evolution of confinement configurations, the relation between these two features, and their relation to the fusion energy goal.
Solid support should be developed within the broad scientific community for U.S. investment in a fusion burning experiment.
Such an experiment is scientifically necessary and is also on the critical path to fusion energy. Determining the optimal route to a burning plasma experiment is beyond the scope of the committee's charge; rather, the route should be decided in the near future by the fusion community. Resources above and beyond those for the present program will be required. The U.S. scientific community needs to take the lead in articulating the goals of an achievable, cost-effective scientific burning experiment and to develop flexible strategies to achieve it, including international collaboration.
The committee agrees with the SEAB report that “... development both of understanding of a significant new project and of solid support for it throughout the political system is essential.” 4 However, since the U.S. fusion energy effort is now positioned strategically as a science program, advocacy by the larger scientific community for the next U.S. investments in a fusion burning experiment now becomes even more critical to developing that support. For this reason alone, the scientific isolation of the fusion science community needs to be lessened.
There should be continuing broad assessments of the outlook for fusion energy and periodic external reviews of fusion energy science.
A planned sequence of independent external reviews should replace the current pattern of multiple program reviews of different provenance (e.g., this review and recent SEAB and FESAC reviews). These reviews should be open, independent, and independently managed. They should involve a cross section of scientists from inside and outside the fusion energy program. The manifest independence of the review process will help ensure the credibility of the reviews in the eyes of Congress, OMB, and the broader scientific community.
The scientific, engineering, economic, and environmental outlook for fusion energy should be assessed every 10 years or so in a process that draws on the expertise of fusion scientists, other scientists, engineers, policy planners, environmental experts, and economists, from the United States and elsewhere. The assessment should examine from multiple perspectives the progress in the critical interplay between fusion science and engineering in light of the evolving technological, economic, and social contexts for fusion energy.
Consonant with its charge, the committee has not taken up the many critical-path issues associated with basic technology development for fusion or the engineering of fusion energy devices and power plants, yet it is the combined progress made in science and engineering that will determine the pace of advancement toward the energy goal. Moreover, much of fusion science research is undertaken in the expectation that it will contribute to the energy goal. Regular, formal assessment of the progress towards fusion energy is one important way in which a fusion science program can be made accountable to the long-range energy goal.
4 Department of Energy (DOE), Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Task Force on Fusion Energy. 1999. Realizing the Promise of Fusion Energy: Final Report of the Task Force on Fusion Energy. Washington, D.C.: DOE, p. 2.