Fusion Power Associates
2 Professional Drive, Suite 248
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
phone: (301) 258-0545
fax: (301) 975-9869
e-mail: fpa@compuserve.com
web: http://fusionpower.org

January 2, 1998

FPN98-01 Fusion Program Notes

Another New Year

Things have been pretty quiet on the fusion front lately. It's hard to say whether this will confirm the old saying that "no news is good news," or whether this is "the calm before the storm."

The past year has seen a continuation of the dilemma environment that fusion has been in. On the one hand, progress has been good, capped with the outstanding JET results (FPN97-22); on the other hand, no one seems to really care.

As ITER proceeds into its last six months under the present international agreement, it continues to face the problem that, in spite of the successful completion of the design effort, the Parties have not agreed to build it. Throughout higher levels of the U.S. government, enthusiasm for continuing is waning.

The good news is that there is an increased interest in technologies to address global warming issues (FPN97-26); the bad news is that fusion, having retreated into its science shell, is not taken seriously as an element in the solution.

But science is quite certainly in favor in Washington. Both Congress and the White House want to put more money into science. However, when it comes to distributing that money, it appears that the same people who urged fusion to emphasize science do not want to put more money into our brand of science.

The end result (as far as the White House is concerned) will not be known (except to insiders) until the President submits his budget in early February. But the betting odds are that (1) the U.S. fusion budget will be about the same as this year, and (2) U.S. identified contributions to ITER will decline substantially.

Within this gloomy overall situation (in the U.S. at least), a considerable amount of rejuvenation is taking place among a growing number of fusion researchers who are looking for "innovative" ideas to test at less-costly scale. It is too early to judge whether there is a diamond to be found in all the innovation rhetoric, but you can count on plenty of exciting debate -- which should make for an interesting New Year.

Stay Tuned!