Feature

Rekindling the flame

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  07 Feb 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6478, pp. 618-621
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6478.618

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Summary

In 2016, physicists at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) suffered a major setback. Their one remaining large fusion reactor, the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX), suffered a crippling breakdown after a 5-year, $94 million upgrade. It was a body blow to a lab that was already staggering. In the 1980s, PPPL ran multiple machines, employed nearly 1300 people, and led the worldwide quest to harness fusion, the energy source of the Sun. Today, PPPL employs 560 people, and NSTX sits idle 3 years after breaking down. Yet things may be looking up for the lab. After years of reviews, PPPL researchers expect to start to rebuild NSTX in April. And 1 year ago, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine urged the United States to prepare to build a prototype power plant, smaller and cheaper than ITER, the $25 billion international fusion reactor under construction in France. PPPL would likely play a leading role in building that power plant. Perhaps most important, in 2018 PPPL hired a new lab director. Steven Cowley, a strapping 60-year-old Englishman with a shock of silver hair and a knighthood, already has a plan to diversify the lab's work, grow its staff, and start to build things again.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science