DOE announces funds for overseas fusion research

11 March 2019

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science has announced USD30 million of funding for experimental research on magnetic fusion energy science at to be carried out at international tokamak facilities.

South Korea's KSTAR (Image: National Fusion Research Institute)

Research will be conducted by US scientists using existing facilities in the European Union, South Korea and other countries that have existing bilateral agreements with the USA, the DOE said. The awards will support both multiple- and single-institution research teams to conduct bilateral research on facilities with capabilities not available domestically. Such collaborations will take advantage of the "unique capabilities" of the most advanced international research facilities and allow the US fusion programme to gain the knowledge needed to operate long duration plasma discharges in ITER and other fusion facilities, according to the funding opportunity announcement.

James Van Dam, DOE acting associate director of science for fusion energy sciences, said research on tokamaks in the European Union and Asia would enable the US fusion programme to gain the knowledge needed to operate long-duration plasma discharges in future fusion energy devices.

"US scientists and engineers are working closely with research laboratories overseas to make optimal use of fusion facilities that can take decades to design, construct, and commission," he said.

National laboratories, universities and private industry will be eligible for the three-year awards from the DOE Office of Science. Recipients will be selected on the basis of peer review.

Tokamaks use a strong toroidal - or doughnut-shaped - magnetic field to confine a hot plasma in which fusion takes place, and is the leading candidate currently being studied in pursuit of a fusion power plant based on magnetic plasma confinement.

Several tokamaks have been built, including the Joint European Torus and the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak in the UK, and the KSTAR (Korean Superconducting Tokamak Reactor) at the National Fusion Research Institute in Daejeon, South Korea. KSTAR produced its first plasma in mid-2008 and is a pilot device for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, which is under construction in Cadarache, France.

QIS funding for fusion research

The DOE has also announced USD6million for research in Quantum Information Science (QIS) with relevance to fusion energy and plasma science, its first awards in this area. According to the DOE Office of Science, QIS is an emerging multidisciplinary field that seeks to harness exotic quantum effects of matter for computing, information processing, sensing and other applications.

Research to be supported will include the use of quantum computing to solve fusion and plasma science problems; the development of quantum sensing approaches that can enhance diagnostic capabilities for plasma and fusion science; and the application of high-energy density laboratory plasmas to develop quantum materials at ultra-high pressures.

The funding is expected to be competition-based three-year grants of USD50,000 to USD1 million per year. Universities, non-profit organisations, private sector companies and DOE national laboratories are eligible to apply

Researched and written by World Nuclear News