The November 17 meeting of the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee provided a good overview of the current status and future plans of the Department of Energy's fusion program. The committee, chaired by Richard Hazeltine, was briefed by N. Anne Davies, Associate Director for Fusion Energy Sciences, during the first morning session of this two-day meeting.
Davies began by reviewing the FY 2004 budget for the Fusion Energy Sciences program. The final appropriations bill provided $6.8 million more than originally requested, which Davies said was greatly needed. She commented that the fusion programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration, such as that at the University of Rochester and the National Ignition Facility, were "reasonably well treated." "All of this is very, very good news for the fusion program," Davies stated. Facility operations should increase from the current 13 or 14 weeks to approximately 21 weeks a year. ITER transitional arrangements will commence, as well as a continuation of a modest effort on the FIRE program. Ongoing experiments will continue.
"It was an electric moment," Davies told the committee, referring to the release of DOE's "Facilities for the Future of Science: A Twenty- Year Outlook." She quoted Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's November 10 address to the National Press Club that "if we reach agreement, ITER will be our top facility." The plan identified 28 facilities; with ITER selected as "Priority 1." The plan's second priority is UltraScale Scientific Computing Capacity, which Davies said is instrumental to the success of the fusion program. ITER is described on page 14 of this report at www.sc.doe.gov/Sub/Facilities_for_future/facilities_future.htm
Davies briefly reviewed the NRC Burning Plasma Assessment Committee's report, "Burning Plasma: Bringing a Star to Earth." A preliminary version of this report was released in September for online viewing; the National Academies site at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10816.html has information on the forthcoming printed copy. Davies reviewed five of the report's major conclusions: "Burning plasma experiment needed to advance fusion science - join ITER but reassess and moved ahead if ITER fails"; "Cannot be done with flat budgets, augmentation is required"; "Program should focus on realistic opportunities"; "Community should identify and prioritize program elements needed for a balanced program within the context of a program that includes ITER"; and "ITER should be fully integrated into US Fusion Energy Sciences Program," which Davies noted was "not an easy thing to do." She stated that the NRC committee's interim report last year was a "key element" in the US decision to rejoin the ITER negotiations. Later in the meeting, FESAC members were briefed by the chairman of the NRC assessment committee, John Ahearne.
Two years of ITER negotiations to develop an international agreement have now reached a "high-level" decision-making process. Site, personnel and cost sharing agreements should be determined this year, with a legal agreement in the first six months of 2004, Davies said.
Other topics discussed by Davies included performance measures, proposal review, a Fusion Science Center initiative, the National Compact Stellarator Experiment, the Fusion Simulation Project, a spring 2004 materials workshop, High Energy Density Physics, and a possible statement of work for the NRC study.