Scientists are pushing for the continued study on nuclear fusion energy in the United States, saying it will be a huge help in making a small power plant.
Experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine asked the Department of Energy to further forward the research on the matter as the United States could greatly benefit from it in the long run. Michael Mauel, the co-chair of the panel and an applied physics professor at Columbia University, noted they had been observing immense advancement on the study.
"Now is the right time for the U.S. to benefit from the investments in burning plasma research and take leadership in fusion energy," Mauel said.
Stay With The Fusion Power Plant Research
The group is recommending that the United States do not abandon the longstanding ITER, the nuclear fusion megaproject in France, which gained a lot of critics after the United States had invested whopping amounts of money. That meant spending an additional $200 million on the research annually.
Moreover, the report reflects the favored move by the majority of the fusion community, with Mauel saying he and University of Chicago particle physicist Melvyn Shochet consulted with younger scientists who also wanted to continue the study.
Prototype Of The Fusion Power Plant
Apart from encouraging the government to pursue ITER, scientists also proposed to make a prototype called compact pilot plant (CPP) that will continuously run and generate electricity unlike the megaproject in France. Moreover, the experts suggested that this small sample power plant should be developed even when the United States backs out of the deal, echoing other researchers from other countries.
In Europe, their sample version of ITER is the Demonstration Power Station, or referred to as DEMO, which was said to be bigger than the megaproject. CPP, meanwhile, will just be a small fraction of the size of the ongoing controversial project.
Although the report sounds promising, DOE director at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Steven Cowley said it's not a walk in the park. For one, the scientists involved in the project still have little knowledge when it comes to building the CPP, and it will still take years before the development will be completed.
More than that, others say that the real problem lies in the budget, whether the government is willing to shell out an additional $200 million for the next 20 years to the $564-million annual spending or not. However, others believe that the amount was "wildly out of step with what's possible."