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Suggested Citation:"CONCLUSIONS." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.
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Page 89

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MAGNETIC CONFINEMENT FUSION 89 CONCLUSIONS The contribution of magnetic fusion research to the field of plasma science has been very significant. Besides being a driver for the development of modern plasma physics, fusion also has benefited greatly from the many advances in basic plasma science. Perhaps the most important area of future research is to learn how to "control" high-temperature plasma in modern confinement devices, which will require learning more about transport and devising effective means of controlling it. This also implies finding stable equilibria at the upper end of the high-beta regimes achieved to date and going beyond present beta limits, especially at high values of βp (i.e., reduced plasma current in tokamaks). We must learn how to control radial plasma profiles, including those of temperature, density, and current density. At high currents, we must learn how to control disruptions, especially through current profile control. Control is clearly essential for achieving a more attractive fusion reactor based on the tokamak concept. In addition, pursuing other confinement concepts is important, particularly if attempts at control of the tokamak plasma fail or become too complex and expensive. It is also conceivable that a more effective confinement concept than the tokamak could emerge, especially if a steady- state reactor is desired because of technological considerations. However, in the past, funding limitations have often prevented a thorough development of alternate confinement concepts, with the possible exception of the stellerator. In all confinement concepts, the issue of power and particle exhaust (helium removal) must find a solution in plasma science. This problem is just beginning to be addressed by the scientific community, and its solution will require a thorough theoretical analysis, often involving large codes, and experimental research in the area of "plasma edge" physics. To succeed, this study must include a combination of plasma science, atomic physics, and materials science. Finally, as the next generation of tokamaks enters the thermonuclear regime with burning D-T fuel, the generation of copious amounts of 3.5-MeV alpha particles will open the door to the study of alpha- particle-related plasma phenomena, including stability and transport. New diagnostics may have to be developed to study the interior of the burning plasma environment. Unfortunately, in the past, many opportunities for fundamental scientific exploration were missed, in some instances because of funding constraints and in others because of changing priorities within the fusion program. Perhaps the biggest problem in funding more scientific investigations in magnetic fusion is that the level of funding of this fusion program has decreased, in real dollars, during the past decade. Thus, painful choices have often had to be made between upgrading larger facilities to operate in high- performance regimes and increasing the scope of scientific investigations in intermediate-scale devices. Given the mission-oriented mandate of DOE's Office of Fusion Energy (OFE), further research and development will continue to shift toward issues

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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