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




A Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research


>> Link to Final Report <<


Report Release Webinar

The report release webinar took place on December 13, 2018 and featured our upcoming report, Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for Burning Plasma Research.  During the webinar the committee co-chairs and other members of the committee discussed the key findings and recommendations in the report, followed by a Q&A session with the audience. Watch the Webinar



Call for Community Input

Community input for the committee is now closed. Thank you for your time and interest - if you have any further questions or concerns, please contact Henry Ko at

Presentations to the Committee and Community Input


Statement of Task:   

A committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will be formed to study the state and potential of magnetic confinement-based fusion research in the United States and provide guidance on a long-term strategy for the field. The study will focus on research that supports understanding the magnetically confined burning plasma state but will take a broad view beyond plasma confinement science, and as such consider capabilities such as simulation and materials. Specifically, the committee will prepare an interim report that will:  

  1. Describe and assess the current status of U.S. research that supports burning plasma science, including current and planned participation in international activities, and describe international research activities broadly.
  2. Assess the importance of U.S. burning plasma research to the development of fusion energy as well as to plasma science and other science and engineering disciplines.

The committee will also prepare a final report, building on the interim report, which will:  

  1. Consider the scientific and engineering challenges and opportunities associated with advancing magnetic confinement fusion as an energy source, including the scientific and technical developments since the 2004 NAS study on burning plasma research.
  2. In two separate scenarios in which, after 2018, (1) the United States is a partner in ITER, and (2) the United States is not a partner in ITER: provide guidance on a long-term strategic plan (covering the next several decades) for a national program of burning plasma science and technology research which includes supporting capabilities and which may include participation in international activities, given the U.S. strategic interest in realizing economical fusion energy in the long term. 

In doing the above, the committee will consider the priorities for the next ten years developed by the community and FES that were recently reported to Congress. The committee will also consider the current level of participation by U.S. scientists in international activities as well as what role international collaboration should play over the next 20 years. The committee will also consider the health of the domestic fusion research sectors (universities, national laboratories, and industry). Elements of any strategic plan for U.S. burning plasma research should ensure that the United States maintains a leadership role in this field. The committee may assume that economical fusion energy within the next several decades is a U.S. strategic interest. The committee may take into account how unanticipated events or innovations may necessitate mid-course re-directions. The committee will use the prior work of the Academies as well as that of FESAC and the domestic and foreign communities in its deliberations. The committee is not to compare fusion as an energy source against other current or potential energy sources. The committee will consider the budget implications of its guidance but will not make recommendations about the budget for burning plasma research itself. The committee will only consider magnetically confined burning plasma research as within its purview. The committee may make recommendations or offer comments on organizational structure and program balance, with accompanying supporting discussion of the evidentiary bases, as appropriate.


Committee Members

Short biographical sketches for the members are available on the National Academies Current Projects System.

Michael Mauel, Columbia University, Co-Chair
Melvyn Shochet, University of Chicago, Co-Chair
Christina Back, General Atomics
Riccardo Betti, University of Rochester
Ian Chapman, UK Atomic Energy Authority
Cary Forest, University of Wisconsin, Madison
T. Kenneth Fowler, University of California, Berkeley
Jeffrey Freidberg, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ronald Gilgenbach, University of Michigan
William Heidbrink, University of California, Irvine
Mark Herrmann, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Frank Jenko, University of California, Los Angeles
Stanley Kaye, Princeton University
Mitsuru Kikuchi, National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology
Susana Reyes, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
C. Paul Robinson, Advanced Reactor Concepts, LLC
Philip Snyder, General Atomics
Amy Wendt, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Brian Wirth, University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Greg Eyring, Study Director
James Lancaster, BPA Director
Chris Jones, Program Officer
Richard Rowberg, Senior Adviser
Linda Walker, Program Coordinator
Henry Ko, Research Associate



June 5-6, 2017
Washington, D.C.


August 29-31, 2017 
Irvine, CA


December 15-16, 2017
Austin, TX


February 1-2, 2018
St. Paul Lez Durance Cedex, France

February 26-28, 2018
San Diego, CA

March 23, 2018

March 30, 2018
This meeting was held entirely in closed session.

April 11-13, 2018
Princeton, NJ

June 12-14, 2018
Washington, DC (Keck Center)
This meeting will be held entirely in closed session



This study is supported by funding from the Department of Energy.