National Academies urges renewed commitment to fusion

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Science  21 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6421, pp. 1343
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6421.1343

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The United States should prepare to build its own prototype fusion power plant, according to leading energy scientists. The compact power plant (CPP), able to generate sustained electric power, would be a follow-up to ITER, an international megaproject under construction near Cadarache in France that aims to demonstrate that a fusion generator can produce more energy than it consumes. To be built in the 2030s, the CPP would be smaller and cheaper than ITER, says a report released last week by a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. But it would depend on yet-unproven technologies, and researchers will need the knowledge they'll gain from ITER. In the past, lawmakers in the U.S. Senate have called for the United States to withdraw from ITER. But the report argues against a pullout, noting that the country would first have to build its own version of ITER before launching the CPP. To realize the committee's vision, the report also calls for increasing U.S. funding for fusion research by $200 million per year, a 35% increase over the current $564 million annual budget.