America “should begin work immediately” on building fusion reactor

The US should begin work immediately on designing and building a pilot fusion reactor, according to a landmark report by a group of scientists, politicians and industry.

The study, produced by the plasma physics division of the American Physical Society, based in Princeton University, argues that America should play a more prominent role in developing fusion power.

Nathan Ferraro (pictured), a researcher at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and the co-chair of the report, said the US should take "bold steps to make fusion energy a reality, to expand our understanding of plasma physics, and to use that understanding to benefit society".

The 199-page document, put together over the past year with the help of hundreds of scientists and engineers from many professional societies, makes a number of recommendations, including the construction of a fusion pilot plant that "produces net electricity and thereby establishes the scientific and technological basis for commercial fusion energy".

At present, the US has been a somewhat unenthusiastic participant in the ITER project to build a demonstration fusion reactor in the south of France.

In 2017, the Trump administration cut America’s contribution to the scheme from a scheduled $105m to $50m.

The report recommends that the US should sustain full membership in ITER.

It is intended to help the US Department of Energy develop a strategy for its Fusion Energy Sciences programme.

The document calls for partnerships with other offices and governmental agencies, as well as with private industry and international partners, to enact the full recommendations of the strategic plan.

"We are encouraged to see that this process brought the community together to recognise the full scope of this challenge, and that coordinated, multidisciplinary research and development is needed to achieve our goals," Ferraro said.

Image: Plasma physicist Nathan Ferraro (PPPL Office of Communications)

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