Page 44

scientific goals continue to act as the primary driver for the allocation of resources. (See Chapter 3 for further discussion.) This emphasis is reflected, for example, in the categorization of experiments as concept exploration, proof of principle, and performance extension, which appear to measure the reactor potential of an experiment rather than its scientific merit—there is no parallel measure of scientific worth. Given the significant historical impact of scientific discovery on the program, the absence of a science-based strategic planning process is inhibiting progress.

The program direction should be determined by a focused set of scientific goals. DOE, in full consultation with the scientific community, needs to define this limited set of important scientific goals for fusion energy science. The goals should be realistic and specific so that a concrete strategy can be formulated to attack an issue and the theoretical/experimental/diagnostic tools can be marshaled. It is expected that many of the goals will transcend specific devices and therefore will serve to strengthen the linkages between different elements of the program. The committee understands that such a scientific planning process is under discussion but declines to make a judgement about the new process since it has not yet been implemented.

The achievement of scientific goals should serve as a metric for defining success within the program and should replace the previous emphasis on performance as the primary measure of progress. Improvements in scientific understanding and progress towards fusion energy are coupled, and both should serve as measures of program success and be given equal weight.

The program planning and budgetary justification carried out by DOE must be organized around answering key scientific questions as well as around progress toward the eventual energy goal. This applies to the confinement configuration program, as well as to programs of a more general nature (see Chapter 3).

Public and congressional advocacy should emphasize progress in science as well as progress toward a practical fusion power source.

Success in increasing the extent to which theory, computation, and experiment can be compared and used to validate scientific ideas will require a concerted effort. The key elements of theoretical models must be confronted with experimental observations at a level that uncovers the essential dynamics.

Essential to this effort are the following:

  • An expanded effort to identify and implement the diagnostic tools required to compare experiments with theoretical models and

  • The allocation of sufficient time on existing experiments to address key scientific issues or the construction of dedicated experiments to explore a specific scientific issue.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement