Held under rules of “not-for-attribution” in order to encourage free and open debate, the roundtable discussed the current state of the US fusion research program, including both its historic strengths and the current problems. Participants agreed that a long-term, stable budget is needed, and that policymakers should exhibit a greater sense of urgency in the challenges that the US faces in the coming years over energy security, climate change, and global scientific leadership. A program to develop fusion as an energy program could address these challenges all together.
However, two of the biggest problems facing the US fusion program are not about budgets or funding: they are about the program’s mission and leadership. First, with the bulk of US fusion research housed in either the Department of Energy’s Office of Science or in the National Nuclear Security Administration, there is not a clear mission to develop fusion as an energy source; instead it is treated as a science experiment. Second, there is no clear individual who has the political authority as the leader of a fusion energy program.
In order to really develop a successful fusion energy program, the United States needs strong leadership and an energy driven mission. In the report, ASP recommends creating the position of “Deputy Under Secretary for Fusion Energy” within the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy. This person would be politically responsible for fusion in both the Office of Science and in the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and would report directly to the Under Secretary for Science and Energy.
You can read the “US Fusion Program Recommendations” in full below or through the link.
Special thanks to former ASP Intern Caroline von Wurden for her work in bringing this roundtable together and in writing the report. A video of her presentation from the event is embedded below the report.
For more about ASP’s work on fusion, read: