Research

The ITER Project is a seven-member international collaboration to design, build, and operate a first-of-a-kind international research facility in St. Paul lez Durance, France aimed at demonstrating the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion energy.  The primary goal of ITER is achieving and maintaining a burning plasma with a peak output of 500 MW thermal power driven by 50 MW input power.  ITER will provide much of the scientific and technical basis to proceed to a fusion demonstration plant.  The seven ITER Members are China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States.   The legal framework for construction, operation, deactivation, and decommissioning is contained in the ITER Joint Implementation Agreement (JIA or Agreement).  The ITER Agreement entered into force in October 2007 for a period of 35 years.  The JIA created the ITER Organization as the agent of the seven governments to carry out the purposes of the Agreement. 

The International ITER Organization website is  www.iter.orgExternal link; the U.S. ITER Project website is www.usiter.orgExternal link

Major Facilities 

The three major experimental facilities in the FES program—the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics in San Diego, California; the Alcator C-Mod tokamak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in Princeton, New Jersey—provide the essential tools for the U.S. research community to explore and solve fundamental issues of fusion plasma physics. In addition, research at these facilities focuses on developing the predictive science needed for ITER operations and providing solutions to high-priority ITER technical issues. All three are operated as national facilities and involve users from many National Laboratories and Universities.

DIII-D: The DIII-D tokamak operated by General Atomics in San Diego, CA is the largest magnetic fusion facility in the United States. DIII-D provides for considerable experimental flexibility and has extensive diagnostic instrumentation to measure the properties of high temperature plasmas. It also has unique capabilities to shape the plasma and provide feedback control of error fields that, in turn, affect particle transport and the stability of the plasma. In addition, DIII-D has been a major contributor to the world fusion program over the past decade in the areas of plasma turbulence, energy transport, boundary layer physics, and electron-cyclotron plasma heating and current drive.

NSTX:   The National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) is one of only two large research facilities in the world that are exploring the spherical torus (ST) confinement configuration. The ST configuration produces plasmas shaped like a sphere with a narrow cylindrical hole through its center, whose properties are significantly different from conventional “donut” shaped tokamak plasmas. This configuration may have several advantages, a major one being the ability to confine a higher plasma pressure for a given magnetic field strength, which could enable the development of smaller, cost-effective facilities for carrying out the nuclear engineering science research needed to design the power extraction and tritium breeding systems for a fusion power plant. By virtue of its unique magnetic field geometry and properties, NSTX is an excellent platform for testing theories of high plasma stability and studying classes of transport processes important to ITER.  In addition, NSTX is the only diverted, H-mode, neutral beam heated tokamak with Lithium wall capabilities for assessing the use of lithium as a Plasma Facing Component concept for magnetic fusion. NSTX is currently being upgraded to have a higher magnetic field, higher plasma current, and greater neutral beam heating power and, after completion, will be renamed NSTX Upgrade (NSTX-U).

Alcator C-Mod: The Alcator C-Mod at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the only tokamak in the world operating at and above the ITER design magnetic field and plasma densities, and it produces the highest pressure tokamak plasma in the world, approaching pressures expected in ITER. It is also unique in the use of all-metal walls at these high power densities. Because of these characteristics, C-Mod is particularly well suited to examine plasma regimes that are highly relevant to ITER. The facility has made significant contributions to the world fusion program in the areas of radiofrequency plasma heating and current drive, stability, and confinement in high field tokamaks

Theory

The FES theory program focuses on the fundamental science of magnetic confinement and supporting areas, and supports the development of the basic theory that is used in large scale simulations that are carried out by the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program.

SciDAC 

Part of the SC-wide SciDAC program, the mission of the FES SciDAC portfolio is to advance scientific discovery in fusion plasma science by exploiting the emerging capabilities of petascale computing and associated progress in software and algorithm development. The FES SciDAC Centers are collaborative efforts, consisting of multi-institutional teams of physical scientists, mathematicians, computer and computational scientists, leveraging resources and expertise within FES and across SC.

Supplementary Validation

This FES portfolio addresses problems that are critical to the tokamak concept and tests the general validity of the relevant plasma physics and technology in a wider expanse of parameter regimes than those provided by the largest facilities.  This program element emphasizes research on small- and medium-scale experiments that support toroidal configurations for future burning plasma experiments, such as the tokamak, the stellarator, and the spherical torus.

High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas: 

The High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas (HEDLP) program supports studies of ionized matter at extremely high density and temperature, when matter is heated and compressed to a point where the stored energy reaches approximately 10 billion Joules per cubic meter, corresponding to a pressure of approximately 1,000,000 atmospheres.  In nature, such conditions exist in the interior of the Sun, in supernovae, in accretion disks around black holes, pulsars, and astrophysical jets, while on Earth, high energy density conditions can only be created transiently by using intense laser pulses, ion or electron ion beams, or pressure from pulsed magnetic fields. The FES HEDLP program focuses both on the discovery science of high energy density plasmas without regards to specific applications and on the science of inertial fusion energy. An important element of the FES HEDLP program is the Joint NNSA-SC Program in High-Energy Density Laboratory Physics, which supports research that addresses critical issues in inertial fusion energy sciences and non-mission-driven high-energy-density plasmas, and explores ways to create, probe, and control new states of matter at very high energy densities.

Enabling R&D

The goal of the FES Enabling Research and Development program is to develop the technologies and materials necessary for fusion both now and in the future and conduct studies to support strategic planning activities for future directions of the program. The Enabling R&D program supports:

  • Plasma Technology—ITER operational issues, heating, fueling, and magnet technologies for both current and future machines and the nuclear science and technologies for a next step machine
  • Advanced Design —Conduct system studies to identify R&D required to support pathways to a next step machine and DEMO in the ITER era.
  • Materials Research —Develop a scientific understanding of mechanisms controlling performance limiting phenomena of materials in a fusion environment

Diagnostics 

The FES diagnostics program supports the development of unique measurement capabilities or diagnostic instruments to serve two important functions: to provide a link between theory/computation and experiments, thereby increasing the understanding of the complex behavior of the plasma in fusion research devices; and to provide sensory tools for feedback control of plasma properties in order to improve device operation.

General Plasma Science 

The General Plasma Science program is directed toward supporting plasma science through numerous university programs and excellent student education.  FES is the DOE steward of basic plasma science and participates in the NSF/DOE Partnership to leverage both agencies' ability to fund high quality research.  FES involvement in the partnership also allows DOE national laboratories to be funded as collaborators with numerous university research programs.

NSF / DOE Partnership: The NSF/ DOE Partnership in Basic Plasma Science and Engineering is a joint program, ongoing since 1997, with the goal to enhance plasma research and education in this broad, multidisciplinary field by coordinating efforts and combining resources of the two agencies.  Through the Partnership, research activities not directly related to fusion energy are supported which address fundamental issues in plasma science and engineering that can have impact in other areas or disciplines in which improved basic understanding of the plasma state is needed.

Plasma Science Centers:  The FES Plasma Science Centers (PSCs) support multi-institutional teams to work on some of the most important and challenging plasma science problems of our time. The PSCs are intended to establish academic centers of excellence that will focus on fundamental issues of widely recognized importance to plasma science. In addition to the science that is fostered in this research, the education and training of plasma scientists is a major goal of this program.

International Collaborations

The FES program has a long-standing policy of seeking international collaboration. In addition to their work on domestic experiments, scientists from the FES program participate in leading-edge scientific experiments on fusion facilities abroad in Europe, Japan, China, South Korea, the Russian Federation, and India—the ITER members—and conduct comparative studies to enhance the understanding of underlying physics of fusion plasmas. The FES program, in return, hosts visiting scientists from the international community for participation in U.S. experiments. This allows U.S. scientists to have access to the unique capabilities of fusion facilities around the world.

Historically-Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

The HBCU program strives to create a diversified workforce by increasing the number of people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups actively participating in fusion and plasma physics research.  The program develops the research capacity of HBCUs, assists them to strengthen their ability to conduct fusion and plasma physics research, and trains undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups.

Last modified: 8/14/2013 4:36:55 PM