Issues and Paths to Magnetic Confinement Fusion Energy

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Room 207 (Hynes Convention Center)
G.H. "Hutch" Neilson , Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ
The establishment of the ITER project marks a transition in the world magnetic fusion energy (MFE) program to one increasingly focused on the steps to facilities that will demonstrate electricity generation from fusion, or DEMO. The scientific and technical issues for fusion are well known and have been documented in national studies in the United States and elsewhere.

In recent years, planning and design activities for the next steps toward DEMO have intensified in all of the ITER partner nations, and international discussions have identified both needs and opportunities for greater international collaboration in developing a world DEMO program. An international workshop on magnetic fusion energy roadmapping, held at Princeton University in 2011, identified a set of technical issues of high strategic importance.

These issues are:

  1. the assumptions used in fusion design codes;
  2. the strategy for fusion materials development;
  3. the strategy for power extraction and tritium systems development;
  4. the strategy for plasma power exhaust solution development, and
  5. the requirements and state of readiness for next-step fusion nuclear facilities.

The choices made in addressing these issues will strongly influence the overall roadmap.

Since the conditions for MFE research vary considerably around the world, there is no agreement on a single roadmap to fusion. Some nations are considering ambitious next-step facilities in parallel with ITER, while other nations foresee ITER achievements triggering their own major decisions on the path forward. There is, however, broad international agreement on the central importance of ITER, the need to expand fusion nuclear technology programs at present, and the need to begin serious planning of the facilities to support a DEMO program.

For these reasons, international cooperation can be a valuable means of promoting a coordinated DEMO program.

Members of the international fusion community moved toward such a program last Oct. 15-18 during a workshop held at the University of California-Los Angeles under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a world organization dedicated to fostering international collaboration in the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The event was the first in a planned series of annual workshops to be held under IAEA auspices to promote an international exchange of technical information and strategic thinking for the benefit of all parties. The first workshop, focused on the scientific and technical issues for fusion development toward DEMO, highlighted some of the steps being taken toward a DEMO program still in its early planning stages.