FESAC Committee on MFE Priorities holds first meeting

Jen Sierchio

The FESAC special committee on MFE priorities held its first meeting on July 18, 2012. Six presentations were made by:  Earl Marmar (MIT PSFC), Stewart Prager (Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory), Miklos Porkolab (MIT PSFC), Tony Taylor (General Atomics), Mickey Wade (General Atomics), and Ray Fonck (U. Wisconsin).

Earl Marmar’s presentation, “Perspectives on Priorities for Fusion Energy Sciences and The Role of Alcator C-Mod”, emphasized:

  • plasma-wall interactions and steady-state plasmas as important science goals
  • Alcator C-Mod’s unique contributions in these areas, including development of a tungsten vertical-plate divertor and the discovery of the I-Mode confinement regime

and cautioned:

  • “… FY13 DoE budget request is a disaster for the domestic program (notably for C-Mod, but damage would be deep and lasting across the entire program), and also apparently would not meet U.S. commitments for ITER”.
  • the U.S. needs a strong domestic program and that collaborations, while important, will not suffice and should not replace the domestic program.

Stewart Prager’s presentation, “Comments on FESAC charge #2 (perspective on a flat MFE budget for 10 years)”, described areas in which the U.S. can be at the forefront of fusion research and can contribute to ITER and DEMO including:

  • plasma confinement and plasma-wall interactions
  • studies on neutron sources and blankets
  • research activities after 2020, stressing the need for a strong work force and a path to fusion over the next decades

Miklos Porkolab’s talk, “Perspectives on The Development of Fusion Energy: Elements of a Viable Near-Term US Strategy”, presented statistics on the graduate program at MIT and the negative impact the proposed budget cut will have, stating the program “faces near-destruction” and stressed the critical need for:

  • enough funding to support graduate education, research in new operating modes
  • the importance of high-temperature superconductors in building high-field, high-power density reactors

Tony Taylor’s remarks on “Fusion Energy Science Program Priorities” underscored the need for a strong scientific base and strong domestic program in the path toward fusion energy development. He stated that physics research with ITER is the top priority with the next priority being a fusion nuclear science facility (FNSF).

Mickey Wade described “DIII-D’s Role in Advancing U.S. Interests in Fusion Energy Development,” pointing out how DIII-D fulfills four major goals in fusion development:

  • ITER
  • FNSF
  • DEMO
  • training the next generation of scientists

Wade also discussed the need for additional funding to fully take advantage of DIII-D’s capabilities and proposed upgrades.

Finally, Ray Fonck made a public comment “Perspectives on Addressing the FESAC Charge” which emphasized the need to define priorities by scientific campaign and the role of research universities in fusion development. Regarding the latter, he mentioned that university research is essential for intellectual diversity and bolsters fusion science in the Administration and national academies.

A second meeting and public input session will be held on July 31, 2012.

About Geoff Olynyk

Ph.D student in plasma physics and fusion energy. Originally from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
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