Fusion News In September 13 Science Now

From: Rich Blinne (richblinne@hotmail.com)
Date: Sat Sep 14 2002 - 18:14:20 EDT

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    http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2002/913/4

    New Hope for Fusion Fans

    GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND--Fusion research in the United States might be
    igniting again. A panel of scientists meeting here 11 September
    recommended that the United States rejoin negotiations to help build the
    International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a
    multibillion-dollar international project to investigate nuclear fusion
    as an energy source that the United States abandoned in 1998. The
    17-member panel--the Department of Energy's (DOE'S) Fusion Energy
    Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC)--also argued that the United States
    should initiate its own fusion experiment if the ITER negotiations fall
    through.

    FESAC's strategy for fusion science is two-pronged: Try to join ITER,
    and begin design work on a less expensive domestic experiment, the $1.2
    billion Fusion Ignition Research Experiment (FIRE). The FIRE alternative
    "shows the international partners that we're serious about the
    discussion and that ITER is not the only game in town," says Vincent
    Chan, a FESAC member who works at General Atomics in San Diego,
    California. If DOE does not get a seat at the ITER table by mid-2004,
    the report recommends, the United States should proceed with the FIRE
    project instead.
    Full partnership in the ITER collaboration would cost the United States
    at least $100 million per year above the current budget levels. However,
    $100 million a year is likely to be a stretch for DOE. "What I've
    personally said for many years is that I think the U.S. can afford $50
    million [per year]," says Anne Davies, DOE'S associate director for
    fusion energy sciences. "That number has been floating about the
    Administration."

    Ray Orbach, director of DOE'S Office of Science, acknowledges that
    "political as well as scientific issues play a key role" in the future
    of fusion. But with an upcoming National Research Council report on
    fusion power, a draft of which might be ready in early December, Orbach
    hopes to make a strong case to the Administration. "Our job is to
    provide the president with options," he says. "I would like to give the
    president, by mid-December, the full scientific view of how to get from
    here to there."

    --CHARLES SEIFE



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