As the international ITER project to develop an experimental nuclear fusion reactor eats into research budgets around the world, an advisory panel to the US Department of Energy recommends mothballing at least one of three major experiments and focusing on research necessary to bring ITER online.
The Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) released its report on 22 September at a meeting in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The document outlines a 10-year plan for US nuclear fusion research for various budget scenarios, the most optimistic of which calls for 'modest growth’.
Nuclear fusion offers the potential for producing practically limitless energy by smashing heavy atoms of hydrogen into helium inside a burning 100-million-kelvin plasma and capturing the energy released by the reaction — but scientific and engineering challenges remain.
The report says the US should focus research initiatives on the biggest impediments to ITER’s donut-like design, called a tokamak — how to control the writhing plasma at the reactor’s core, and understanding how it interacts with surrounding material in order to engineer walls that can maintain the reaction.
Read more on Nature web site.