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Experts Urge US To Continue Support For Nuclear Fusion Research


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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American:
A panel of 19 scientists drawn from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended yesterday that the Department of Energy should continue an international experiment on nuclear fusion energy and then develop its own plan for a "compact power plant." A panel of 19 scientists drawn from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended yesterday that the Department of Energy should continue an international experiment on nuclear fusion energy and then develop its own plan for a "compact power plant." 

But as the National Academies' report noted, major challenges must be overcome to reach these goals, beginning with how to contain and control a burning "plasma" of extremely hot gas, ranging from 100 million to 200 million degrees Celsius, that can produce more heat than it consumes. The report calls the resulting plasma "a miniature sun confined inside a vessel." The world's biggest experiment intended to create and draw energy from burning plasma is under construction at Cadarache, France. It's called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, and its centerpiece is a large, doughnut-shaped, Russian-inspired reactor called a tokamak. Several member nations have already developed their own national programs, and the assembled National Academies experts concluded that the United States should eventually follow, once the ITER experiment shows there are ways to contain and manipulate a sustained fusion reaction. "It is the next critical step in the development of fusion energy," says the report.

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