint Implementation Agreement (JIA) and that we are doing everything possible to rectify the situation.”10 For FY2008, at least, the implications of the FY2008 appropriations as stated in Dr. Orbach’s letter are that “there will be some limitations in our ability to fully participate in ITER activities” but that the United States will remain engaged in key technical, scheduling, and planning activities. U.S. participation in ITER in FY2008 will be at a minimal level, and its cash and in-kind procurement contributions will be zero. The lack of the anticipated funding has implications for the U.S. ability to participate in and influence the project, given that the U.S. ITER Project Office has been reduced to a core team. It is also worth noting that the promised contributions will remain due under the JIA, as will contributions in the out-years, and that DOE will have to make up the difference. The President’s FY2009 budget request to Congress includes $214.5 million for the ITER project that, if appropriated, will restore U.S. participation in FY2009. However, support for the project in the subsequent out-years is not guaranteed. It will take strong leadership from the U.S. executive and legislative branches to ensure the ITER project’s long-term health and success. 8 U.S. Department of Energy, FY2008 Congressional Budget Request, Washington, D.C., 2008, p. 72. 9 U.S. Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2008, Public Law 110-161, Washington, D.C., December 26, 2007. 10 U.S. Department of Energy, Letter from Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach to ITER Organization Director General Kaname Ikeda, January 10, 2008.
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A Review of the DOE Plan for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program ORIGIN OF THIS STUDY In Section 972 (c)(4)(A) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress directed that DOE in consultation with the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee,… develop a plan for the participation of United States scientists in the ITER that shall include: the United States research agenda for the ITER; methods to evaluate whether the ITER is promoting progress toward making fusion a reliable and affordable source of power; and a description of how work at the ITER will relate to other elements of the United States fusion program. In February 2006, DOE asked the U.S Burning Plasma Organization (USBPO) to develop that plan. The resulting report, Planning for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program,11 completed in June 2006, represents an important first step in organizing the U.S. ITER Project Office and the plasma science community to successfully participate in the project. The plan was submitted to Congress by DOE on August 10, 2006. In Section 972 (c)(4)(B) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, DOE was directed to request a review of the plan by the National Academy of Sciences. At DOE’s request (see Appendix A), the National Research Council’s Committee to Review the U.S. ITER Science Participation Planning Process was thus convened and asked to review and evaluate the current DOE plan, Planning for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program, and to recommend elements for future development of the plan for U.S. plasma science participation in the ITER project. 11 U.S. Burning Plasma Organization, Planning for U.S. Fusion Community Participation in the ITER Program, June 7, 2006. Available at http://www.ofes.fusion.doe.gov/News/EPAct_final_June06.pdf, last viewed July 22, 2008.