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Fusion Program Notes

December 16, 1998


Richardson Orders New Fusion Review

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson requested his Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) to form "a new fusion subcommittee to review the department's fusion-related technologies, programs and priorities pertaining to the development of a fusion energy source." The charge was given to SEAB at its plenary meeting December 16 in Washington, DC. It was the first meeting of SEAB since Richardson took office.

According to DOE, the SEAB "provides the Secretary of Energy with timely, balanced, external advice on important energy-related issues. SEAB subcommittees perform specific studies of various issues and provide the Board with information and recommendations." Dr. Walter Massey, President of Morehouse College, is Chairman of SEAB.

The request to SEAB was stimulated by language contained in a Senate Appropriations Committee report (FPN98-17). The Senate report "recommends that the Department, prior to committing to any future magnetic fusion program or facilities, conduct a broader review to determine which fusion technology or technologies the U. S. should pursue to achieve ignition and/or a fusion energy device." The report says, "The Department currently funds four fusion related technologies: pulsed power, lasers, ion drivers and magnetic fusion. The Department has been reluctant or unable to review those technologies as a group because they have different near-term objectives and are managed by different program offices. Regardless of these near-term and management differences, the Committee is aware that scientists within each program have an eye toward ignition and energy applications. The Committee is well aware of the challenges entailed by a review of multiple programs and multiple and possibly competing technologies. However, the Department should conduct an encompassing review of all four technlogies prior to making decisions about the next step toward fusion energy, specifically to consider non-magnetic alternatives. At the very least, the review should develop a roadmap that justifies the continued development of each technology."

Partly in anticipation of this review, members of the magnetic and inertial fusion communities have prepared a draft roadmap and are seeking comments from the fusion community (FPN98-34).

Members of SEAB include Dr.Leon Lederman, Director Emeritus, FermiLab; The Honorable Marilyn Lloyd, former member of Congress from Tennessee; Dr. Maxine Savitz, General Manager, Allied Signal Corp.; Mr. Ralph Cavanagh, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council; Mr. Robert Galvin, Chairman, Executive Committee of the Board, Motorola Corp.; Dr. Richard Meserve, Partner, Covington & Burling; Dr. Mario Molina, Institute Professor, MIT; and Dr. Daniel Yergin, President, Cambridge Energy Research Associates. A complete list of SEAB members can be found on the SEAB web page (www.hr.doe.gov/seab/). The SEAB has not yet appointed a chair or members for the fusion subcommittee.