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United States

A strategic plan to deliver fusion energy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee (FESAC) has released a 10-year national strategic plan for fusion energy and plasma science.

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The report represents the culmination of a community effort that was launched in 2018 and that involved hundreds of scientists from national labs, universities, and private ventures in the United States. Their recommendations—summarized in A Community Plan for Fusion Energy and Discovery Plasma Sciences—were used heavily by the FESAC subcommittee charged with the development of a long-range strategy for the DOE Fusion Energy Sciences program.

"The research community worked hard [...] to convey a wealth of creative ideas and its passion to accelerate fusion energy development and advance plasma science. Their effort culminated in the consensus Community Planning Process report. Our work is based heavily on this report, and we extend our sincere gratitude to our colleagues for their efforts. Following the research community's lead, we worked by consensus in generating this report. Different ideas were listened to and were thoughtfully deliberated until a shared view on each issue emerged. This process allowed us to discuss and appreciate our different points of view and come to consensus language. Ultimately, we speak with one voice in conveying a vision for a vibrant program that will bring significant benefit to society," wrote the authors of the report.

Powering the Future: Fusion & Plasmas sets out a decade-long vision for the field of fusion energy and plasma science, "presenting a path to a promising future of new scientific discoveries, industrial applications, and ultimately the timely delivery of fusion energy." It suggests a number of priorities for the US fusion program, including:

  • the establishment of the scientific and technical basis for a fusion pilot plant by the 2040s;
  • the establishment of experimental facilities for fusion materials R&D;
  • the exploration of burning plasma scenarios through participation in ITER;
  • R&D on the challenge of reactor-scale plasma exhaust;
  • investment in innovative techniques and technologies, and;
  • the translation of advances in fusion science and technology into applications that benefit society.
Different budget scenarios are also laid out, showing what can be accomplished within the framework of "constant," "modest growth," and "unconstrained" fusion program financing. The plan and its recommendations, which were adopted and endorsed during a remote Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee Meeting held on 7, 8, and 10 December 2020, will now serve as advisory input to the FESAC and the DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES), which is responsible for all decisions and implementation.

For the United States, the plan represents the first long-term strategic roadmap to deliver fusion energy and to advance plasma science.

"For the first time, a strategic plan for fusion and plasma research has been created starting with grassroots leadership from the research community," said Dr Troy Carter, a University of California, Los Angeles physics professor and chair of the FESAC subcommittee. "The hard work and passion of the community resulted in the unique vision for development of fusion energy and advancement of plasma science expressed in the report."

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