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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
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Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S.

BURNING PLASMA
RESEARCH

Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research

Board on Physics and Astronomy

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

A Consensus Study Report of

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

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Suggested Citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25331.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

COMMITTEE ON A STRATEGIC PLAN FOR U.S. BURNING PLASMA RESEARCH

MICHAEL MAUEL, Columbia University, Co-Chair

MELVYN SHOCHET, NAS,1 University of Chicago, Co-Chair

CHRISTINA A. BACK, General Atomics

RICCARDO BETTI, University of Rochester

IAN CHAPMAN, UK Atomic Energy Authority

CARY FOREST, University of Wisconsin, Madison

T. KENNETH FOWLER, NAS, University of California, Berkeley

JEFFREY FREIDBERG, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

RONALD GILGENBACH, University of Michigan

WILLIAM HEIDBRINK, University of California, Irvine

MARK HERRMANN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

FRANK JENKO, University of Texas at Austin & Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

STANLEY KAYE, Princeton University

MITSURU KIKUCHI, National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology

SUSANA REYES, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

C. PAUL ROBINSON, NAE,2 Advanced Reactor Concepts, LLC

PHILIP SNYDER, General Atomics

AMY WENDT, University of Wisconsin, Madison

BRIAN WIRTH, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Staff

JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director

GREG EYRING, Senior Program Officer, Study Director (from May to August 2018)

CHRISTOPHER J. JONES, Program Officer, Study Director (from August 2018)

NEERAJ P. GORKHALY, Associate Program Officer

LINDA WALKER, Program Coordinator

HENRY KO, Research Associate

BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate

DAVID LANG, Senior Program Officer, Study Director (until May 2018)

ANDREA PETERSON, Program Officer (until August 2017)

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

2 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

ABRAHAM LOEB, Harvard University, Chair

ANDREW J. LANKFORD, University of California, Irvine, Vice Chair

WILLIAM BIALEK, NAS, Princeton University

JILL P. DAHLBURG, Naval Research Laboratory

LOUIS F. DIMAURO, The Ohio State University

FRANCIS J. DISALVO, NAS, Cornell University

WENDY FREEDMAN, NAS, University of Chicago

TIMOTHY M. HECKMAN, NAS, Johns Hopkins University

WENDELL T. HILL III, University of Maryland

ALAN J. HURD, Los Alamos National Laboratory

NERGIS MAVALVALA, NAS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

LYMAN A. PAGE, JR., NAS, Princeton University

STEVEN M. RITZ, University of California, Santa Cruz

SUNIL K. SINHA, University of California, San Diego

WILLIAM A. ZAJC, Columbia University

Staff

JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director

CHRISTOPHER J. JONES, Program Officer,

NEERAJ P. GORKHALY, Associate Program Officer

LINDA WALKER, Program Coordinator

HENRY KO, Research Associate

BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate

DAVID LANG, Senior Program Officer (until May 2018)

ANDREA PETERSON, Program Officer (until August 2017)

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

Preface

Following decades of scientific research, including the successful production of 11 MW of fusion power in the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor experiment in the United States and 16 MW in the Joint European Torus in the United Kingdom, an international agreement to build and operate a burning plasma experiment was formalized in Paris with the signing of the Agreement on the Establishment of the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project in November 2006. The signatories of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) agreement—the United States, China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation—are building the world’s largest international scientific research facility, called ITER. When construction is complete, scientists will share in the operation and results of ITER; create, study, and control burning plasma; and demonstrate fusion power production at least 10 times greater than the power needed to sustain the plasma. This will be a scientific and technical achievement and a critical step toward producing and delivering electricity from fusion energy.

Since the establishment of the ITER project, an international design review was completed in 2008; ITER construction began in 2010; and ITER became the first-of-its-kind, licensed, basic nuclear fusion facility in 2012. However, by 2013, ITER’s construction schedule had slipped, and ITER’s costs had increased significantly, leading to questions of whether the United States should continue its commitment to participate in ITER. These concerns resulted in a directive from Congress, appearing in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, that the Secretary Energy report to Congress on U.S. participation in the ITER project,

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
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including budget projections, project schedule, project management, and foreign policy implementations.

The Secretary’s report was delivered to Congress in May 2016 and recommended that the United States remain a partner in the ITER project through fiscal year 2018. The report acknowledged the significant construction progress made at ITER and the substantial improvements in ITER project management. The Secretary’s report also stated that ITER appears to be technically achievable and is the best candidate today to demonstrate sustained burning plasma. Although fusion power holds the possibility of providing abundant energy, the Secretary’s report noted that significant technical and management risks remain before the project will be completed and recommended “the U.S. re-evaluate its participation in the ITER project to assess if it remains in our best interests to continue our participation.”

In addition to outlining various oversight and management reviews to ensure continued improvement in ITER project performance, the Secretary’s report requested advice from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, as follows:

To perform a study of how to best advance the fusion energy sciences in the U.S., given the developments in the field since the last Academy studies in 2004, the specific international investments in fusion science and technology, and the priorities for the next ten years developed by the community and the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) that were recently reported to Congress. This study will address the scientific justification and needs for strengthening the foundations for realizing fusion energy given a potential choice of U.S. participation or not in the ITER project, and will develop future scenarios in either case.

In response to this request, the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research was established. The committee’s statement of task is given in Appendix A. The statement of task requested the preparation of two reports.

The first, an interim report, was released on December 21, 2017, and is reprinted in Appendix I. It presented the committee’s assessment of the current status of U.S. fusion research and of the importance of burning plasma research to the development of fusion energy as well as to plasma science and other science and engineering disciplines.

For this report, the second and final report, the committee was asked to provide guidance on a strategic plan for a national program of burning plasma science and technology research given the U.S. strategic interest in realizing economical fusion energy in the long term. Strategic guidance was to be provided in two separate scenarios in which the United States is, or is not, a member in ITER. The committee was also asked to consider the health of the domestic fusion research sectors (universities, national laboratories, and industry), participation by U.S. scientists

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

in international activities, and what role international collaboration should play over the next 20 years.

This report represents the consensus of the committee after seven meetings (see Appendix B for the meeting agendas). The first two meetings informed preparation of the interim report. The final five meetings were devoted to the scientific and technical bases for a variety of strategic elements under consideration within the United States and to improve the committee’s understanding of the strategic plans for Europe, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. The committee visited the two major fusion research facilities within the United States; toured the superconducting magnet facility at Poway, California, where the large ITER central solenoid magnets are being manufactured; and learned first-hand of the European fusion energy strategy during a visit to the ITER construction site. Additionally, the committee heard about the fusion energy strategies of the two largest privately funded fusion ventures within the United States from Bob Mumgaard, chief executive officer of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and Michl Binderbauer, president and chief technology officer of TAE Technologies.

The committee is very grateful for the input from two weeklong community workshops on Strategic Directions for U.S. Magnetic Fusion Research, hosted by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in July 2017 and by the University of Texas, Austin, in December 2017. These workshops were highly successful, involved hundreds of researchers across the country, and provided the committee with several dozen technical documents on the scientific and engineering challenges and opportunities associated with advancing magnetic confinement fusion as an energy source. The committee appreciates the tremendous effort of the U.S. fusion energy research community in providing expert input. We are especially grateful for the leadership of the workshop co-chairs, David Maurer, Jon Menard, Hutch Neilson, and Mickey Wade.

Several important findings became apparent during the committee’s deliberations, and they are detailed in its two reports. First, the programmatic focus on preparing for ITER experiments has resulted in tremendous progress in the understanding and prediction of a burning plasma. By way of well-instrumented experiments, advanced theory, and state-of-the-art computer simulation, the international community of fusion scientists is much more ready to carry out burning plasma experiments in ITER today than when the Burning Plasma Assessment Committee released its report1 in 2004. Confidence that ITER will achieve its scientific mission has improved. Second, the pace of advancing technology has been rapid, and numerous technology breakthroughs, some of which developed independently from fusion, appear to offer a viable pathway to lower the cost and

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

shorten the time required to demonstrate fusion power. These technologies were described in a report of the subcommittee of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Fusion Energy Services Advisory Committee (FESAC) on Transformative Enabling Capabilities (TEC) Toward Fusion Energy, released in February 2018. The FESAC report identified technologies, especially including high magnetic field and critical temperature superconductors and advanced materials and manufacturing, with the potential to transform fusion power systems to become more economically attractive for commercialization. The application of these new technologies to fusion energy, when combined with the significant progress in understanding the complex processes within a magnetized burning plasma, are the underpinnings for the committee’s strategic guidance for a cost-attractive pathway to fusion power.

During the committee’s study, we received encouragement and support from many individuals to whom we are indebted; these include James W. Van Dam of DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences; Nat Fisch, member of the National Academies Board on Physics and Astronomy; Bill Dorland, chair of the National Academies Plasma Science Committee; and James Lancaster, director of the Board on Physics and Astronomy. The committee is also grateful to the following physicists and engineers who made important technical contributions to the preparation of the interim and final reports: Mohamed Abdou, Hans-Henrich Altfeld, Amitava Bhattacharjee, Bernard Bigot, Richard Buttery, Tony Donné, Gianfranco Federici, Phil Ferguson, Stefan Gerhardt, Chuck Greenfield, Martin Greenwald, Sibylle Guenter, Richard Hawryluk, Dave Hill, Amanda Hubbard, Yong-Seok Hwang, Thomas Klinger, Mike Jaworski, Sam Lazerson, Gyung-Su Lee, Jiangang Li, Tim Luce, David Maurer, Jon Menard, Yuichi Ogawa, Stewart Prager, Soren Prestemon, Juergen Rapp, Ned Sauthoff, Oliver Schmitz, Ed Synakowski, Tony Taylor, Mickey Wade, Dennis Whyte, and Mike Zarnstorff.

On a more personal note, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to all members of the committee for their dedicated efforts for more than a year in the preparation of both reports. We are especially grateful to Stanley Kaye, Philip Snyder, Brian Wirth, and Amy Wendt, who took leadership in the drafting of the chapters of the final report. We would also like to express our appreciation to the staff of the National Academies, particularly to David Lang and Christopher Jones, for their advice and highly professional guidance in the final preparation of the interim and final reports. We are truly indebted to them for their insights and extraordinary contributions throughout the committee’s study process.

Michael E. Mauel and Melvyn Shochet, Co-Chairs
Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research

___________________

1 National Research Council, 2004, Burning Plasma: Bringing a Star to Earth, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

Acknowledgment of Reviewers

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Martha P. Haynes, NAS, Cornell University. She was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

Transformative Enabling Technologies

Advanced Algorithms

High-Temperature Superconductors

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing

Fusion Blanket Research and Tritium Fuel Cycle

Fusion Safety

Integrated Systems Engineering for Fusion

Summary

Notes

3 EXTENDING THE FRONTIER OF BURNING PLASMA RESEARCH

The Importance of Burning Plasma Research

Understanding and Controlling a Burning Plasma

Advancing Fusion Technology and Engineering Science

The Importance of ITER to the U.S. Fusion Research Program

U.S. Partnership in ITER Construction

U.S. Research in Support of ITER Burning Plasma Science

U.S. Contributions to Fusion Technology

Preparing for ITER’s Scientific Mission

Extending ITER Performance

Understanding Plasma Confinement at the Scale of a Power Plant

Exploring and Controlling a Burning Plasma

Developing an Alternate Approach without ITER Participation

Summary

Notes

4 ADVANCING MAGNETIC FUSION TOWARD AN ECONOMICAL ENERGY SOURCE

Previously Studied Pathways to Commercial Fusion Energy

A Compact and Lower-Cost Pathway to Fusion Electricity

High-Magnetic Field Strength for Compact Fusion

Plasma Power Handing for Compact Fusion

Achieving Steady Uninterrupted Operation for Compact Fusion

The Technology Pathway to Economical Fusion Power

High-Critical-Temperature Superconducting Magnets

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Methods

Enabling Technologies for Heating, Measurement, Plasma Control, and Safe Maintenance

Blanket and Tritium Fuel Cycle Research

Pre-Pilot-Plant Research Program for the Compact Fusion Pathway

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
×

Systems Engineering for a Compact Fusion Pilot Plant

Advanced Materials Modeling for Fusion Technology

Large-Bore, High-Field HTS Magnets for Fusion

Developing Long-Lifetime Materials for Fusion

Advancing Tritium Science and Blanket Technologies

Fusion Neutron Irradiation Facility

Sustaining High-Power Density Fusion Plasmas with Optimized Plasma Exhaust

Theory and Simulation

Stellarator Contributions to Compact Fusion Energy

Fusion Enabling Technologies for Plasma Heating, Current Drive, Measurement and Control and Safe Maintenance of Core Components

Summary

Notes

5 STRATEGIC GUIDANCE FOR A NATIONAL PROGRAM FOR BURNING PLASMA SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

ITER: Extending the Frontiers of Burning Plasma Science

Beyond ITER: Setting the Nation’s Fusion Energy Goal

Toward Fusion Electricity: The Compact Fusion Pilot Plant

2020-2035: Removing the Barriers to Low-Cost Fusion Development

Extending the Frontier of Burning Plasma Science

Sustaining High Fusion Power Density with High Plasma Confinement

Power Exhaust Solutions for High-Power Density Fusion Systems

Large-Bore High-Temperature Superconducting Coils

Materials that Deliver High Performance and Long Lifetime

Blanket Systems that Breed Tritium and Extract High Quality Heat

Effective Leadership and Participation in the ITER Research Program

Maintaining Readiness to Move to Next Steps After ITER

Fusion Science Predictive Modeling and Exascale Computing

Promoting Discovery in Fusion Energy Science and Technology

“Hidden Symmetry” versus “Axisymmetry”

Beam-Driven Plasma Neutron Source versus Fission-Based Neutron Source

Responding to a U.S. Decision to Withdraw from the ITER Project

Sustaining the National Program

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25331.
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Fusion offers the prospect of virtually unlimited energy. The United States and many nations around the world have made enormous progress toward achieving fusion energy. With ITER scheduled to go online within a decade and demonstrate controlled fusion ten years later, now is the right time for the United States to develop plans to benefit from its investment in burning plasma research and take steps to develop fusion electricity for the nation’s future energy needs. At the request of the Department of Energy, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine organized a committee to develop a strategic plan for U.S. fusion research. The final report’s two main recommendations are: (1) The United States should remain an ITER partner as the most cost-effective way to gain experience with a burning plasma at the scale of a power plant. (2) The United States should start a national program of accompanying research and technology leading to the construction of a compact pilot plant that produces electricity from fusion at the lowest possible capital cost.

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