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January 29, 1998

FPN98-03 Fusion Program Notes


U. S. to Press for ITER Options

The ITER Final Design Report (FDR) was completed in December and has been reviewed by the ITER Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), chaired by Paul Rutherford of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. In its report to the ITER Council at its scheduled meeting February 18-19 in San Diego, the TAC will tell the Council that the design carried out during the last six years fulfills the original purpose of providing "a detailed, complete, and fully integrated engineering design of ITER and all technical data necessary for future decisions on the construction of ITER." The TAC will say that the present ITER parameters and overall design are adequate to fulfill all of ITER's technical objectives. In addition the TAC will confirm that the detailed cost analysis provided in the FDR indicates that ITER can be constructed at an estimated cost of $8.1 billion (mid-1997 dollars), a figure which is approximately 9% lower than the previous estimate. They will note, however, that if ITER is constructed, the subsystem costs are expected to be divided among the Parties as "contributions in kind," that is, each Party will be expected to deliver assigned subsystems or components to the project, so that minimum cash would be expected to flow through the project's central managment group. Because of the differing labor rates around the world, the exact cost of ITER in real terms could vary from the $8 billion estimate.

In spite of the good news on ITER design and costing, U.S. Department of Energy officials announced at a meeting of its Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) on January 22 that it had begun to press the other Parties (Europe, Japan and Russia) to "evaluate possibilities for reducing the cost of ITER by reducing detailed technical objectives." A FESAC panel that reported last October 20 (FPN97-27) recommended that the U.S. fusion program should "undertake design efforts on lower cost fusion-energy-producing plasma concepts" and they said, "We believe that it is prudent for the international community to examine options that involve reconsideration of the fundamental trade-offs between cost, risk and mission," saying, "These options provide a contingency plan that will be necessary in the event that the financial commitments cannot be secured for the full-mission ITER."

In remarks to the FESAC January 22, DOE Director of Energy Research, Martha Krebs, said "We and our partners are coming to the view that, in case we are financially unable to proceed to the construction of the current design, we should plan to evaluate possibilities for reducing the cost of ITER by reducing detailed technical objectives. I am pleased to say that we are having productive discussions with our ITER partners on such an approach to the continuation of ITER activities. At the next ITER Council meeting, we will discuss formation of a working group to define and evaluate options for a reduced cost ITER."

U.S. fusion program leader, N. Anne Davies, told the FESAC meeting that a fusion community workshop to consider a broad range of ITER options would be held in Madison, Wisconsin, April 20-24.

For its part, the ITER Technical Advisory Committee will say that, in its opinion, the ITER design and accompanying technical data would be sufficient to allow a construction decision to be taken immediately after the presently scheduled end to the EDA (July 1998).


The following is a written statement on ITER distributed by Krebs at the FESAC meeting:

"International cooperation is, and will continue to be, a vital part of our fusion program. Given any credible budget projection, it is also essential to our ability to participate in large scale experiments and to advance the energy portion of the fusion program. I hope to both continue our ITER cooperation, and to expand our cooperation with our partners in other areas. In particular, I would like to see us work together to define development paths to fusion energy -- perhaps a version of our domestic "roadmaps" and to expand our program of cooperation on large machines.

"The ITER framework has proven to be a valuable focusing element in our program both in terms of the technical product and the process by which we work together. We want to continue participation in this process as long as it promises to meet our needs.

"The current ITER design is technically excellent, and I want to compliment the ITER Director, Dr. Aymar, and his supporting teams for producing a design that meets all the specific scientific and engineering objectives set out at the beginning. It was a difficult task, and one that has been very valuable to the progress of fusion -- in fully defining this design, Dr. Aymar has forced the fusion community worldwide to solve many of the specific problems associated with building a fusion reactor to create and control energy producing plasmas.

"Since the beginning of the ITER EDA in 1992, there have been substantial changes in the ability of the ITER partners to finance a project of this magnitude. The funding for the fusion programs of Russia and the United States has been greatly reduced and the expectation that they would fund a substantial portion of ITER construction is in question. Europe and Japan may not be able to make up the shortfall, particularly given the current economic situation.

"We and our partners are coming to the view that, in case we are financially unable to proceed to the construction of the current design, we should plan to evaluate possibilities for reducing the cost of ITER by reducing detailed technical objectives.

"I am please to say that we are having productive discussions with our ITER partners on such an approach to the continuation of the ITER activities. At the next ITER Council meeting, we will discuss formation of a working group to define and evaluate options for a reduced cost ITER.

"I would emphasize that this evaluation of options would be in addition to the tasks already defined for the next phase of ITER, such as site specific designs, interactions with regulators and prototype testing."