This appendix summarizes input examined by the committee regarding cost and schedule. These data were used by the committee in its considerations of the budget implications of its recommended strategic plan for U.S. burning plasma research.
The committee examined estimates for the cost and schedule for the two main research activities: (1) construction and operation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) burning plasma experiment; and (2) a national program of accompanying research and development leading to the construction of a compact fusion pilot plant. It also examined the schedule and budget implications of a decision by the United States to withdraw from the ITER Project. Because the committee’s long-term strategic guidance covered the next several decades, all cost and schedule estimates are necessarily notional. They were based on information and recommendations provided to the committee by way of previous studies. Implementation of the committee’s strategic guidance and the development of budget estimates based on detailed facility designs and program missions will require significant planning and effort by the fusion research community, involvement with international partners, and oversight by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Additionally, because the committee’s strategic plan involves research and technology development over several decades, the impact of unanticipated discoveries, breakthroughs, or technical setbacks that would influence the schedule and cost of the strategic plan could not be determined.
COSTS OF U.S. PARTICIPATION IN THE ITER PROJECT
The project cost and schedule for the U.S. contributions to ITER first plasma construction were finalized in January 2017 and detailed in the Project Execution Plan for the U.S. Contributions to ITER Subproject-1.1 This plan, when combined with the ITER cost and schedule information in the Secretary of Energy’s Report to Congress in May 2016,2 provides a basis for cost and schedule for the first main recommendation of the committee: to remain an ITER partner as the most cost-effective way to gain experience with a burning plasma at the scale of power plant. This schedule was developed by the U.S. DOE Office of Science based on the Updated Long-Term Schedule (ULTS) to first plasma. The ULTS was approved by the ITER Council in June 2016 and independently reviewed by an ITER Council Review Group (ICRG) in April 2016.3 As the committee notes, a measure of the reliability of ITER’s new schedule is the fact that 2 years after the creation of the updated long-term schedule, the project remains on schedule for first plasma in 2025 and, since January 2016, has achieved all 33 scheduled project milestones.
Consistent with the ULTS, the ITER Research Plan (IRP) was updated in September 2018 and describes the overall research activities for ITER during both the first (nonnuclear) operations and experimentation and the second (nuclear) operations phase, using deuterium and tritium (D-T).4
The estimated cost of construction, operation, and maintenance for U.S. continued partnership in the ITER Project was described in Section 4 (pp. 10-13) of the Secretary of Energy’s Report to Congress delivered in May 2016.5 Two cost and schedule estimates were presented, recognizing the uncertainty of the achievement of the first plasma milestone in 2025. If construction progress continues according to the ULTS, first stage construction (Subproject-1, SP-1) will be completed in calendar year 2025. The total project cost for the United States will be minimal, but the peak annual funding will be $275 million. If ITER construction proceeds more slowly than scheduled, first plasma will occur in 2028. In this case, the sum total U.S. construction cost would increase slightly (by $43 million for the entire SP-1 construction project), but the peak annual funding would be lower, at $250 million. According to the U.S. DOE report, a late first-plasma date of 2028 is consistent with schedule contingency while maintaining the start of D-T experiments in 2035. Construction costs include in-kind contributions of components and materials (e.g., the superconducting central solenoid, microwave and radio-frequency transmission lines, tokamak cooling water systems) and cash contributions to the ITER Organization (IO). Cash to the IO supports essential tasks, including construction management, ITER research and development, on-site assembly, and testing of all ITER components.
After completion of the first-plasma construction, the United States would continue to provide in-kind and cash contributions for the “post-first-plasma”
activities, called Subproject-2 (SP-2), leading to the commencement of burning plasma experiments with deuterium and tritium.
For the purposes of estimating the budget implications of its strategic guidance, the committee adopted the 2028 first-plasma construction profile. Including both SP-1 and SP-2 estimated costs, the U.S. ITER funding profile requires annual funding at $250 million for more than a decade.
Figure H.1 shows both the most recent ITER research plan6 and the estimated cost and schedule of U.S. contributions to ITER. The achievement of first plasma is a high-level technical achievement and will represent the successful operation of the world’s largest superconducting magnet system. Nonnuclear experiments begin in the 2025-2028 time-frame, and DT fusion nuclear experiments begin in 2035. As detailed in the ITER Research Plan, important scientific and technical research will be accomplished in both the nonnuclear and nuclear phases.
After construction is completed and operations begin, the U.S. share of ITER operations increases from the 9.09 percent share of ITER construction to 13 percent of ITER operations. Using the ITER operating cost estimated in the ICRG Report, U.S. contributions to ITER operations will be approximately $40 million. As an ITER member, the United States receives full access to all ITER research; however, the U.S. research program at the ITER facility will need to be funded through U.S. DOE/FES funds.
As indicated in Figure H.1(b), present U.S. funding for ITER construction does not meet obligations. The FY2019 enacted budget provides $132 million, and the annual costs for U.S. participation in ITER needs to increase by approximately $100 million for more than a decade. Upon completion of ITER construction beginning FY2034, U.S. ITER annual research costs are expected to be $75 million.
COSTS OF A NATIONAL PROGRAM LEADING TO CONSTRUCTION OF A COMPACT PILOT PLANT
While the cost and schedule for U.S. participation in ITER are well characterized, the cost and schedule of a national program of accompanying research and technology leading to the construction of a compact fusion pilot plant are not. As a consequence, the committee’s cost and schedule estimates for this half of the program were based on examination of previous reports of U.S. burning plasma strategy and fusion development. Additional inputs from the fusion science and technology community, including definition of detailed program activities and facilities, are needed to elaborate these costs and schedules.
For the purposes of cost and schedule estimates, the committee considered five broad research categories: (1) national fusion energy science user facilities; (2) fusion technology research, including materials research, high-field superconducting magnets, tritium science and technologies, and fusion nuclear science
and components; (3) discovery and innovation research in fusion science and technology; (4) theory, modeling, and predictive simulation; and (5) engineering studies and design activities for the compact pilot plant.
Figure H.2 illustrates the committee’s notional cost and schedule implications for these five research categories along with the cost and schedule for U.S. participation in the ITER project. The graph shows an aggregated funding and is provided to illustrate notional allocations. Any actual funding profile would be allocated after vetting, particularly with respect to the phasing in and out of the different facility contributions.
The DIII-D experiment (located at General Atomics, San Diego) and the National Spherical Tokamak Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U) experiment (located at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, PPPL) are the two major research facilities presently supported by the U.S. DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (DOE/FES) as national user facilities. During the next decade, these facilities will be used to answer key scientific questions and will also develop promising operating scenarios in preparation for ITER experiments. Additionally, the committee’s strategic plan calls for these facilities to play an essential role beyond ITER, includ-
ing optimizing the configurations that will demonstrate the science and technology for sustained operation at high-power density and informing the design for a next-step research facility. As explained in Chapter 5, the committee’s strategic guidance necessitates an evolution of major research facilities. The operation of the DIII-D and NSTX-U facilities will end, near completion of ITER construction, and allowing construction of a new national research facility to begin.
Three recent Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) reports provided cost estimates of facilities and programs that were considered by the committee. These are as follows:
- Report of the FESAC Subcommittee on the Prioritization of Proposed Scientific User Facilities (March 2013), available online.7 This report outlined costing estimates for four facilities and upgrades: (1) a fusion materials irradiation facility, (2) a fusion nuclear science facility, (3) a quasi-symmetric stellarator facility, and (4) upgrade to the DIII-D national fusion facility.
- Report of the FESAC Subcommittee on Strategic Planning: Priorities Assessment and Budget Scenarios (October 2014), available online.8 This report describes a budget scenario having “modest growth” that results in additional funding, approximately $100 million/annually, to non-ITER research that allows the start of a fusion nuclear science initiative and allows construction of a fusion neutron irradiation facility in collaboration with U.S. DOE/Basic Energy Sciences and a linear divertor simulator for plasma-materials interaction studies.
- Report of the FESAC Subcommittee on Transformative Enabling Capabilities Toward Fusion Energy (February 2018), available online.9 This report describes several “revolutionary” ideas that would dramatically increase the rate of progress toward fusion power through increased fusion performance, device simplification, reduced cost or time to delivery, or improved reliability or safety. The committee’s consideration for the budgetary implications of the strategic plan assume continued progress in the innovative technologies that lower the cost and fully enable fusion electricity.
In addition to the above-mentioned FESAC reports, the committee examined the budget estimates provided in the 2003 report of the FESAC Subcommittee for a Plan for the Development of Fusion Energy,10 the 2016 U.S. Magnet Development Program Plan11 initiated by the DOE Office of Science and the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP), and the 1987 report of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) Starpower: The U.S. and the International Quest for Fusion Energy,12 which reported the cost of the Large Coil Task (LCT; p. 159) and serves as a model for similar superconducting research for new high-field superconducting magnets as discussed in Chapter 4.
As indicated in Figure H.2, besides ITER construction and operation, the U.S. DOE needs to significantly expand the U.S. research program in fusion nuclear technology, advanced materials, safety, and tritium and blanket technologies to fully enable fusion energy. The committee estimates that the U.S. fusion energy science research program will require an additional $100 million annually for this expanded fusion technology research. This increase is consistent with (1) the 2014 FESAC “modest growth” strategy that supports the start of a fusion nuclear science initiative, including research on plasma-material studies with a linear divertor simulator, design and construction of a new materials neutron-irradiation facility that leverages existing neutron spallation source, and increased research on blanket technologies and tritium science; and (2) the fusion materials testing program of the 2003 FESAC fusion development plan. The committee’s budget guidance emphasizes innovative technology research, careful planning, and staged, cost-effective facility steps. A fusion component testing facility (sometimes also called a fusion nuclear science facility) is among the costliest facilities discussed in these previous reports. However, as described in the recent FESAC Transformative Enabling Capabilities Toward Fusion Energy, innovations are expected to lower the cost of fusion technology development and testing. Additionally, schedule planning will occur as part of a staged research plan in the compact fusion pilot plant so that integrated testing of fusion blankets can be carried out as part of a national user facility licensed for tritium operation.
An important addition to an expanded fusion technology program that was not previously described is the testing of large-bore, high-field, high-critical temperature superconductor (HTS) magnets for fusion. Chapter 4 presents the committee’s recommendation to demonstrate the ability to achieve high magnetic fields using HTS. A reference for this program is the LCT, which required about $94 million (current dollars), with each superconducting test coil costing between $28 million and $35 million to construct. As was also described in Chapter 4, the expanded fusion technology research program would include advanced manufacturing, engineering systems studies, and research to enable advancements in heating, control, and diagnostics needed for the compact fusion pilot plant.
Figure H.2 indicates one evolution for the major research facilities in the United States (i.e., the DIII-D and NSTX-U facilities). The operations of these facilities end prior to 2030, and construction of a new national research facility will begin to demonstrate the science and engineering needed to sustain a magnetically confined plasma having the high-confinement property and compatible plasma exhaust system that are needed for a compact fusion pilot plant. Provided the United States remains an ITER partner, the research goal of this new national facility would be to address the divertor and first-wall issues for a compact pilot plant. It would be a major, world-class research facility to resolve critical needs, but it would not be a fusion nuclear facility and would not involve those burning
plasma science questions that require injection of tritium. Figure H.2 indicates approximately $1.5 billion for the design and construction of this facility. This construction cost was estimated in the 2003 Plan for the Development of Fusion Energy (p. 37) as $550 million, comparable to the construction costs for the German superconducting stellarator experiment (Wendelstein 7-X)13 and to the Italian-proposed Divertor Tokamak Test Facility (DTT).14 Proposals provided to the committee from the U.S. fusion community for such a new research facility also considered approaches having reduced costs through the upgrade of some existing research capabilities from the two major fusion user facilities in the United States.15
Engineering systems studies for the compact fusion pilot plant would begin immediately in the U.S. strategic plan. These studies would identify science and technology areas for additional research and guide program decision. As shown in Figure H.2, design activities for the compact fusion pilot plant would guide essential research for the next two decades and help coordinate progress in burning plasma science, fusion technologies, and the integrated science encompassing the divertor-pedestal-core needed for sustained high-power density magnetic confinement fusion.
The annual funding to implement the committee’s recommendation, including both continued participation in ITER and the start of a national research program for a compact pilot plant, requires nearly $200 million more than currently enacted funding levels. About half of this additional amount is required to meet ITER commitments, and the other half is needed to launch the science and technology supporting the research leading to a compact fusion pilot plant. The budget profile after completion of ITER construction is uncertain and would need an evaluation based on progress in the national research program.
Figure H.2 indicates the annual funding for the U.S. DOE/FES program for FY2017, FY2018, and FY2019. The FY2019 U.S. DOE/FES total funding is $564 million, which is about $130 million less than the annual funding estimates in Figure H.2. However, the present U.S. DOE/FES program includes plasma science research, called discovery plasma science, totaling $84 million in FY2019. This funding provides important support for non-fusion-related research, including high energy density laboratory plasma physics, low-temperature plasma science, and fundamental plasma science. The committee’s strategic guidance includes funding for discovery fusion science and technology and fusion theory, modeling, and predictive simulation, but the committee did not consider the funding priorities for the broad discipline of plasma science that extends beyond establishment of the science and technology needed to develop an economical source of fusion power.
COST AND SCHEDULE IMPLICATIONS OF A U.S. DECISION TO WITHDRAW FROM THE ITER PROJECT
As explained by the Secretary of Energy, “ITER remains the best candidate today to demonstrate sustained burning plasma, which is a necessary precursor to demonstrating fusion energy power.”16 Because ITER is a major part of the U.S. fusion research program, a decision by the United States to withdraw from the ITER Project would significantly disrupt the national effort, isolate U.S. researchers from the international effort, and eliminate the benefit of sharing the cost of producing a burning plasma at the power plant scale. Without ITER participation, the United States would need to design, license, and construct an alternative means to gain experience creating and controlling an energy-producing burning plasma. Experience controlling and sustaining a burning plasma is needed as part of the continued U.S. strategy to design and construct a compact fusion pilot plant in the long term.
The committee was unable to estimate the cost and schedule of a research program comparable to that shown in Figure H.2 for the scenario without ITER participation. Recent FESAC reports have not considered this scenario, and no details were provided to the committee from the research community.
The potential costs associated with a decision to withdraw from the ITER partnership was described by the Secretary of Energy’s Report to Congress.17 The Joint Implementation Agreement (JIA) for ITER requires the United States to continue to deliver or pay the remaining share of ITER construction costs, estimated to be about $2 billion. Additional project termination costs were estimated to total $66 million.
As discussed in Chapter 5, in order to establish the science and technology basis for the compact fusion pilot plant, the previously discussed high-power density experiment to establish the physics basis for continuous sustainment of high-power density burning plasma would need to be capable of operation with tritium fuel and designed for the burning plasma studies now envisioned for ITER. The construction and operation of this experiment would be expensive for the United States to undertake alone, but it would be critical for directly addressing the physics of a strongly coupled burning plasma and reducing the key barriers for low-cost fusion energy development. For example, a fusion nuclear research facility, like the FNSF, was examined in the 2013 FESAC Report on Prioritization of Proposed Scientific User Facilities.18 The estimated total project cost for the FNSF is multiple billions of dollars, and significant scientific and engineering challenges need to be resolved before initiating construction. For this reason, the design and planning for a fusion nuclear facility to serve as a U.S. alternative to ITER would need to begin immediately. Considering the time that was required to design the ITER experiment and to develop preconceptual designs for the FNSF, the com-
mittee concludes that the achievement of electricity production from fusion in the United States would be delayed significantly and the sum of both ITER termination obligations and the construction of a larger fusion research facility to study the physics and gain experience with the technology needed to control and sustain a burning plasma would be greater than the research program that benefits from the ITER partnership.
1. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 2017, Project Execution Plan for U.S. ITER Subproject-1, DOE Project No. 14-SC-60, Office of Science, Fusion Energy Sciences, Washington, DC.
2. DOE, 2016, U.S. Participation in the ITER Project, Report to Congress, Washington, DC.
3. ITER Council, 2016, ITER Council Working Group on the Independent Review of the Updated Long-Term Schedule and Human Resources (ICRG): Report, http://www.firefusionpower.org/ITER_ICRG_Report_2016.pdf.
4. ITER Organization, 2018, ITER Research Plan Within the Staged Approach, Report ITR-18-003, September 17, 2018.
5. DOE, 2016, U.S. Participation in the ITER Project, Report to Congress, Washington, DC.
6. ITER Organization, 2018, ITER Research Plan Within the Staged Approach, Report ITR-18-003, September 17, 2018.
7. FESAC Subcommittee, 2013, Prioritization of Proposed Scientific User Facilities, at https://science.energy.gov/~/media/fes/fesac/pdf/2013/FESAC_Facilities_Report_Final.pdf.
8. FESAC Subcommittee, 2014, Strategic Planning: Priorities Assessment and Budget Scenarios, at https://science.energy.gov/~/media/fes/fesac/pdf/2014/October/FESAC_strategic_planning_rept_dec14.pdf.
9. FESAC Subcommittee, 2018, Transformative Enabling Capabilities Toward Fusion Energy, at https://science.energy.gov/~/media/fes/fesac/pdf/2018/TEC_Report_15Feb2018.pdf.
10. FESAC Fusion Development Panel, 2003, A Plan for the Development of Fusion Energy, DOE/SC-0074; also available as R. Goldston, M. Abdou, C. Baker, M. Campbell, V. Chan, S. Dean, A. Hubbard, et al., 2002, A plan for the development of fusion energy, Journal of Fusion Energy 21(2):61, https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025038002187.
11. S.A. Gourlay, S.O. Prestemon, A.V. Zlobin, L. Cooley, and D. Larbalestier, 2016, The U.S. Magnet Development Program Plan, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, at http://www2.lbl.gov/LBL-Programs/atap/MagnetDevelopmentProgramPlan.pdf.
12. U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1987, Starpower: The U.S. and the International Quest for Fusion Energy, OTA-E-338, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
13. See I. Milch, 2016, “Wendelstein 7-X fusion device produces its first hydrogen plasma: Federal Chancellor switches plasma on / Start of scientific experimentation,” IPP Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik, February 3, 2016, at https://www.ipp.mpg.de/4010154/02_16.
14. Italian National Agency for New Technologies (ENEA), 2015, DTT: Divertor Tokamak Test Facility—Project Proposal, ENEA Frascati Research Center, Italy, at http://www.enea.it/it/pubblicazioni/pdf-volumi/V2015_TokamakProposal.pdf.
15. See, for example, M. Wade, 2018, “A U.S. Strategic Plan for Timely Fusion Energy Development,” white paper submitted to the committee; and R.J. Buttery, B. Covele, N. Eidieitis, J. Ferron, A. Garofalo, R. Groebner, C.T. Holcomb, et al., 2018, “Development of a Steady State Fusion Core—The Advanced Tokamak Path,” white paper submitted to the committee.
16. DOE, 2016, U.S. Participation in the ITER Project, Report to Congress, Washington, DC, p. ii.
17. DOE, 2016, U.S. Participation in the ITER Project, Report to Congress, Washington, DC, p. 13.
18. FESAC Subcommittee, 2013, Prioritization of Proposed Scientific User Facilities, at https://science.energy.gov/~/media/fes/fesac/pdf/2013/FESAC_Facilities_Report_Final.pdf, p. 13.