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May 4, 1998

FPN98-12 Fusion Program Notes


Madison Fusion Forum Synopsis

About 150 persons,mostly from the magnetic fusion scientific community, met for one week, April 27 - May 1, in Madison, Wisconsin, at the "Forum for Major Next-Step Fusion Experiments." (See FPN98-9, April 16, 1998)

The objectives of the Forum were (1) to identify a range of options and objectives for major next-step experiments in support of fusion energy development with broad community involvement; (2) to establish a broad consensus within the community around the pursuit of a few options whose implementation would be contingent on domestic and international budget developments; and (3) to issue a report summarizing the areas where consensus has been reached, establish a context and strategy for pursuit of any next-step options, and identify issues which remain unresolved with a plan for addressing them at a follow-on meeting.

Following several days of presentations, the participants broke up into 6 working groups, all discussing the broad issues of the forum. The following synopsis is based on a "Summary of Progress" presented by Gerald Navratil (Columbia University) at the final plenary session on May 1.

Navratil said that "general findings" of the Forum were (1) there is a "need to reduce the cost of the individual development steps in our program to develop scientific and technical basis for a practical fusion energy source;" (2) the "attraciveness of a next step experiment is a primary concern: (we) must emphasize innovation in our plan;" and (3) "exploration of a burning plasma was the primary priority strategy for a major next step experiment."

Navratil noted that the six breakout groups were in agreement that three strategy options should be considered: (1) the "Single Machine" strategy, i.e., take an integrated step forward now with the tokamak; (2) the "Multiple Machine" strategy, i.e., split the mission elements and take a number of smaller parallel, phased or sequential steps; and (3) the "Defer Major Next Step" strategy, i.e., emphasize existing programs and innovative concept development.

Navratill noted that "both the Single Machine and Multiple Machine strategies had substantial support" but that the "Multiple Machine strategy was preferred over the Single Machine strategy." He said the Defer strategy "had no broad support and was opposed by several groups." He said there was a "consensus that we should not withdraw from the ITER process at this time." He noted that at least one group had suggested a "Combined Parallel Strategy" in which both the Single Machine and the Multiple Machine options would be developed over the next few years, with a decision point around 2000 - 2001 on which strategy to pursue. All strategies were proposed to be international in character and the assembled group urged U. S. participants in international discussions of these issues to take the Forum's views into account.

Navratil stated that this meeting was "not the appropriate forum" to consider inertial fusion energy.

A follow-on meeting is planned, focused on writing a report on this topic, at the University of California at San Diego for June 18 - 20. Contact Charles Baker (cbaker@iter.ucsd.edu) for details. A major, 2-week, forum-like workshop is also being considered for the summer of 1999. Contact Mike Mauel (mauel@columbia.edu).

For further information on the Madison meeting, contact Gerald Navratil (navratil@columbia.edu).