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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Physics and Astronomy
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Burning Plasma Assessment Committee



Burning Plasma: Bringing a Star to Earth

Released March 2004

Significant advances have been made in fusion science, and a decision point has been reached about whether the United States is ready to begin a burning plasma experiment. A burning plasma—in which at least 50% of the energy to drive the fusion reaction is generated internally—is an essential step to reach the goal of fusion power generation. The Burning Plasma Assessment Committee was formed to provide advice on this decision.

The committee concluded that there is high confidence in the readiness to proceed with the burning plasma step. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), with the United States as a significant partner, was the best choice. Once a commitment to ITER is made, fulfilling it should become the highest priority of the U.S. fusion research program. A funding trajectory is required that both captures the benefits of joining ITER and retains a strong scientific focus on the long-range goal of the program. The addition of the ITER project will require the content, scope, and level of U.S. fusion activity be defined by program balancing through a priority-setting process initiated by the Office of Fusion Energy Science.


Committee Members and NRC Staff

John F. Ahearne, Co-chair, Sigma Xi and Duke University
Raymond Fonck, Co-chair, University of Wisconsin at Madison
John N. Bahcall, Princeton University
Gordon A. Baym, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Ira B. Bernstein, Yale University
Steven C. Cowley, Imperial College London
Edward A. Frieman, SAIC
Walter Gekelman, University of California at Los Angeles
Joseph Hezir, EOP Group, Inc.
William M. Nevins, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Ronald R. Parker, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Claudio Pellegrini, University of California at Los Angeles
Burton Richter, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
Clifford M. Surko, University of California at San Diego
Tony S. Taylor, General Atomics
Michael A. Ulrickson, Sandia National Laboratories
Michael C. Zarnstorff, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Ellen G. Zweibel, University of Wisconsin at Madison

NRC Staff

Donald C. Shapero, Board Director

Michael Moloney, Program Officer
Timothy I. Meyer, Program Officer

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