All posts by Tom Tamarkin

Magnetic Fusion Energy Engineering Act of 1980 (MFEEA)

Notes and Comment

On October 12, 1980, President Carter signed into law the “Magnetic Fusion Energy Engineering Act of 1980.” The act was based on House and Senate Bills sponsored by Rep. M. McCormack (DWash.) and Sen. P. Tsongas (D-Mass.), which had passed both houses of Congress with very strong bipartisan support and presumably represents the views of the new Congress also. The act advocates substantial increases in funding level for the Magnetic Fusion Program (doubling in real dollars in five to seven years), and describes as national goals both the demonstration of engineering feasibility by the early 1990s and the operation of a demonstration plant by “the turn of the 21st century.” It also instructs the Secretary of Energy to initiate design activities for a fusion engineering device and to develop a plan for a national magnetic fusion engineering center. Although formally independent of the 1980 Department of Energy Energy Research Advisory Board Fusion Review Panel, (the “Buchsbaum Committee”), the act’s passage was eased by the generally favorable conclusions of the panel. The emphasis in the final version of the House Senate bills on construction of a fusion engineering device and the development of a fusion engineering center are strong echos of the Buchsbaum Committee’s recommendations. We reproduce below the complete text of the Magnetic Fusion Energy Engineering Act of 1980. We suspect that the rather broad policy statements will be interpreted in light of the more detailed recommendations of the ERAB Review Panel. If this should turn out to be the case, we will reprint selected portions of that review in future issues.

Findings and Policy

Sec. 2(a). The Congress hereby finds that:

1. the United States must formulate an energy policy designed to meet an impending worldwide shortage of many exhaustible conventional energy resources in the next few decades;
2. the energy policy of the United States must be designed to ensure that energy technologies using essentially inexhaustible resources are commercially available at a time prior to serious depletion of conventional resources;
3. fusion energy is one of the few known energy sources which are essentially inexhaustible, and thus constitutes a long-term energy option;
4. major progress in all aspects of magnetic fusion energy technology during the past decade instills confidence that power production from fusion energy systems is achievable;
5. the United States must aggressively pursue research and development programs in magnetic fusion designed to foster advanced concepts and advanced technology and to develop efficient, reliable components and subsystems;
6. to ensure the timely commercialization of magnetic fusion energy systems, the United States must demonstrate at an early date the engineering feasibility of magnetic fusion energy systems;
7. progress in magnetic fusion energy systems is currently limited by the funds made available rather than technical barriers;
8. it is a proper role for the Federal Government to accelerate research, development, and demonstrate programs in magnetic fusion energy technologies; and 9. acceleration of the current magnetic fusion program will require a doubling within seven years of the present funding level without consideration of inflation and a 25 percent increase in funding each of fiscal years 1982 and 1983.
9. acceleration of the current magnetic fusion program will require a doubling within seven years of the present funding level without consideration of inflation and a 25 percent increase in funding each of fiscal years 1982 and 1983.

(b) It is, therefore, declared to be the policy of the United States and the purpose of this Act to accelerate the national effort in research, development, and demonstration activities related to magnetic fusion energy systems. Further, it is declared to be the policy of the United States and the purpose of the Act that the objectives of such a program shall be:

1. to promote an orderly transition from the current research and development program through commercial development;
2. to establish a national goal of demonstrating the engineering feasibility of magnetic fusion by the early 1990s;
3. to achieve at the earliest practicable time, but not later than the year 1990, operation of a magnetic fusion engineering device based on the best available confinement concept;
4. to establish as a national goal the operation of a magnetic fusion demonstration plant at the turn of the twenty-first century;
5. to foster cooperation in magnetic fusion research and development among government, universities, industry, and national laboratories;
6. to promote the broad participation of domestic industry in the national magnetic fusion program;
7. to continue international cooperation in magnetic fusion research for the benefit of all nations;
8. to promote greater public understanding of magnetic fusion; and
9. to maintain the United States as the world leader in magnetic fusion.


Sec. 3. For the purposes of this Act:
1. “fusion” means a process whereby two light nuclei, such as deuterium and tritium, collide at high velocity, forming a compound nucleus, which subsequently separates into constituents which are different from the original colliding nuclei, and which carry away the accompanying energy release;
2. “magnetic fusion” means the use of magnetic fields to confine a very hot, fully ionized gas of light nuclei, so that the fusion process can occur;
3. “energy system” means a facility designed to utilize energy released in the magnetic fusion process for the generation of electricity and the production of hydrogen or other fuels;
4. “fusion engineering device” means a magnetic fusion facility which achieves at least a burning plasma and serves to test components for engineering purposes;
5. “demonstration plant” means a prototype energy system which is of sufficient size to provide safety, environmental reliability, availability, and ready engineering extrapolation of all components to commercial size but which system needs not be economically competitive with then alternative energy sources; and
6. “Secretary” means Secretary of Energy.

Program Activities

Sec. 4.(a) The Secretary shall initiate activities or accelerate existing activities in research areas in which the lack of knowledge limits magnetic fusion energy systems in order to ensure the achievement of the purposes of this Act.

(b) 1. The Secretary shall maintain an aggressive plasma confinement research program on the current lead concept to provide a full measure of support for the design, construction, and operation of the fusion engineering devices.

2. The Secretary shall maintain a broadly based research program on alternate confinement concepts and on advanced fuels at a sufficient level of funding to achieve optimal design of each successive magnetic fusion facility using the then best available confinement and fuel concept.
3. The Secretary shall ensure that research on properties of materials likely to be required for the construction of fusion engineering devices is adequate to provide timely information for the design of such devices.


1. The Secretary shall initiate design activities on a fusion engineering device using the best available confinement concept to ensure operation of such a device at the earliest practicable time, but not later than the year 1990.
2. The Secretary shall develop and test the adequacy of the engineering design of components to be utilized in the fusion engineering device.

(d) The Secretary shall initiate at the earliest practical time each activity which he deems necessary to achieve the national goal for operation of a demonstration plant at the turn of the twenty-first century.
(e) The Secretary shall continue efforts to assess which will determine the commercial introof magnetic fusion energy systems including, limited to:

  1. projected costs relative to other alternative energy sources;
  2. projected growth rates in energy demand;
  3. safety-related design limitations;
  4. environmental impacts; and
  5. limitations on the availability of strategic elements, such as helium, lithium, and special metals.

Comprehensive Program Management Plan

Sec. 5 (a) The Secretary shall prepare a comprehensive program management plan for the conduct of the research, development, and demonstration activities under this Act. Such plan shall include at a minimum:

1. a presentation of the program strategy which will be used to achieve the purposes of this Act;
2. a five-year program implementation schedule, including identification of detailed milestone goals, with associated budget and program resources requirements;
3. risk assessments;
4. supporting research and development needed to solve problems which may inhibit or limit development of magnetic fusion energy systems; and
5. an analysis of institutional, environmental, and economic considerations which are limiting the national magnetic fusion program.

(b) The Secretary shall transmit the comprehensive program management plan to the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and National Resources of the Senate not later than January 1, 1982.

Magnetic Fusion Engineering Center
Sec. 6. (a) The Secretary shall develop a plan for the creation of a national magnetic fusion engineering center for the purpose of accelerating fusion technology development via the concentration and coordination of major magnetic fusion engineering devices and associated activities at such a national center.

(b) In developing the plan, the Secretary shall include relevant factors including, but not limited to:

1. means of saving cost and time through the establishment of the national center relative to the cost and schedule currently projected for the program;
2. means of providing common facilities to be shared by many magnetic fusion concepts;
3. assessment of the environmental and safetyrelated aspects of the national center;
4. provisions for international cooperation in magnetic fusion activities at the national center;
5. provision of access to facilities for the broader technical involvement of domestic industry and universities in the magnetic fusion energy program;
6. siting criteria for the national center include a list of potential sites;
7. the advisability of establishing such a center considering all factors, including the alternative means and associated costs of pursuing such technology; and
8. changes in the management structure of the magnetic fusion program to allow more effective direction of activities related to the national center.

(c) The Secretary shall submit not later than July 1, 1981, a report to the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources characterizing the plan and setting forth the steps necessary for implementation of the plan, including any steps already implemented.

Technical Panel on Magnetic Fusion

Sec. 7. (a) A technical panel on magnetic fusion of the Energy Research Advisory Board shall be established to review the conduct of the national magnetic fusion energy program.

(b) 1. The technical panel shall be comprised of such representatives from domestic industry, universities, government laboratories, and other scientific and technical organizations as the Chairman of the Energy Research Advisory Board deems appropriate based on his assessment of the technical qualifications of each such representative.

2. Members of the technical panel need not be members of the full Energy Research Advisory Board.

(c) The activities of the technical panel shall be in compliance with any laws and regulations guiding the activities of technical and fact-finding groups reporting to the Energy Research Advisory Board.
(d) The technical panel shall review and may make recommendations on the following items, among others:

1. the preparation of the five-year program plan prepared pursuant to Sec. 5;
2. the type of future facilities needed to meet the goal of this Act along with their projected completion dates;
3. the adequacy of participation by universities and industry in the program;
4. the adequacy of international cooperation in magnetic fusion and any problems associated therewith; and
5. institutional, environmental, and economic factors limiting, or prospectively limiting, efforts to achieve commercial application of magnetic fusion energy systems.

(e) The technical board shall submit to the Energy Research Advisory Board on at least a triennial basis a written report of its findings and recommendations with regard to the magnetic fusion program
(f) After consideration of the technical panel report, the Energy Research Advisory Board shall submit such report, together with any comments such Board deems appropriate, to the Secretary.

Program Advisory Committees

Sec. 8. The Secretary may direct the director of each laboratory or installation at which a major magnetic fusion facility is operated for, or funded primarily by, the Federal Government to establish, for the sole purpose of providing advice to such director, a program advisory committee composed of persons with expertise in magnetic fusion from such domestic industry, universities, government laboratories, and other scientific and technical organizations as such director deems appropriate.

International Cooperation

Sec. 9. (a) 1. The Secretary in consultation with the Secretary of State shall actively seek to enter into or to strengthen existing international cooperative agreements in magnetic fusion research and development activities of mutual benefit to all parties.

2. The Secretary shall seek to achieve equitable exchange of information, data, scientific personnel, and other considerations in the conduct of cooperative efforts with technologically advanced nations.

(b) 1. The Secretary shall examine the potential impacts on the national magnetic fusion program of United States’ participation in an international effort to construct fusion engineering devices.

2. The Secretary shall explore, to the extent feasible, the prospects for joint financial participation by other nations with the United States in the construction of a fusion engineering device.
3. Within two years of the enactment of this Act the Secretary shall transmit to the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources the results of such examinations and explorations with his recommendations for construction of a national or international fusion engineering device: provided, however, that such examinations and explorations shall not have the effect of delaying design activities related to a national fusion engineering device.

Technical Manpower Requirements

Sec. 10. (a) The Secretary shall assess the adequacy of the projected United States supply of manpower in the engineering and scientific disciplines required to achieve the purposes of this Act taking cognizance of the
other demands likely to be placed on such manpower supply.

(b) The Secretary shall within one year of the date of enactment of this Act submit a report to the President and to the Congress setting forth his assessment along with his recommendations regarding the need for increased support for education in such engineering and scientific disciplines.

Information Dissemination

Sec. 11 (a) The Secretary shall take all necessary steps to assure that technical information relevant to the status and progress of the national magnetic fusion program is made readily available to interested persons in domestic industry and universities in the United States: provided, however, that upon a showing to the Secretary by any person that any information or portion thereof provided to the Secretary directly or indirectly from such person would, if made public, divulge (1) trade secrets or, (2) other proprietary information of such person, the Secretary shall not disclose such information and disclosure thereof shall be punishable under section 1905, of title 18, United States Code.

(b) The Secretary shall maintain an aggressive program in the United States for the provision of public information and educational materials to promote widespread knowledge of magnetic fusion among educational, community, business, environmental, labor, and governmental entities and the public at large.


Sec. 12. As a separate part of the annual report submitted pursuant to section 801 of the Department of Energy Organization Act (Public Law 95-91), the Secretary shall submit to Congress an annual report of activities pursuant to this Act. Such report shall include:

(a) modifications to the comprehensive program management plan for implementing this Act;
(b) an evaluation of the status of national magnetic fusion energy program in the United States;
(c) a summary of the findings and recommendations of any report of the Energy Research Advisory Board on magnetic fusion;
(d) an analysis of the progress made in commercializing magnetic fusion technology;
(e) suggestions for improvements in the national magnetic fusion program, including recommendations for legislation.

Authorization of Appropriations

Sec. 13. (a) There is hereby authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1981, such sums as are provided in the annual authorization Act pursuant to Section 660 of Public Law.

(b) In carrying out the provisions of this Act, the Secretary is authorized to enter into contracts only to such extent or in such amounts as may be provided in advance in appropriations Acts.

Download as a printer-friendly PDF

Hebrew: Download as a printer-friendly PDF

Iranian team to collaborate with US company on nuclear fusion project

New Jersey company says it has permission for unique partnership to work toward the holy grail of energy sources

Mark Halper, Friday 25 May 2012 13.59 EDT

vaccum vessel for NU

Plasma used in fusion reactions is created at places like the ASDEX upgrade fusion reactor in Germany. Photograph: Peter Ginter/Science Faction/Corbis

A US company and an Iranian university have agreed to collaborate on nuclear fusion, the elusive technology that promises a limitless supply of clean energy.

New Jersey-based Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Inc and Tehran’s Islamic Azad University will jointly design a fusion machine that “would be affordable to construct in industrializing nations”, according to a contract signed last weekend and seen by The Guardian.

The partnership comes amid tensions between the US and Iran over allegations that Iran is enriching uranium – a process that is different from fusion – to support a nuclear weapons programme.

Sceptics doubt whether US trade sanctions will permit the collaboration. But LPP claimed in a written statement that the pact qualifies as an official US department of treasury exemption “which authorizes collaborating with academics and research institutions on the … creation and enhancement of written publications.”

LPP is scheduled to notify the president’s council of advisors on science and technology of its Iranian partnership at 2pm ET on Friday in Washington DC.

Many people regard nuclear fusion as the holy grail of energy sources. Unlike today’s nuclear fission, it does not generate power by splitting atoms and leaving behind dangerous waste. Rather, in theory, it fuses them together – the way the sun works – typically combining isotopes of hydrogen known as deuterium and tritium.

Fusion gave rise to the “too cheap to meter” vision in the 1950s, with the notion that a plentiful supply of deuterium could inexpensively meet energy needs. But some 60 years later, it has remained a dream that many experts believe is still at least 30 years away.

The problem is that it currently takes more energy to run fusion than what the process delivers. Two large international government-backed research centers face criticism from opponents who say they are wasting money. One of those, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Cadarahce, France, projects costs of around €13bn just over its first phase, funded in part by the UK as part of the EU’s 45% contribution, and by Japan, China, India, Russia, South Korea and the US.

LPP is one of several small companies that believe they can crack fusion far sooner than can ITER or the National Ignition Facility (NIF), another international behemoth, based in Livermore, California.

Two months ago, LPP reported a breakthrough when it confined a gas at 1.8bn degrees C, much higher than the industry record of 1.1bn degrees C that had stood since 1978. Fusion temperatures flash for only nanoseconds and are contained.

The company is taking a significantly different approach friom ITER and NIF, both of which aim to drive turbines from heat created by neutrons that escape in the fusion process.

LPP and Azad University are developing “aneutronic” fusion, which would not rely on neutrons. It would eliminate turbines by providing electricity directly through charged ions.

US startup Tri-Alpha Energy, a secretive company based in Irvine, California, is also working on aneutronic fusion and has received at least $140m in venture capital with backers including Goldman Sachs and reportedly Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Venture capitalists typically seek financial returns within a few years, not the decades typically ascribed to fusion.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics

Scientific paper: Fusion reactions from >150 keV ions in a dense plasma focus plasmoid

indiegogo logo
Read about Lawrenceville Plasma Physics

Focus Fusion IndieGoGo Video! from Focus Fusion Society on Vimeo.

Looking for funding: Focus Fusion in New Jersey

July 2015: LPP Fusion has resumed dense plasma fusion test firing now using the new tungsten electrode

Aneutronic nuclear fusion reactor and engine proposal video

The Big Bang Never Happened, Eric J Lerner
Download the PDF

Big Bang—The Buck Stops Here, Henry Morris, Ph.D.

Gig Bang Breakdown, Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Universe is Not Expanding After All, Controversial Study Suggests,

Who Killed Fusion?

Tom TamarkinBy: Tom Tamarkin
Founder Fusion4Freedom & President USCL Corp
Marsha Freeman copyright 2010-2015

Skip Preface

See also: How Russia Caused the World’s Preeminent Super Power To Lose 25 Years in Its Quest to Correctly Solve Energy
See Also: Pat Boone & Tom Tamarkin series of 8 articles on the history and politics of fusion
See Also: The MFTF-B story – Fusion or conFusion?
See Also: Fusion Energy – Kill the beast


I wish to acknowledge the key contributions in information from Dr. Francis Chen, Dr. Stephen Dean, Dr. Kenneth Fowler, Dr. Robert Goldston, Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Dr. Francis Thio, Dr. Alvin Trivelpiece, Dr. Niels Winsor, and Dr. Michael Zarnstorff whose comments, information, help, and editorial expertise greatly shaped this article. Material herein is based on the USCL commissioned work of Marsha Freeman, copyright USCL, 2009.

– – Tom Tamarkin

In June of 2009, the American House of Representatives passed the Cap and Trade HR2454 bill 219 by 211 votes. This almost became law. This bill would penalize industrial companies including electrical power generators who release carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” in excess of arbitrary thresholds and redistributes this penalty or “pollution tax” to similar companies operating substantially under the threshold.

The Congressional Budget Office stated the cost of Cap and Trade to Americans is $175 per year per American household or in excess of $22 billion dollars annually by 2020.

In December of 2009, an international movement took shape in Copenhagen, Denmark to make the concept of Cap and Trade an international program. The United States and other countries agreed to “donate” $100 billion per year by 2020 to less developed countries to force the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the industrialized countries.

Is this the best use of our money? Absolutely not. The strong and robust debate in the scientific community concerning the cause and effect relationship of climate change and man is inconclusive at best, and politically driven by a divergent set of rogue players at worst.

The preferred use of the enormous amounts of money being dissipated in climate change abatement is the direct and immediate investment in science and technology that will simply replace fossil fuels and nuclear fission. Under these conditions, climate change caused by man is a moot point and removed from serious discussion. Mankind will then have the benefit of unlimited, inexpensive energy, potable water, and plentiful food for eternity.

As an undergraduate physics major in the early 1970s, I was taught this was in process. Demonstrations were to occur in the 1990s. Power was to be supplied to the electrical grid by 2000 with wide scale commercialization by 2005. The science and technology is known as controlled nuclear fusion. Unfortunately, we faltered in the task and by no fault of the science. Now, we must make it happen.

We must do this because the future of mankind depends on it. The necessity to bring controlled nuclear fusion on-line will be proved by the analysis of the worlds energy requirements over the next 40 years, versus the limited amounts of energy today’s “alternative & green sources” can provide.

The energy requirements of the transportation sector; consisting of air, maritime, truck, rail, and automobile, as well as the industrial, commercial and residential sectors must be accurately determined based on the ever increasing standards of living worldwide, within the context of projected worldwide population growth. We must include in this calculation, the energy to produce potable water through the desalinization of sea water and its transportation over vast distances. Agricultural production must be increased many times over as well. These are fundamental requirements to support the forecasted worldwide population by mid-century. All of this required energy needs to be calculated and combined in engineering units as the world’s gross energy requirements (world GER).

The next step is to analyze on a case by case basis, exactly what percentage of the world’s gross energy requirements can be met by today’s alternative and/or green energy sources; i.e., solar, photovoltaic, wind, tidal, geo-thermal, and bio-fuels.

This analysis must be based on a zero fossil fuel use and a nuclear fission sun set of thirty years given the issues of fission produced radioactive waste disposal, and the potential threat of black market exploitation of fissile materials for weaponization.

Our best estimate is that collectively, all of today’s “alternative and/or green energy sources” will produce less than 5% of mankind’s 2050 energy requirements.

We are engaging an Israeli University Center research team to conduct this projected supply and demand analysis and to have the conclusive answer by Q3 2010. It is imperative that we have this answer prior to the next Congressional election in the United States. Why an Israeli university? To quote Warren Buffet: “If you are going to the Middle East for oil, then don’t stop in Israel. But if you are going for brains, energy, and integrity, then it is the only place to stop.” Why not an American or European university team? The political tides are such that this is simply not feasible.

Once this study is done, the time line and the optimum set of project return on investment paybacks become apparent.

In the early 1970s a course of action was developed by the United States Government which should have provided the American citizens and the entire world with such an unlimited, inexpensive, source of energy . . . controlled nuclear fusion energy . . . on-line and powering the electrical grids world wide by 2005. Unfortunately this did not happen.

This article takes a critical look at why this science and technology was incorrectly discredited by politicians and the scientifically lay. Their misguided input led to the discontinuation of the needed scientific R&D time and time again.

The American people and their elected leaders must come to understand the lessons of past mistakes and be prepared to launch another “Manhattan project” at the turn of this decade. Controlled nuclear fusion is the only realistic solution to solve energy and a host of other problems.

This is not only about solving energy in the United States and relieving tensions in the Middle East. It is about maintaining America’s preeminent stature in the world based on advanced education, commitment to values, and the long term commercial benefits of the production of energy producing equipment sold throughout the world on a fair and equitable basis. There should be no doubt that this is the last chance for America to do it.

Who Killed Fusion?

There is no disputing that the world is facing an energy crisis of vast proportions. But this could have been avoided. For more than five decades, scientists, engineers, energy planners, policy makers, and, at times, even the public at large, have known what the ultimate alternative is to our finite energy resources–nuclear fusion. This energy, which powers the Sun and all of the stars, and can use a virtually unlimited supply of isotopes of hydrogen,available from sea water, has been visible on the horizon for years, but seemingly never close at hand. Why?

Legend has it that there are more problems in attaining controlled nuclear fusion than scientists anticipated, a nd that little progress has been made. “Fusion is still fifty years away, and always has been” has become the common refrain of skeptics. But the reason that we do not have commercially available fusion energy is not what is commonly believed.

In 1976, the Energy Research and Development Administration, or ERDA–the predecessor to the Department of Energy–published a chart showing various policy and funding options for the magnetic fusion energy research program. Each option, called a Logic,described how the level of funding for the research would determine when practical fusion power would become available. The most aggressive profile, Logic V, proposed that a budget of approximately $600 million per year would put the fusion program on a path to operate a demonstration reactor by 1990. At the other end of the scale, Logic 1, set at a level of about $150 million per year, was the option colloquially described as “fusion never,” because the funding never reached the level where the remaining challenges in fusion could be overcome. The U.S. fusion program has been at that “fusion never” equivalent level, or below, for the past 30 years.

It is a specious argument to claim that there has not been the money available to aggressively pursue fusion research, when compared to the multi-trillions-dollar cost to the U.S. economy just of importing oil. In the 1970s, comprehensive studies had already been done,outlining the application of high-density fusion power, not only to produce electricity, but also to create synthetic fuels, such as hydrogen; to create fresh water from the sea, through desalination; to economically create new mineral resources with the fusion torch; to propel spacecraft to Mars and beyond; and myriad other applications.

ITER reactor

Artist rendition of the nearly two decade delayed 500 megawatt ITER reactor.

The lack of progress in the U.S. fusion program is entirely a result of a lack of political will, a lack of vision, and the promotion of false and destructive economic and energy policies, which have now left us behind the rest of the world, in developing practical fusion energy. When the United States dropped out of the international fusion project, ITER, the other partners in the endeavor, had no intention of giving up on the project. No one is waiting for American leadership in developing fusion power. The question is, will the U.S. be a serious contributor to the international fusion endeavor?

Or will we be sitting on the sidelines, unable to even take advantage of the advances made in the international programs, because we have so stripped down our own capabilities? Will the U.S. be importing fusion reactors from Russia, Europe, Japan, China, India, or South Korea, by mid-century?

The U.S. in the Lead

At one time, it should be recalled, the U.S. was a world leader in fusion energy research. This was the result of the vision of policymakers, and the optimism and hard work of hundreds of scientists and engineers committed to fusion’s development.

Westinghouse-Princeton reactor design

As early as 1972, research in magnetic fusion had shown so much promise, Westinghouse Nuclear Energy Systems developed this artist’s concept of a fusion power plant for the U.S. government. Such a demonstration reactor was to be in operation in the 1990s.

The dependence of the U.S. on imported energy supplies was dramatically demonstrated during the so-called energy crisis in the mid-1970s, following the 1973-4 Middle East war, and oil embargo. The Nixon/Ford Administrations and energy policy planners responded with a broad-brush energy R&D initiative, which included increased funding for advanced nuclear fission, and for fusion research. In fiscal year 1974, the magnetic fusion energy R&D budget was $43.4 million. By fiscal year 1977, the funding had increased to $316.3 million.

This investment laid the basis, more than thirty years ago, for dramatic progress in the U.S. fusion program. That investment paid off. In August 1978, scientists at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory reported that the previous month, the plasma in their Princeton Large Torus (PLT) tokamak had reached the record-setting temperature of 60 million degrees. This exceeded the ignition temperature of 44 million degrees it had been determined was required for a sustained fusion reaction. One of the key barriers for fusion–the application of external power for heating the plasma–had been overcome.

At that time, the broad-based domestic magnetic fusion program wisely supported an array of, not just tokamaks, but a variety of machines with different geometric configurations, in which novel concepts for attaining fusion energy were being investigated. While advances using the tokamak design, created by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, showed great promise, the problems of plasma purity, superconducting magnet technology, new materials required for fusion reactors, methods for extracting energy from the fusion reaction, and other challenges, were being investigated in experimental facilities in national laboratories and universities around the country, and also internationally. But as Princeton laboratory Director, Dr. Melvin Gottlieb, proudly reported in 1978, although there were then more than 100 research tokamaks around the world, all doing important research, the Princeton results were unique.

The reaction to the Princeton announcement was electric. In an interview with CBS News, Dr. Stephen Dean, director of the magnetic confinement systems division of the Department of Energy fusion office, stated: “The question of whether fusion is feasible from a scientific point of view has now been answered.” The Princeton fusion breakthrough became front-page news in newspapers around the world.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), counseled: “This breakthrough compels us to redirect our energy and funnel further funds and attention to highly promising and vitally important nuclear fusion research.” The press hailed the achievement, recognizing the fundamental importance for the future prosperity of mankind of developing fusion energy.

But not everyone was excited by the breakthrough. In fact, a war that was being waged over energy policy somewhat behind the scenes, burst out in to the open.

For days, pressure was put on the Princeton scientists by the Department of Energy not to make a “big deal” over the results. A press conference that the Princeton team was to hold to make the announcement was almost cancelled. When it finally did take place, officials of the DOE, under James Rodney Schlesinger, spared no effort to try to downplay their importance. As reported in an article appearing in the August 16 issue of the Christian Science Monitor, “Public affairs officers for the U.S. Department of Energy say the DOE was both puzzled and embarrassed at what it considers an unauthorized and overblown announcement of the Princeton work.” DOE public affairs director Jim Bishop emphasized that, “While the Princeton work is a major scientific achievement, it probably won’t shorten the time scale or the cost of fusion power development!” Energy Secretary, James Rodney Schlesinger, was incensed at the optimism that followed the Princeton fusion announcement.


The Administration of President Jimmy Carter came in to office in 1977, just three years after the “Arab” oil embargo, which manipulation, it was shown, was created not by “Arabs,” but by the international oil cartel. Gasoline lines, and the quadrupling of energy prices, were the result of these manufactured shortages, and created the opportunity to implement a “conservation,” zero-growth energy and economic policy, which had been promoted by the Club of Rome, the fledgling anti-nuclear “environmental” movement, the Ford Foundation and other think tanks, since the late 1960s.

For the first time in the history of the United States, the idea that “less is more,” that “small is beautiful,” that there are “limits to growth,” that the world was running out of resources, became the policy of the Federal government. The possibility that there could be virtually unlimited fusion energy made an embarrassing mockery of the “conservation,” and “turn-down-the-thermostat” belt-tightening policies being promoted by the Carter White House.

The most respected public advocacy organization for the full-scale development of fusion energy, at the time of the Princeton breakthrough, was the New York-based Fusion Energy Foundation. In its coverage of the Princeton results, in October 1978, the Foundation released a proposed budget for fusion development, in the form of a Memorandum to the Congress. The Memorandum proposed an acceleration of the fusion research program in both magnetic and inertial confinement, increased international collaboration, and a funding level comparable to that of the 1960s Apollo space program. The proposal included funding for next-generation experimental machines across the range of tokamaks, plus magnetic mirror experiments, and scyllac, theta pinch, stellarators, and other magnetic geometries. Advanced laser, ion beam, electron beam, and other inertial confinement experimental facilities were included. Basic engineering, materials, component, and test facilities were part of the up-graded and accelerated program.

At the time, and with the aid of the Fusion Energy Foundation’s fusion energy outreach, through its widely-read magazine, Fusion, an awareness was growing in the Congress that the high-technology path was the real way to energy independence. The Carter White House and financial interests who saw the development of unlimited sources of energy as a threat to their vested interests, mobilized to squelch the enthusiasm.

In July 1978, a group described as the Nuclear Club of Wall Street helped stitch together the Society to Advance Fusion Energy, or SAFE, funded primarily by the Slaner Foundation. While their stated goal was to promote fusion energy research, their attacks on nuclear energy, as “unSAFE,” and on the then-leading tokamak program, revealed that SAFE’s intention was not to advance support for fusion energy. In fact, as they explained to inquiries, their sole purpose was to discredit, and blunt the influence of the Fusion Energy Foundation! This attempt did not succeed.

Energized by the Princeton results, and the promise of the next critical breakthroughs in fusion, Rep. Mike McCormack, a Democrat elected to Congress in 1970 from the State of Washington after a 20-year scientific career, introduced a bill in January of 1980 to accelerate the development of fusion energy. A scientific advisory panel, which Rep. McCormack had convened over the previous year, had concurred with his evaluation that the most significant barrier to the commercial development of fusion was the lack of a national commitment, and an inadequate level of funding. The bill soon garnered 140 co-sponsors.

One week before introducing his bill, Rep. McCormack spoke at a conference in Washington, DC on nuclear safety. There, the anti-nuclear Carter Administration “energy” policy was laid bare. Department of Energy Undersecretary John Deutch, a Schlesinger appointee who had down-played the Princeton results, stated that conventional nuclear power be an energy source “of last resort.” He continued that the DOE would “like to minimize the use of nuclear energy through conservation and the use of coal.”

Rep. McCormack also addressed the meeting. “We must take the offensive on nuclear energy,” the Congressman stated. “Nuclear power as a last resort, was never realistic and now is irresponsible,” he continued. He stated that the U.S. “must have 500 Giga Watts of nuclear energy by the year 2000, which is not over-ambitious,” in order to ensure economic growth and a rising standard of living. Nuclear energy and coal would be the “bridge” energy sources to the future. He used the occasion to announce that he would be introducing legislation “to make it the policy of the U.S. government to bring the first electric generating fusion power plant on line before the year 2000. We must move into the engineering phase with fusion,” he said. “We must not wait for somebody else to do it.”

Rep. McCormack called the decision to proceed with an Apollo-style fusion program, as promoted in his bill, “the single most important energy event in the history of mankind.” He explained that, “once we develop fusion, we will be in a position to produce enough energy for all time, for all mankind. This is not hyperbole, but fact.” In an interview with this writer after the bill’s introduction, Rep. McCormack also added that fusion, which should be developed internationally, “for all mankind,” could “be the most important deterrent to war in all of history.”

The bill authorized the construction of a fusion Engineering Test Facility by 1987. The first experimental power reactor would be developed by the year 2000, to produce net power, and lay the basis for commercial development. The bill estimated that this program would require a $20 billion expenditure over the two decades from 1980 to the turn of the century; considerably less, in 1980 dollars, than what the United States spent to land a man on the Moon. The funding included the expansion and up-grading of the nation’s science education programs.

The Fusion Energy Foundation mobilized its tens of thousands of supporters to tell their Representatives in Washington to support the McCormack bill. Statements of support were elicited from labor leaders, clergy, civil rights activists, state legislators, and other elected officials, industrial leaders, and the fusion research community.

On August 27, the House of Representatives passed the fusion bill by a vote of 365 to 7. Soon after, the Senate passed a companion bill by voice vote. President Carter signed the bill into law on October 7. The path to commercial fusion energy was clear.

But a month later, President Carter became a lame duck, as Ronald Reagan won the 1980 Presidential election. Regardless of the next Administration’s policy toward fusion, the scientists warned, every new Administration wants to do its own review, which only delays progress. Worse still, since President Carter conceded the election before the voting poles were even closed on the West Coast, Democrats in key states, such as Washington, did not even bother to go to the polls to vote. Rep. Mike McCormack, and key collaborator, Governor Dixy Lee Ray, lost their bids for reelection.

Recognizing that fulfilling the commitments of the fusion law would take a multi-generational commitment from the Congress, the Subcommittee on Energy Research and Production of the House Committee on Science and Technology, chaired by Rep. McCormack, issued a report in December 1980 providing an overview of the fusion energy program, for the in-coming Reagan Administration. In the Preface, the report states that the signing of the bill into law “marked the end of the beginning'” of “what may be the most historically important road mankind has ever taken.” But, the report warns, “the hardest battles are yet to come. There must be continual annual authorizations and subsequent appropriations of funds.” The report concluded: “It will take tremendous vigilance and determination on the part of the Nation to carry through the 20-year development plan which is necessary to make fusion a reality.”

Even while the McCormack fusion bill was still being debated, “conservative” congressional representatives were responding to the federal budget deficit, created through the Carter Administration’s failed economic policies, by attempting to reduce federal spending on energy R&D. Only an intervention on the floor of the House by Science and Technology Committee chairman Rep. Don Fuqua (Democrat from Florida), restored a proposed cut in Fiscal Year 81 funding that would have delayed construction of Princeton’s next-step Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) for at least a year.

magnetic fusion budget

The magnetic fusion energy budget today, in real, inflation-adjusted dollars, is about one third what it was in the late 1070s. This graph includes data for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences magnetic confinement program, and inertial Confinement Fusion, which is funded under defense programs.

The handwriting was on the wall. It did not take long for the plan that had become law, to demonstrate commercially-viable fusion energy by the turn of the century, to be derailed. In the in-coming Reagan Administration, opposition to fusion would not come from radical “left” zero-growthers, but from an otherwise well-meaning President, who had been captured by the conservative free-market “right.”

A Policy of Mediocrity

The Reagan White House’s fusion budget request for fiscal year 1982, forwarded to Capitol Hill in early 1981, had, with breakneck speed, tossed aside the Congressional mandate for the McCormack law fusion engineering development program. At a briefing on Feb. 26, Energy Secretary James Edwards answered a reporter’s question by stating that “we’re going to fund fusion,” adding, “but we’re not going to throw money at it irresponsibly.” At the same briefing, Treasury Secretary Don Regan said the Reagan Administration’s economic objective was to “give the economy back to the people.” Tax cuts and deregulation were on the agenda, not federal investments in R&D.

On March 6, the Fusion Energy Foundation issued a press release, warning that the Reagan Administration’s proposed budget cuts in funding for NASA’s space programs and for fusion research, would implement the very Carter-era deindustrialization policies President Reagan had been elected to reverse. Ten days later, the Foundation sent a letter to all of the co-sponsors of Rep. McCormack’s fusion bill, alerting them to the devastating blow the White House was proposing to the fusion development schedule, pointing out that it violated the law of the land.

On July 31, six months after President Reagan came in to office, Rep. Marilyn Bouquard, Democrat from Tennessee, who had replaced Mike McCormack as Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy Research and Production, wrote a scathing letter to Energy Secretary Edwards. The Department had proposed that instead of requesting funds to establish the industrially-managed Center for Fusion Engineering, mandated in the fusion law, funds were requested for a Fusion Engineering Feasibility Preparations Project, as a way of delaying the day when engineering challenges in fusion would be tackled. Rep. Bouquard described her response as “puzzled and dismayed,” and wished to express her “dissatisfaction to you in the most emphatic terms.”

The betrayal of the promise of fusion led Edwin Kintner to resign from his post at the Department of Energy in November 1981, after having served since April 1976 as the Director of the Office of Fusion Energy. Kintner came to the Department following 22 years of service with the U.S. Navy, 14 of which were in the Naval Reactors Program, under Admiral Hyman Rickover. His resignation, he made public, was in protest over cuts in the fusion budget which indicated a change in policy, and a delay, or cancellation, of the program Congress had put into law.

Kintner reported, in an article in the May/June 1982 issue of MIT’s Technology Review, that while the initial request from the Department’s fusion office, for 1982-3 was for $596 million, the proposed $557 million, Kintner felt, would still, though barely, meet the Fusion Act commitments. But when David Stockman’s Office of Management and Budget presented the 1983 budget to Congress, with a total of $444 million for fusion, or 25% less than the 1977 budget, in real terms, the fusion law was dead. The White House policy was that demonstration projects should not be funded by the government, but be left to private industry.

The following month, President Reagan’s Science Advisor, George Keyworth told the House Committee on Science and Technology that the U.S. “cannot expect to be preeminent in all scientific fields, nor is it necessarily desirable.” Never before in its history did U.S. science have mediocrity as a goal. “Science policy, made without considering economic policy, is irrelevant,” Keyworth stated, advising that fiscal austerity dictated “limits” and that R&D must “compete” with other programs for federal dollars. Members of the Committee wisely pointed out that this was exactly backwards: it is investments in science and technology that are the engine of economic growth; they are not a “drain” on the economy. In the same hearing, Keyworth defended his proposal that NASA discontinue its planetary exploration program, because we “couldn’t afford it.”

But despite the pull-back in funding in the 1980s, the investments in fusion research that had been made in the previous decade continued to bear fruit.

Princeton’s Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor, or TFTR, which had been initiated in 1975, created its first plasma the day before Christmas, in 1982. In May the following year, President Reagan sent congratulations to the Princeton fusion team, looking toward the promise of unlimited fusion energy, which were presented at the official May 5 dedication of the tokamak. The TFTR would indeed prove itself a robust and highly productive research facility.

Dr. Stephen Dean

Dr. Stephen Dean, founder of Fusion Power Associates

But in the Fall of 1983, at a fusion hearing, Dr. Dean warned Congress that “the U.S. is no longer the unquestioned world leader in fusion development. The fusion programs in the U.S., the U.S.S.R., Europe, and Japan have comparable accomplishments, facilities, and momentum.” The present dramatic rate of progress, he stressed, “is based on capital investment commitments made in the 1970s.” But now, the U.S. was not making a commitment to move forward.

In July of 1986, the TFTR reached a record plasma temperature of 200 million degrees. Despite cut-backs in funding, and years of delays, in 1993, experiments were carried out which produced a peak fusion power of 10.7 MW, a world record, and 90 million times more than what could be generated in 1974, when the TFTR project was proposed. While not literally achieving energy “breakeven,” where there is as much energy from fusion produced as is used to heat the plasma, the scientists reported that they “are very close.” That year, the TFTR had switched from pure deuterium fuel to deuterium-tritium, similar to what would be used in a power reactor. Two years later, a record 510 million degree plasma temperature was recorded.

Princeton's Tokamak reactor

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Princeton’s Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) held world records for plasma temperature and fusion power produced. The machine was shut down in 1995, before all of the experiments that were planned were completed, because of budget cuts.
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

It would have seemed only prudent, on the heels of these stunning results, that there would have no hesitation to authorize the next-step experimental facility in the tokamak program, as the follow-on to the TFTR. Princeton proposed a Compact Ignition Tokamak (CIT), to create sustained fusion power. But in October 1989, President George H.W. Bush’s DOE representative, Robert Hunter, told a Congressional hearing that the Administration proposed to cut another $50 million from the fusion budget, because the Compact Ignition Tokamak was too high risk, and probably would not succeed! Dr. Stephen Dean retorted that the reason you conduct experiments is to learn. “We’ve got to take some risks if we intend to develop a machine that makes electricity. If Columbus had waited for radar to be discovered before he set out, we wouldn’t be there today.” Meanwhile, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory laid off 120 industrial contract personnel, who had expected to begin work on the CIT, as it became increasingly doubtful it would ever be built.

The mainline tokamak program was not the only approach to suffer, as the nation pulled back on research in magnetic fusion. From 1973 to 1984, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Elmo Bumpy Torus produced promising results, as an alternate magnetic fusion concept to tokamaks. By 1981 the preliminary design for a 1200 MW power plant had been created, and the next-step machine was selected for a scale-up to proof-of-principle. It was never built.

Incredibly, on the very day that Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s Mirror Fusion Test Reactor was to begin operation, in 1986, it was cancelled. The completed device was never turned on, and was dismantled. The fusion program did not fare any better during the years of the Clinton Administration, especially after the 1994 take-over of the Congress by the “conservative revolution” of Newt Gingrich.

In December 1993, Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary sent her congratulations to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory on the production of more than three million watts of fusion power, which set a world record. “This is a great day for science,” she stated. “This world record is a great step in the development of fusion energy. It highlights the enormous progress being made in the field. This is the most significant achievement in fusion energy in the past two decades,” she added. The Princeton scientists proposed that the Tokamak Physics Experiment (TPX) be designed to replace the TFTR when its experiments were completed. This long-pulse machine, they explained, would use many of the existing TFTR facilities, and would develop the basis for a continuously operating tokamak fusion reactor.

Although O’Leary and other Administration officials continued to support the fusion effort, resistance from the Congress delayed fusion’s next steps, both in participation in ITER, and in the domestic experimental program. The President, himself, in a letter dated July 13, 1994, addressed to New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, supported a “strong balanced program for the development of fusion energy,” endorsing both U.S. participation in ITER, and the construction of the TPX at Princeton.

Congressional wrangling over the fusion program budget led to the incredible decision for an “early” decommissioning of the TFTR in 1995, after it had achieved a record-setting 510 million degree plasma temperature, even though more advanced experiments were still planned by the scientists.

All large-scale science and research projects were under attack through the 1990s. In 1988, the Congress approved construction of the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas, to be the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. In addition to its research applications in fundamental physics, the advancement of superconducting magnet technology would have pushed forward the state of the art in medicine, energy storage, and fusion. In 1993, after 14.6 miles of tunnel had been built, the project was cancelled by the Congress.

In the first term of the Reagan Administration, the magnetic fusion research budget was in the $450 million range. By the time President Reagan left office, it stood at $331 million. When George H.W. Bush left office, in 1994, the magnetic fusion budget was stalled at $322 million. It faired worse during the eight years Bill Clinton was in the White House. The opposition from Congress was not helped by the fact that Vice President Al Gore had been given the responsibility for developing energy policy. Gore put billions of dollars into wasteful so-called “green” and “clean” technologies.

During the 1990s, the magnetic fusion energy budget collapsed in to the $200+ million range. While there have been some ups and downs, using U.S. Energy Information Agency inflation-adjusted figures, in real dollars, the fusion budget of $286 million in 2008 was about one-third what it was in 1977. Is it really any wonder that the U.S. has not achieved new breakthroughs in fusion?

The Rest of the World Moves Forward

While the Princeton TFTR was producing ground-breaking results in fusion research in the late 1980s and early 1990s, other nations were not standing still. In 1991, the Joint European Torus (JET) became the first tokamak to use tritium; the same year that the U.S. government officially nixed the Compact Ignition Tokamak at Princeton. Japan’s JT-60 tokamak was on its way to setting its own records.

Today, world records in fusion are not held by the U.S., but primarily by Europe and Japan, which provided steady support over the past two decades to up grade experiments and build new facilities. Other advances have been made in newer fusion programs, such as those in China and South Korea. These countries have the only two tokamak experiments in operation now using advanced superconducting magnets, which will be needed for tomorrow’s commercial fusion power plants.

For years, nations have recognized that a joint, international effort to solve the engineering problems in fusion and move toward a commercial demonstration would be the best approach. If you are creating an energy source that will be available to all mankind, why not have the collective brains and talent of all mankind working on it?

In April 1978, respected Russian scientist, and vice president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, E.P. Velikhov, privately proposed to officials in Washington that there be an international tokamak experiment. The proposal was made formally the following month, at the meeting of the U.S.-Soviet Joint Fusion Power Coordinating Committee in Moscow. Velikhov proposed that the project be under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). At the same time, other nations had a similar response to the world energy crisis, with Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda proposing a $1 billion joint fusion development program during a May 1978 visit with President Carter. These proposals were pushed aside.

Two years later, on March 10, 1980, Academician Velikhov gave a lecture at the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences in Stockholm. Velikhov, who over the years has been a science advisor to Russian government leaders, outlined the nuclear power plans of the Soviet Union, and, again called for an international fusion project, which he called INTOR.

Finally, in November 1985, fusion was put on the international diplomatic agenda, when the Soviet-American statement issued after the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev stated that they “emphasized the potential importance of the work aimed at utilizing controlled thermonuclear fusion for peaceful purposes, and, in this connection, advocated the widest possible development of international cooperation in obtaining this source of energy, which is essentially inexhaustible, for the benefit of all mankind.” Europe and Japan were invited to join the new project, ITER, for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, and Canada also joined.

Design work for a reactor was carried out over the 1990s, with scientists from more than a dozen countries contributing to the effort. It is a very ambitious undertaking. The tokamak is being designed to generate 500 megawatts of fusion power for hundreds of seconds, as an important step towards the generation of steady-state power which will be required for a commercial power plant. As the ITER design work proceeded, China and South Korea joined the ITER effort in 2003, and India joined two years later.

As is the case in nearly all international science and engineering projects, design of the reactor took more time than initially envisioned, and in the Summer of 1998, extensions for the work were required. Europe, Russia, and Japan signed the three-year extension agreement. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson tried to do an end-run around the opposition to the project in the Congress, and announced on September 22, 1998 that he had signed a unilateral agreement extending the United States’ support for ITER. But the Congress, under the guidance of a Republican leadership intent upon cutting federal spending, regardless of the consequences, eliminated the paltry $12 million for fiscal year 1999 that was to go toward U.S. work on ITER. “The project has failed,” pontificated House Science Committee Chairman, Republican James Sensenbrenner, from Wisconsin. He continued: “It defies common sense that the United States should agree to continue to participate in a dead-end project that continues to waste the American taxpayer’s dollars.” The other international partners were stunned.

Engineering design work for ITER proceeded, without the participation of the United States. Following design completion, the partners began the process of choosing a site for the reactor. Then, in 2003, President Bush announced that the United States would be rejoining the on-going negotiations to choose a site for ITER. Perhaps the fact that China and South Korea had become ITER partners had caused the U.S. Administration to rethink fusion policy. In June 2005, the nuclear research center site in Caderache, France was chosen for the construction of ITER Today, the site has been cleared, and preparatory work for the next phase of construction is well underway.

Now that ITER is proceeding, it has become urgent, once again, to return to a robust domestic U.S. fusion energy program, both in order for this country to fulfill its obligatory contributions to ITER, and so the U.S. is prepared to make use of the advancements that are made there.

One of the major challenges of engineering a power-producing fusion reactor is the development of new materials that can withstand the severe fusion environment. At the annual meeting of Fusion Power Associates, December 2-3 in Washington, DC, leaders of the fusion programs at this nation’s national laboratories, universities, and in industry stressed the need for a shift from fusion as a purely “scientific” endeavor in the Department of Energy, toward solving the practical problems.

At the FPA conference, Ed Synakowski, who heads the Department’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, stated that it was time that fusion “broke out of its scientific and political isolation.” He said that the nation needs a “sensible” program in materials research, and experiments to solve outstanding scientific questions.

The presentations by U.S. fusion leaders at the conference stood in contrast to that of Dr. G.S. Lee, head of the South Korean National Fusion Research Institute. The Institute is currently carrying out experiments in its KSTAR advanced superconducting tokamak reactor. Scientists from around the world have sent researchers to participate in KSTAR experiments. Dr. Lee explained that they will be well trained and experienced from their work on KSTAR, once ITER is ready for operation, about a decade from now.

The most exciting remarks by Dr. Lee concerned not Korea’s technical progress, but its commitment to create a practical new energy technology. He explained that when the government approved the fusion program in the mid-1990s, it wanted to ensure that the research would not simply be an experiment, but would lead to a reactor. Understanding that this will be a long-term effort, which will have to survive numerous changes in ruling parties and five different presidents, the Fusion Energy Development and Promotion Act was passed in 2007, which created a federal Commission to oversee the fusion program. It ensures the continuity of the program, and is renewed every five years.

To meet the goal of developing a practical energy source, as stated in the law, Dr. Lee said, his Institute is already evaluating various sites where there are operating conventional nuclear plants, as potential sites for a demonstration fusion reactor. Design of the 700 MW Korean demonstration plant will be carried out while experiments are on-going on ITER, with construction to start in 2027. The following decade, Korea plans to be building fusion power plants.

There is little question that the U.S. fusion program must be rethought, lest the nation be left to do little but grouse, as other nations continue to leap ahead. One step to try to address this question was taken by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, (Democrat of California), who introduced the Fusion Engineering Science and Fusion Energy Planning Act of 2009 on July 10th. The Act would require that within one year of passage, the Department of Energy present to the Congress a comprehensive plan to identify the range of research and development needed “to achieve practical fusion energy.” The bill stresses the engineering areas of materials science, in particular. One can question whether or a not yet another study, delaying action for another year, is at all necessary. But the impetus of the bill does place the fusion question squarely in front of Congress, once again.

The most forward-looking great projects in science and engineering in the U.S. are barely marking time. The program for the manned exploration of the Moon and Mars, promulgated by the previous Bush Administration, has been so underfunded that layoffs have begun in the space program. If the Congress, which authorized the program, does not wish to see this country become a has-been in space, it must do more than complain. The resources required to maintain world leadership have to be forthcoming.

Korean fusion reactor

Dr. Myeun Kwon, director of the KSTAR Research, left, author Marsha Freeman, center, and William Jones, right, explained that one purpose of the facility is to train Korean scientists as the country pursues a leadership position in the development of fusion power reactors.

None of the arguments that have been marshaled against the fusion program hold any weight. That fusion is not here yet, and is still years away, is only the result of failed energy and economic policies, and the unwillingness to provide the resources to solve the outstanding problems. In the final analysis, it does not matter how much it costs to develop commercial fusion energy, because it is absolutely necessary to do so. It does not matter how much the first commercial demonstration fusion reactor will cost, or whether it will be “competitive” with coal, solar collectors, or windmills. Fusion energy will be available to all nations. For the first time in history, a country’s finite natural resources will not be the limiting factor in its economic development.

In the 1970s, on the door to his fusion office, Ed Kintner displayed this biblical quote: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” There could no time when this is more true, than today.

None of the arguments that have been marshaled against the fusion program hold any weight. That fusion is not here yet, and is still years away, is only the result of failed energy and economic policies, and the unwillingness to provide the resources to solve the outstanding problems. In the final analysis, it does not matter how much it costs to develop commercial fusion energy, because it is absolutely necessary to do so. It does not matter how much the first commercial demonstration fusion reactor will cost, or whether it will be “competitive” with coal, solar collectors, or windmills. Fusion energy will be available to all nations. For the first time in history, a country’s finite natural resources will not be the limiting factor in its economic development.

Fusion will make available both a quantity and a quality of energy that is unattainable from any other known source. It is the technology on the horizon that can not only produce electricity, but also economically create synthetic fuels, potable water, new materials through plasma processing, and employ applications that are still to be discovered The key ingredient for success is the will to do it.

the end Download the article as a printer friendly PDF | Hebrew

How Russia Caused the World’s Preeminent Super Power To Lose 25 Years in Its Quest to Correctly Solve Energy

Tom TamarkinBy: Tom Tamarkin
Founder Fusion4Freedom & President USCL Corp

June 29, 2014

In 1980 the Magnetic Fusion Energy Engineering Act or MFEEA passed the House and Senate with virtually zero opposition and was signed by President Carter in October 1980. The goal was to demonstrate clean, cheap, safe, and virtually unlimited fusion power by 1995 and to have it commercialized and on the power grid by 2005. It did not happen, but not because of science. Here is the REAL STORY on the “Death of Fusion.”

In 1984, President Reagan’s administration had taken a hard line against the Soviet Union. Under the Reagan Doctrine, the Reagan administration began providing military support to anti-communist armed movements.

The Reagan administration also persuaded the Saudi Arabian oil companies to increase oil production. This led to a three-times drop in the prices of oil, and oil was the main source of Soviet export revenues. Following the USSR’s previous large military buildup, President Reagan ordered an enormous peacetime defense buildup of the United States Military; the Soviets did not respond to this by building up their military because the military expenses, in combination with collectivized agriculture in the nation, and inefficient planned manufacturing, would cause a heavy burden for the Soviet economy. It was already stagnant and in a poor state prior to the tenure of Mikhail Gorbachev who, despite significant attempts at reform, was unable to revitalize the economy. In 1985, Reagan and Gorbachev held their first of four “summit” meetings, this one in Geneva, Switzerland. After discussing policy, facts, etc., Reagan invited Gorbachev to go with him to a small house near the beach. The two leaders spoke in that house well over their time limit, but came out with the news that they had planned two more (soon three more) summits.

Gorbachav/Reagan meeting
Finally, in November 1985, fusion was put on the international diplomatic agenda, when the Soviet-American statement issued after the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev stated that they “emphasized the potential importance of the work aimed at utilizing controlled thermonuclear fusion for peaceful purposes.” ITER was proposed at a Geneva summit between Gorbachev and President Reagan. Gorbachev extracted an agreement from President Reagan that the United States would discontinue its unilateral fusion power development efforts in the U.S. and would also significantly scale back its “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative program (SDI) which was developing a network of very high powered lasers to shoot down enemy missiles, satellites, and the like. Gorbachev suggested to President Reagan that should the United States agree to do this, the Soviet Union would agree to reduce cold war tensions and help boost the U.S. relations with China. Later the U.S. and the Soviet Union signed the INF or Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in a White House ceremony in 1987. Why did Gorbachev want this agreement? Because the Soviet Union was in very bad economic times and could not compete with the military demands the Star Wars laser program placed on them. And Gorbachev knew full well that “HE WHO CONTROLS ENERGY, CONTROLS THE WORLD.” He would not hand that to the United States without a fight, or at least a very good game of chess.

The United States Military did not trust the Soviet Union and immediately classified all SDI laser work and effectively delayed the ground breaking of ITER by 18 years at which point the U.S. lost interest. The military also organized the National Nuclear Security Agency or NNSA under the Department of Energy to maintain control of the nuclear weapons stewardship and the continuation of laser development as part of computerized weapons testing since all nuclear weapons testing has been banned by treaties of which the U.S. is a signatory on. Thus, NIF at Lawrence Livermore National Labs was born. NIF is fundamentally a military and weapons related project. However, because of LLNL’s charter from the California University System, the lab was able to dedicate a small portion of the lab’s resources and “shots” to the study of fusion energy for civilian purposes.

Today by direction of the current administration and the department of Energy, all non NNSA fusion research in the United States has been defunded except that specifically dedicated to our ITER obligations as a 9% partner as required by the Department of State as an obligation based on our ITER membership. The photo below shows President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the East room of the White House signing this agreement which was the “Death of Fusion.”
Gorbachav/Reagan meeting
For a much more detailed article on “Who Killed Fusion” please click on this link:

Irv Lindemuth Ph.D. review of Plasma Jet Driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion by T.D. Tamarkin, et al

Irvin R. Lindemuth, Ph.D., formerly
Special Assistant for Russian Collaboration
Office of Associate Director for Weapons Physics
Los Alamos National Laboratory

October 24, 2011

Mr. Tom Tamarkin

5545 El Camino Avenue

Carmichael, California 95608

Ref: Response to your questions on analysis of plasma jet Magneto Inertial Fusion (PJMIF)

Dear Mr. Tamarkin:

I have finally found some time to offer you a few comments on fusion and PJMIF. I have had a chance to briefly review some of the relevant papers.

First let me say that I didn’t realize at first that your Pat Boone was “the” Pat Boone, with whose music my generation grew up. I remember vividly as a teenager going with my cousin to see the movie “April Love” at a drive-in movie theater in a small village in central Pennsylvania. I am now pleasantly surprised to see that he is such a strong supporter of fusion energy and I hope that he will continue to actively advocate a properly funded and balanced fusion program. Please give my deepest regards to Pat.

Because Pat is actively advocating fusion, I thought you and he might be interested in my own assessment of the U.S. fusion program. This assessment is captured in a recent letter to Congress, which I append to the bottom of this message.

Secondly, let me say that I have recently been in e-mail contact with Niels Winsor. I have provided him with the simple computer code used to do the computations and plots in the American Journal of Physics paper, “The fundamental parameter space of controlled thermonuclear fusion,” with which you said you are familiar. I hope that he will find it useful in his investigations.

Thirdly, let me note that I am personally acquainted with the physicists who are currently involved with PJMIF (Thio, Witherspoon, Hsu, Awe, etc.). I consider all of them to be excellent physicists capable of carrying out the research necessary to evaluate the scientific issues associated with PJMIF. Any disagreements that I might have with them are at the “state-of-the-art” or philosophical where I would have to agree that my chances of being correct are no higher than their chances.

Now, some technical comments. Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF), a.k.a Magneto-Inertial Fusion (MIF), involves heating a pre-formed magnetized target plasma to fusion temperatures by compressing it with an imploding higher density shell. The primary heating mechanism after initial plasma formation is compressional heating (as opposed to, for example, neutral beam and microwave heating of tokamak plasmas). MTF/MIF attempts to access a density space somewhere in between the 11-12 orders of magnitude in density that separate conventional ICF and MCF. The fundamental issues the MTF/MIF community would address in detail if sufficient funding was available include: (a) what magnetized plasma is the best target plasma; (b) what is the best implosion driver, first for research purposes, second for energy applications. As discussed briefly in the AJP paper and shown on the attached slide, the vast density-velocity space of MTF/MIF (as compared to the limited space of conventional ICF) means that many possible driver/target-plasma combinations can be considered. Some, but probably not all, drivers may be appropriate for a variety of different plasma formations schemes. Other drivers may have a limited number of plasma formations schemes from which to choose. Some combinations, particularly the higher velocity drivers, may be appropriate for the higher end of the MTF/MIF density spectrum and some may be more appropriate for the lower end of the density spectrum.

Of course, MTF/MIF is a “pulsed” approach, which means that a large part of the fusion community rejects such an approach outright without any serious consideration, as I am sure you realize. Conventional ICF has the same problem. The dream of a “steady-state” reactor (the author Charles Seife calls it “wishful thinking”) has been an major obstacle to actually achieving significant fusion energy release. I, for one, am willing to believe that if the physicists can demonstrate net energy production once, the engineers can figure out how to do it repetitively in an economic way.

I am also one who believes that the engineers cannot completely design a fusion reactor until a net energy producing fusion source exists. Andre Sakharov, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of the Soviet H-bomb, has been quoted by his Russian colleagues as saying something like “if you make one false assumption, you can prove anything.” With an assumption that we know what a fusion source will look like, many millions of dollars have been spent on reactor studies, which, in my opinion, is “putting the cart before the horse.”

I believe that MTF/MIF gives us the best opportunity to provide the first demonstration of a fusion source that can be engineered into a reactor. In conventional inertial fusion, the “cart has been before the horse” in a way: the focus for the last thirty years and more has been the driver, because, after each new generation of driver was developed, it was realized that a bigger driver would be required. Some critics of ICF have always claimed that a driver bigger than NIF was required, but the ICF proponents have always forcefully argued that the next generation of laser would be sufficient and they have effectively discredited the critics. With proper funding, MTF/MIF could move quickly to experiments where the focus was on the fuel physics, not the driver.

Although the principles of MTF/MIF have been recognized for three decades (see, for example, Lindemuth and Kirkpatrick, Nuclear Fusion 23, p. 263, 1983), it is only within the last decade or so that MTF/MIF has attained some acceptance within the general fusion community, primarily due to the enthusiasm of Francis Thio and Dick Siemon. As you probably know, there is now ongoing work at Los Alamos, the Air Force Research Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Rochester, in Russia, and elsewhere. None of these efforts is “mainline” and all are trying to survive on shoestring budgets. Rochester recently published results (Physical Review Letters) that showed that a magnetic field in a laser target increased the temperature and neutron yield, thereby confirming the basic principle of MTF/MIF; in at least some people’s eyes, the Sandia “Phi” target of 1978 is actually a more convincing confirmation.

At the recent Symposium on Fusion Energy in Chicago in June, I gave a paper that essentially summarized the AJP paper and used the attached slide. One member of the audience asked me which combinations on the attached slide I would pursue. Because of MTF/MIF’s relatively low cost, a properly funded MTF/MIF program could pursue a number of the combinations in parallel. However, to answer the question in a funds-limited situation, I stated that I would evaluate the Russian MAGO concept first, because computationally (e.g., my two-dimensional computations, published in Physical Review Letters) MAGO appears to have the ideal MTF/MIF pre-implosion density, temperature, and magnetic field and because magnetically driven solid/liquid liners are a relatively mature technology when compared with other driver candidates. Experiments with solid and liquid liners have, in my opinion, the best chance of separating plasma issues from liner issues. Furthermore, Russian explosively driven magnetic flux compression generators provide the capability for doing experiments at high energy, i.e., a “Halite/Centurion” approach for MTF/MIF. As with any proposed approach for which there is limited data, there are technical issues with MAGO, such as plasma purity, but I would have to eliminate MAGO before I became a strong advocate for any other approach. Unfortunately, because MAGO originated in the Russian nuclear weapons program, it has been largely ignored in the U.S. in deference to plasma formation systems that are more familiar, even if not as optimum.

Now we come to PJMIF. PJMIF is an attempt to create a driver that would have more favorable reactor “stand-off” properties than, say, a magnetically driven liner that would require electrical contacts near the fusion source. The basic motivation for PJMIF is certainly valid. Little work has been done on determining whether or not a suitable plasma can be created within a plasma jet liner, should the plasma jet liner ultimately be shown to have the necessary properties. Creating the fuel plasma may be an even bigger challenge than assembling the liner from jets. Hence, developing a plasma jet liner does not directly address the issue of demonstrating in the shortest possible time that a magnetized plasma can be compressed to fusion conditions by an imploding shell. However, in the long run, the demonstration of a suitable plasma jet liner could conceivably speed the demonstration of a fusion source by enabling experimentation at a lower cost than some other driver approaches. I answer your specific questions (as highlighted in bold blue below.)

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment. If I can provide further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can be reached by telephone at 520-743-2991.

Very sincerely,


Irvin R. Lindemuth, formerly
Special Assistant for Russian Collaboration
Office of Associate Director for Weapons Physics
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Answers to your questions:

(i) Are there any obvious fundamental physics flaws with the concept that the proponents of the concept have overlooked? If so, please identify and discuss.

The proponents recognize the issues, which include: (1) symmetry of the liner assembled from many jets; (2) the density profile of the liner; (3) magnetized plasma formation within the liner; (4) mixing of the liner material with the target plasma; (5) is high gain required, and if so, how to introduce additional fuel. These issues are in many ways common with any MTF/MIF driver/plasma combination.

(ii) Are there insurmountable engineering challenges associated with the approach that you can foresee at this stage? If so, please identify and discuss.

There are no obvious challenges to building facilities that will allow the study of an array of spherically converging jets. Bigger challenges will be encountered when trying to mate a plasma jet liner with a target plasma formation scheme. If plasma is injected, as in the original PJMIF concept, the plasma formation scheme may significantly alter the symmetry of the liner since the scheme may force the elimination of jets in a significant solid angle. If the target plasma is formed from fusion fuel at the leading edge of the jets, a much more complex problem than injection, then there may be essentially insurmountable issues with fuel symmetry and magnetization.

(iii) Have the proponents conducted plausible computer simulations and analysis to provide a plausible expectation of the fusion gain achievable by the approach?

I believe the calculations are highly idealized. As with any MTF/MIF approach, any computations of fusion gain are in their infancy and should be taken with a grain of salt. Fully integrated liner/plasma computations for any MTF/MIF approach represent a major challenge that are pretty much beyond the state-of-the-art, particularly for PJMIF where fully three-dimensional modeling is required.

(iv) A major challenge for the concept is the ability to produce an imploding liner from the merging of the jets. What is your assessment that the proponents are likely to succeed in achieve this technical goal, given adequate resources? Do they have credible concepts and approaches for achieving this goal?

You are correct–this is a major challenge. Because I am not as familiar with plasma jet technology as I am with magnetically driven liners, I personally don’t feel as confident in this approach as I would be with magnetically driven liners. This is clearly a research topic, and, as with all such research, it is difficult to assess a probability of success. Per previous comments, I believe those involved are very capable of determining whether or not PJMIF is a feasible approach for forming a liner.

(v) Another major challenge for the approach is the ability to get the imploding plasma liner to generate pressures up to 50 mega-bars? What is your assessment that the proponents are likely to succeed in achieving this technical milestone, given adequate resources? Do they have credible concepts and approaches for achieving this goal?

The pressure required is determined by the fuel density. 50 Mbar is a reasonable requirement for mid-to-high density MTF/MIF but the fuel pressure at the lower density of the MTF/MIF spectrum could be orders of magnitude less. The idealized, one-dimensional hydro calculations show that a 50 Mbar stagnation pressure can be achieved with a liner alone, but the pressures that could be obtained in a central fusion fuel may be significantly different. Regarding what is actually required, I do know that a major critic of PJMIF is Paul Parks of General Atomic, and he evidently is dead-set against PJMIF. I know that essentially everyone else in the MTF/MIF community disagrees with Parks but some will agree that he has raised some legitimate issues.

(vi) Yet another crucial challenge to any fusion scheme is its ability to reach the temperature needed for thermonuclear fusion reactions to occur. For a mixture of deuterium and tritium, the canonical temperature for this purpose is 100 million degrees K. Please comment on the ability of the PJMIF scheme to reach such temperatures in principle and/or any issues you see in connection with this goal.”

As with any other approach, this depends crucially on what type of plasma is imploded by a plasma jet liner. As far as I know, essentially no work has been done on evaluating a plasma formation scheme and whether or not it can be mated with a plasma jet liner system. See also my comments in response to (ii).

(vii) A typical criticism of any pulsed approaches to fusion from the researchers in the mainstreams of government funded research in steady-state magnetic fusion is that pulsed approaches to fusion cannot produce useful or practical power (Ref: Francis Chen: “An Indispensable Truth: How Fusion Energy Can Save the Planet”.) I would appreciate any comments or insight you can share with me on that assertion.

See earlier comments on pulsed approaches. There is without doubt a bias in the magnetic confinement fusion community against pulsed approaches. This bias borders on religious conviction, so there really is no serious legitimate scientific discussion. But pulsed approaches may be the only way to utilize fusion. Going from a few seconds to true steady state operation may never be demonstrated by a magnetic confinement scheme.


Summer 2011

Fusion energy is an absolute necessity for future U.S. energy independence. Therefore, this message is written to you because you are supporters of the fusion energy program and want to ensure that the U.S. receives maximum benefit for the investment being made in fusion research.

The recently released Senate version of the Energy and Water Development bill and the earlier release of the House version clearly indicates that the U.S. Congress recognizes that the U.S. has a major problem with ITER and also recognizes that there are a number of potentially lower cost approaches to fusion. Unfortunately, as long as the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (OFES) in its present embodiment is essentially the sole office chartered with making fusion energy a reality, the U.S. will not get the maximum benefit from the investment made in fusion and, in fact, fusion may never become a reality. If fusion is to become a reality, OFES must be either completely restructured or completely eliminated. The reasons why such major changes are required include:

I. OFES is not a fusion energy advocate;
II. OFES will sacrifice the U.S. domestic fusion program to build ITER;
III. OFES discourages a healthy scientific dialog;
IV. OFES discredits any perceived competitor; and
V. OFES will circumvent Congress.
In the remainder of this message, I would like to elaborate on these points.
I. OFES is not a fusion energy advocate

OFES does not advocate a broad-based, balanced fusion energy program. OFES advocates only steady-state magnetically confined fusion approaches, and, in practice, only advocates tokamaks, e.g., ITER, as the only viable approach to fusion. OFES has a strong history of minimizing or eliminating competitors to the tokamak, even though the tokamak has never lived up to its projections (e.g., Anne Davies, former head of OFES, told the December 1978 issue of Popular Science, “TFTR [the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at Princeton] will achieve not just a power breakeven, but will be a net power producer, in terms of heat.”).

Leaders of OFES come from a tokamak background and simply do not have the expertise to objectively evaluate any other approach. For more than 30 years, OFES leaders have understood only tokamaks and believed in only tokamaks. New OFES personnel are recruited with the requirement that they be capable of stewarding tokamak research. By carefully picking those who are chosen to “peer review” proposals, OFES leaders foster a tokamak “in-breeding” in the fusion community.

A recent (July 10, 2011) New York Time op-ed by Stewart Prager, Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, reflects the tokamak-centric attitude of OFES and those who are heavily funded by OFES. Although laser fusion (and not heavy-ion fusion, magneto-inertial fusion, etc.) is mentioned in passing, the clear focus of the article is on ITER and its successors. Noting that “what has been lacking in the United States is the political and economic will,” Prager echoes the OFES mantra: all that is needed is more money, i.e., “a rough estimate is that it would take $30 billion and 20 years to go from the current state of research to the first working fusion reactor.” There is no hint whatsoever that there are alternate concepts that have potentially lower costs and shorter development paths.

As you know, OFES is attempting to redirect all fusion plasma research to science relevant to ITER. In this context, Edmund Synakowski, OFES head, describes the shift as going away from “exploring such alternative configurations for their own sake” to research that “can contribute to our understanding and optimizing the tokamak configuration…” (Physics Today, September 2011, p. 30). Synakowski evidently views any concept other than tokamaks as something to be evaluated only “for their own sake,” not for the sake of deploying fusion energy in the shortest possible time at the least cost.

In the Congressionally initiated High Energy Density Laboratory Physics (HEDLP) arena, it appears that OFES will continue to request minimal funds for some HEDLP work, because it is politically expedient to do so and because conventional inertial fusion energy (IFE) does not involve magnetic fields. However, in spite of Congressional recognition of the inter-relationship between High Energy Density Laboratory Physics (HEDLP) and fusion energy, a recent OFES solicitation (Program Announcement LAB 11-583, “High Energy Density Laboratory Physics,” September 8, 2011) excludes fusion energy as an application of HEDLP. To OFES, HEDLP is interesting plasma physics but is simply not relevant to fusion because fusion is tokamaks and tokamaks are not high-energy-density devices.

Because fusion is so important to the U.S. future energy independence, the U.S. desperately needs a properly funded organization that recognizes that ITER is not a guaranteed path to fusion energy. This organization must advocate a balanced approach that fairly evaluates all possible paths, particularly those that have lower cost and shorter development time than the narrow tokamak approach espoused by OFES.

II. OFES will sacrifice the U.S. domestic fusion program to build ITER

OFES continues to ask the U.S. to invest billions of dollars in ITER. Even by present projections that are bound to be optimistic if past history is any indication, ITER will not even produce its first plasma until late 2020 and not demonstrate breakeven until at least 2028. To build ITER, OFES essentially seeks a “blank check” and will try to divert all available funding to this goal.

At a recent FESAC (Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee; July 28) meeting, Office of Science Director Bill Brinkman indicated that U.S. contributions to ITER will have to grow to $300M in FY2013 and be maintained at that level for 3 years. It would seem highly likely that, if OFES is left unchecked, the U.S. contribution to ITER will exceed the $2.2B upper limit of the present “official” U.S. estimate. Any discussion regarding whether or not such a path is the best use of taxpayer funds is outlawed.

At the same FESAC meeting, Synakowski apparently expressed his view that it was more important to do whatever was necessary to make fusion (i.e., tokamak fusion) succeed “globally” rather than to focus on the success of the U.S. program.

If OFES was a true advocate of fusion energy by the quickest and least expensive approach and was seeking to maximize the benefit of the limited funds available in the present budget climate, OFES would recognize that it is in the U.S.’ best interest to withdraw from ITER and focus the U.S. on efforts where the U.S. is the clear world leader, such as conventional inertial fusion and magneto-inertial fusion. There is no down side to letting Europe explore the tokamak approach without U.S. participation, and doing so will actually speed up fusion development.

III. OFES discourages a healthy scientific dialog

OFES essentially represses any suggestions that any other approach could possibly lead to fusion energy. The total repression of scientific discourse has created such a negative scientific environment that it is quite obvious that the United States is not getting the maximum possible return on the investment it is making in fusion.

At the recent Symposium of Fusion Energy (SOFE; Chicago; June 26-30) Town Hall Meeting on Advancement of Fusion Energy, Ray Fonck, the former head of OFES who chose to ignore a 2007 GAO audit of the fusion program, asserted, “it is counterproductive to criticize the mainline (i.e., ITER) program.” In keeping with this politicized, non-scientific attitude, I have been told that one slogan of Synakowski is “one fusion, one voice,” i.e., fusion should speak with one voice so that ITER funding is not jeopardized.

In an article entitled “U.S. narrows fusion research,” Physics Today (September 2011, p. 30) described program elements that Synakowski is attempting to eliminate and noted “a couple of researchers would not go on record criticizing the cancellations for fear that DOE would retaliate in future funding competitions.” In this environment, nobody who is an active fusion researcher who depends on doing fusion research funding for a living dares to say anything these days against the mainstream and the establishment.

IV. OFES discredits any perceived competitor

It is quite easy to find examples of the “dirty politics” OFES and its dependents will use to discredit any competitors. Most recently, Robert Goldston, former head of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and one of the U.S.’s leading ITER proponents, has recently written an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Vol. 67, No. 3, pages 59-66, July 2011) entitled “Inertial confinement fusion R&D and nuclear proliferation: the need for direct and transparent review.” Without being specific, the article asserts,

“uncontrolled dissemination of knowledge gained from inertial confinement fusion research and development (R&D) may risk contributing to the proliferation of highly deliverable and very powerful advanced nuclear weapons (my underlining for emphasis).

While we cannot discount the possibility of some proliferation risks with IFE, one has to question why this issue is being brought up in such sensational fashion by an ITER advocate who is not an expert in nuclear weapons and proliferation issues. Particularly when the same individual has essentially denied the existence of IFE, bringing this issue up only after the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has been chartered to review IFE would seem to have suspicious motives.

The irony here, of course, is that the tokamak community will try to suppress the fact that Soviet scientists Tamm and Sakharov invented the tokamak because they were seeking a way to create fissile materials for nuclear weapons. This use, and not fusion energy, may be the only motivation for a proliferant nation to expend the high cost to build a tokamak.

I strongly suspect that OFES will attempt to discredit the writer of this letter, rather than address the points that this letter makes.

V. OFES will try to circumvent Congress

In 2007, under direction of Congress, the GAO conducted an audit of the U.S. fusion program. The GAO report was highly critical of OFES and made several recommendations that were essentially ignored by OFES. The on-going National Academy of Sciences review of the prospects for inertial fusion energy, which could be construed as a partial response to the GAO recommendations, was initiated by Undersecretary Koonin, and not OFES.

OFES has a long history of trying to circumvent any direction from Congress. In the early and mid-90’s, Congress was concerned about the emphasis on tokamaks and advocated a more balanced program, including an evaluation of alternate concepts. Although OFES gave “lip service” to alternate concepts for several years, ITER advocates and their insatiable appetite for all available funds have lead to an erosion of all non-tokamak efforts in the U.S. program. As you know, the FY2012 OFES budget request said,

“the magnetic-fusion-relevant component (of alternate concept experimental research) will become more concentrated on projects that solve problems that hinder the tokamak approach…”

The Senate bill mark-up clearly shows that the Senate recognizes the potential of magneto-inertial fusion (MIF), also known as Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF). In addition, it appears that the House of Representatives also recognizes such potential benefit, with wording in the House version of the appropriations bill that includes:

“The Committee urges the Department to fully evaluate existing research capabilities that do not fit easily within the existing weapons-focused inertial and energy-focused magnetic confinement fusion programs, such as krypton fluoride lasers and magneto-inertial fusion, but that may play important roles if an inertial fusion energy program moves forward in future years.”

In contrast, the OFES FY2012 budget request also stated:

“one of the three areas presently receiving funding in HEDLP, magnetized high-energy-density plasma, will be significantly redirected and resized to basic science.”

If Congress permits this redirection, all research in an approach to fusion that attempts to combine the best features of inertial fusion and magnetic fusion will be terminated. By all estimates, MIF/MTF is much lower cost than either of the two conventional approaches, MFE and IFE, and the development time, because much requisite technology already exists, should be much shorter. The MIF/MTF approach has apparently triggered an OFES Herod reflex (cut off the baby’s head before it has a chance to grow up). OFES does not want the scientific world and Congress to know that any approach involving magnetic fields could possibly be cheaper than the path that goes through ITER.

Regarding alternate concepts, OFES will continue to say whatever is required to placate Congress and then totally disregard what has been said. The aforementioned OFES solicitation (Program Announcement LAB 11-583) is yet another example of OFES trying to circumvent Congress by excluding fusion energy as an application of HEDLP. Given the importance to fusion that Congress has put on the HEDLP program, it is very telling that the Descriptions of Research Programs section of this announcement does not even mention the word fusion one single time. This totally contradicts OFES’ response to the 2007 GAO audit of the fusion program. In his October 10, 2007 letter to GAO’s Mr. Gene Aloise (p. 35-36 of the audit report), Ray Fonck, then head of OFES, very explicitly states:

…The joint program on HEDLP will address underlying scientific issues that will be relevant to future considerations of inertial fusion energy…We disagree with the conclusion that this joint program “will not address most of the scientific issues that would advance inertial fusion energy.” The joint program in HEDLP and the large NNSA program in inertial confinement fusion will encompass most of the science issues related to IFE target physics…

The recent Program Announcement should certainly be interpreted as an indication of OFES’ intent to defy Congress regarding the role of high-energy-density approaches such as inertial fusion and MIF/MTF. Congress should immediately obtain an explanation of the omission of fusion in this Program Announcement before the contracts are put in place and the money is spent on something for which it is not intended. I would recommend that Congress act swiftly to direct OFES to modify or reissue this solicitation.

Whereas OFES is making great efforts to suppress alternate approaches such as MIF/MTF, I learned recently at the Symposium of Fusion Energy (SOFE; Chicago; June 26-30) that China considers MIF/MTF to be a viable candidate for EDEMO, China’s first attempt of putting fusion energy on the electrical grid.


The U.S. has a major problem with OFES. The task of bringing fusion energy to fruition rests with an organization that has a strong history of minimizing or eliminating competitors to the tokamak, even though the tokamak has never lived up to its projections. Scientific dialog has largely been curtailed in an area that clearly needs such dialog. If fusion energy is to be brought to fruition in the quickest time at the lowest cost, Congress must finally succeed in breaking up the OFES tokamak monopoly. The only way that this can be accomplished is by relegating OFES to a tokamak-only responsibility and creating a new office (or offices) of equal rank that is (are) chartered to develop a balanced alternate concept program and that is (are) given sufficient funding to be competitive. It is highly unlikely that the Office of Science will make sufficient changes if left to its own accord—it is time for Congress to act.

I hope you will circulate this among your colleagues who have oversight of the U.S. fusion energy program. Also, I would appreciate it if you can provide me with the names and contact information of others who are involved in the fusion funding process.

If I can provide additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Very sincerely,


Irvin R. Lindemuth

P.S. I attach to this message a copy of the article, “The fundamental parameter space of controlled thermonuclear fusion,” that was published in the May 2009 American Journal of Physics. This article addresses in near-layman terms why tokamaks must operate in a low-energy density regime and why inertial fusion must operate in a high-energy-density regime at a fusion fuel density that is a factor of 1 trillion higher than the fuel density in tokamaks. Most importantly, the article answers the question, “is there anything in between conventional magnetic confinement and conventional inertial confinement.” I hope you will find the article interesting and useful.

I also attach “The Report of the Review Panel: Sixth Symposium on Current Trends in International Fusion Research, Washington DC, March 2005.” This report addresses such things as:

Quality of Fusion Research; The Potential Role of Fusion Energy; Industrial Applications of Plasmas; Classification of Fusion Schemes; ICF/IFE & NIF; MCF—The ITER Saga; Alternate Concepts; Fusion and Private Investment; Fusion Materials; Fusion and the Electrical Power Industry; Status of Fusion Research in the US; and Recommendations.

In contrast to panels convened by the Office of Science and OFES, the members of this panel received little or no financial support from OFES and, hence, were not constrained by the “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” mentality. The problems identified by this panel and the recommendations made remain valid today.


Dr. Lindemuth retired from full-time employment in November, 2003 after more than 32 years in the U.S. nuclear weapons physics program with the University of California, first at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and then at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. At Los Alamos at the time of his retirement, Dr. Lindemuth was a Special Assistant for Russian Collaboration in the Office of the Associate Director for Weapons Physics, the Team Leader for Magnetohydrodynamics and Pulsed Power in the Plasma Physics Group, and a Project Leader for Pulsed Power Science, Technology, and International Collaboration in the High Energy Density Hydrodynamics Program. His primary responsibility was to provide technical leadership for a scientific collaboration between Los Alamos and Los Alamos’ Russian counterpart, the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF) at Sarov (Arzamas-16). Prior to joining Los Alamos in 1978, he was a technical staff member in A-Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he was involved in fusion research. Dr. Lindemuth received his B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University in 1965 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering—Applied Science from the University of California, Davis/Livermore in 1967 and 1971, respectively. His thesis research was conducted under the advisorship of Dr. John Killeen, founder of the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center. One of his graduate school advisors was Edward Teller. He has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Mexico Los Alamos branch, where he has taught engineering and mathematics courses. He spent the 1991-92 academic year as a Visiting Professor in the Nuclear Engineering Department of Texas A&M University, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses, helped lay the groundwork for the Department’s expansion into the controlled fusion area, and assisted the Department in forming collaborations with Russian laboratories and educational institutions. His areas of expertise include thermonuclear fusion and advanced numerical methods for the computer simulation of fusion plasmas and related pulsed power technology. He has published numerous papers in refereed journals and proceedings of major international conferences. He has been involved in a wide range of fusion and high energy density physics programs spanning essentially all of the ten orders of magnitude in density and time space from magnetic fusion energy plasmas to inertial confinement fusion plasmas. An internationally recognized pioneer in the application of implicit, non-split computational methods to magnetohydrodynamics, he has achieved widespread recognition for his large-scale numerical simulations of a variety of fusion and other high-density plasma systems. In addition to his accomplishments in modeling high temperature plasmas, he has formulated a variety of novel pulsed power computer codes that have led to important advances in laboratory programs. His codes have stimulated the development of several types of fast opening switches. He is a US pioneer in Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) and performed the first comprehensive survey of the parameter space in which MTF was likely to work. Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he recognized that the Soviets had developed advanced technology in the areas of ultrahigh magnetic fields and ultrahigh energy electrical pulse generation that significantly exceeded US capabilities and that were motivated by the Soviet MTF program known as MAGO. In January 1992, he became the first American scientist to present a formal scientific seminar at one of the formerly secret, and still closed, Russian nuclear weapons design laboratories. Dr. Lindemuth played an essential role in establishing the collaboration with VNIIEF, a collaboration that has helped integrate Russian weapons scientists into the global scientific community and that has resulted in more than 300 conference papers and archival publications. The LANL/VNIIEF collaboration, and Dr. Lindemuth’s role in it, were featured in the Discovery Channel documentary, “Stockpile” first aired in 2001. In 1992, Dr. Lindemuth was the recipient of a Los Alamos Distinguished Performance Award for his work in the formative stages of the LANL/VNIIEF collaboration. In 2004, he was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Dr. Lindemuth currently resides in Tucson, Arizona and is a part-time research faculty member of the Physics Department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

E-mail: Phone: 520-743-2991

On 9/22/11 3:02 PM, Tom Tamarkin wrote:
Dr. Lindemuth:

Someone in my circle of “virtual team members”…perhaps Dr. Niels Winsor, retired and living in Albuquerque, New Mexico…mentioned that he thinks you have a winter residence in Tucson, Arizona. That is very nice. I was born and raised in Phoenix and attended NAU in Flagstaff. Of course Flagstaff and Tucson are winter and summer apart…

To be very frank, some “off the cuff” comments are very helpful in that they allow me to have the comfort of some risk analysis and understanding while moving forward with the more formal review.

I have, of course, read and archived the “Why Magnetized Target Fusion Offers A Low-Cost Development Path For Fusion Energy,” Siemon, Lindemuth, Schoenberg, LANL, 12/97 and the more recent “The Fundamental Parameter Space Of Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion,” Lindemuth & Siemon, UNR, 08/2008, American Association of Physics Teachers, 2009. Thus I have an appreciation for the level of scientific insight and expertise you bring to this review.

If you are in a position to offer off the cuff comments followed by the more formal response according to your time frame, that would be wonderful and very much appreciated.

One of our contributions to date to the “fusion community” and fusion effort has been a boost to the public’s awareness through a series of articles one of my business partners, Pat Boone, has published in the field (for non-scientists of course…) In the fifth and final article, mention is made of the Department of Energy OFSE’s Innovative Confinement Concepts program of the late 90s and early 2000s. I am the principal drafter (ghost writer) of these articles before Pat puts them into his laymen’s language in his personal style. It was in this capacity that I first became aware of your work. With Pat Boone’s personal compliments (and mine) I attached a copy of all five articles.

Thank you for your help and if my theory is correct, enjoy Tucson and the view of Mt. lemon.

Tom Tamarkin
916-482-2000 (O)
016-482-2020 (C)

From: Irv Lindemuth []
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 14:10
To: Tom Tamarkin Subject:
Re: PJMIF Technical Review Request

Mr. Tamarkin,

Thank you for contacting me regarding PJMIF. Your questions are certainly the appropriate ones to be asked, and I would be glad to give you my opinion. However, because of my very busy personal and professional schedule in the near term, including making the semiannual transition from my summer home to my winter home and perhaps including a business trip overseas, I may have difficulty finding time to do the reading and research I would like to do before answering your questions. I can commit to sending you a response in a month or two if that is compatible with your needs and I can attempt to find time sooner. If you need a response sooner, I might be able to give you some “off the cuff” comments.

Please let me know what time frame you have in mind.


On 9/20/11 3:24 PM, Tom Tamarkin wrote:
To: Dr. Irv Lindemuth
From: Tom Tamarkin, USCL, EnergyCite
Ref: Proposed Technical Review of PJMIF
Date: September 20, 2011

Dear Professor Lindemuth:
I am conducting a technical review of the Plasma Jet Magneto-Inertial Fusion (PJMIF) as part of my due diligence in considering private funding for developing commercial fusion power based on the approach. I have learned of your name from reading the fusion literature and from people I have talked to about fusion. I would very much like to have your thoughts and comments on PJMIF and its potential for commercial exploitation of fusion energy. I am not a plasma physicist; I am a corporate executive who, as an undergraduate majored in physics with a math and chemistry minor in the early 1970s. I am scientifically and technically competent and knowledgeable.

For your convenience, I attach two recent publications on the concept. You are probably aware of more.

(a) S. Hsu, et. al. “Spherical Imploding Plasma Liners as a Standoff Driver for Magneto-Inertial Fusion”, submitted for publication in IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci., 2011
(b) T. Awe, et. al. “One-dimensional radiation-hydrodynamic scaling studies of imploding spherical plasma liners,” Phys. Plasmas, vol. 18, p. 072705, 2011.”

I understand that PJMIF is a new and innovative fusion concept, and the technology knowledge base for the concept remains to be developed. That does not bother me. I would like your comments and assessments on the following questions:
(i) Are there any obvious fundamental physics flaws with the concept that the proponents of the concept have overlooked? If so, please identify and discuss.
(ii) Are there insurmountable engineering challenges associated with the approach that you can foresee at this stage? If so, please identify and discuss.
(iii) Have the proponents conducted plausible computer simulations and analysis to provide a plausible expectation of the fusion gain achievable by the approach?
(iv) A major challenge for the concept is the ability to produce an imploding liner from the merging of the jets. What is your assessment that the proponents are likely to succeed in achieve this technical goal, given adequate resources? Do they have credible concepts and approaches for achieving this goal?
(v) Another major challenge for the approach is the ability to get the imploding plasma liner to generate pressures up to 50 mega-bars? What is your assessment that the proponents are likely to succeed in achieving this technical milestone, given adequate resources? Do they have credible concepts and approaches for achieving this goal?
(vi) Yet another crucial challenge to any fusion scheme is its ability to reach the temperature needed for thermonuclear fusion reactions to occur. For a mixture of deuterium and tritium, the canonical temperature for this purpose is 100 million degrees K. Please comment on the ability of the PJMIF scheme to reach such temperatures in principle and/or any issues you see in connection with this goal.”
(vii) A typical criticism of any pulsed approaches to fusion from the researchers in the mainstreams of government funded research in steady-state magnetic fusion is that pulsed approaches to fusion cannot produce useful or practical power (Ref: Francis Chen: “An Indispensable Truth: How Fusion Energy Can Save the Planet”.) I would appreciate any comments or insight you can share with me on that assertion.
Your help is much appreciated.

Tom Tamarkin
President & CEO EnergyCite® “The Power To Help Save The World”
5545 El Camino Avenue – Carmichael, California 95608 – USA
916-482-2000 (O) – 916-482-2020 (C) – 916-974-1818 (H)

Download this article as a printer friendly PDF

Lawrence Livermore National Labs NIF by CBS Sunday Morning

This is an excellent piece describing inertial laser fusion and NIF. However, NIF is under scrutiny in the scientific community in terms of its ability to achieve ignition timely given its sparse budget for civilian power development. NIF is primarily a NNSA project meant for weapons stock pile stewardship experimentation. More public visibility needs to be directed on fusion and more funding needs to be made available for civilian fusion power development science research and ultimate development. Dr. Ed Moses of the National Ignition Facility Laser Inertial Fusion Project at Lawrence Livermore National Labs is interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning as part of the CBS Sunday Morning NIF tour.

PJMIF Concept Tutorial

A presentation by
Energy Cite logo
Prepared by C. Y. Francis Thio, Ph.D., October 4, 2011 for USCL Corporation and Tom D. Tamarkin.

October 4, 2011


This presentation was originally prepared by Dr. C. Y. Francis Thio in PDF format. We have converted the original PDF document for on-line website presentation and have taken great care to insure that no changes have been made from the original. The original PDF version is available as a download at the end of this presentation.

• Discuss the fusion power flow chart to determine the fusion gain required by any given inertial fusion scheme in order to produce net power on the grid
– Compare PJMIF against laser ICF
• Explain the fusion burn configuration for PJMIF
• Explain how this is achieved in PJMIF → a discussion of the implosion scheme
• Explain how the target is magnetized
• The plasma guns
• Concluding remarks


The Fusion Power Flow Cycle

Fusion Power Flow Cycle


The PJMIF Fusion Burn Configuration

PJMIF burn configuration


The PJMIF Fusion Burn Configuration

PJMIF burn configuration


PJMIF needs to accomplish two things

PJMIF 2 goals


A spherical chamber with one or more sets of plasma guns

chamber with plasma guns


Two sets of jets are launched by the plasma guns

chamber with plasma guns


The target, the imploding liner, and the magnetization of the target

target, liner & magnetization


The dynamics of the converging liner

• The pressure of implosion is provided by the momentum flux density, rv2, of the liner (commonly called its ram pressure).
• As the liner converges towards the center, its density increases rapidly inversely as the square of the radius (inverse square law), so does its ramp pressure (ram pressure amplification, A)
• The ram pressure amplification is limited by

– the convergence ratio
– the self heating of the liner, creating self internal pressure that works against its inward motion towards the center.
– Hydrodynamic instabilities, such as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability


Assessment of the potential of PJMIF

• We have used analytical and lumped parameter models to assess the potential of PJMIF
• Assessments are not unanimous among all authors
• Generally there are more favorable assessments
• We have reasonably advanced computer codes for modeling the implosion dynamics of PJMIF

– 1D Lagrangian fluid dynamics for parametric scan
– 1D Radiative Hydrodynamics codes (RAGE of LANL)
– 3D Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics for study of asymmetric effects, preliminary studies of Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities

Ref: Thio et al. (1999); Cassibry let al. (2009); Awe et al. (2011);
Hsu et al.(2011); Parks (2008); Samulyak (2010)


An illustrative computer modeling example

Lf1d-thio-ab-54: 30 MJ liner energy

1D Lagrangian plasma dynamics with ideal gas EOS, fusion burn, fixed-parameter alpha energy re-deposition, no radiative transport.

example computer model

Cells #2-21 inner target, #22-26 afterburner, #27-51 liner.
Shown are interfaces #52, #39, #27, #24, #22, #12, #3

Target and liner jets merge at a radius of 60 cm

Target is structured – inner and afterburner layer

Liner has kinetic energy of 30 MJ

An analytic model is used to compute the flow down to a radius of 8 cm

The 1D computer code then takes over and simulates the detailed dynamics and fusion burn


An illustrative computer modeling example

example computer model


Liner convergence and implosion dynamics

• The implosion dynamics is sensitive to the details of the physics assumptions:

– Equation of state
– Radiative transport
– Plasma interpenetration

• Our computer codes at present make reasonable assumptions about these physics details, but are not exact, and have not been validated against experiments
• They serve to give qualitative expectations of the potential of the concept and scoping of the magnitudes of the key parameters.


Liner Convergence and Implosion Dynamics: What remains to be done

• The equation of state, the radiation properties (opacities), the collisionality, the growth rates of instabilities need to be accurately measured, modeled, or characterized using a combination of experiments and computational modeling
• This physics needs to be captured in the most advanced hybrid particle-in-cell and smoothed particle hydrodynamics codes, complete with radiative magnetohydrodynamics, fusion burn physics with particle energy deposition.
• The codes need to be validated against further experiments so that they can be relied upon as being predictive rather than hind-casting.
• Apply the codes systematically to search for and design the most optimum set of initial conditions and implosion trajectory.


The company that pays for this development owns the know-how and the computer codes

• The combination of computer model development and experimental validation, leading to predictive computer models and using
them in engineering design is common in the development of advanced technology today.
• This is a peta-flop-scale supercomputing effort.
• Supercomputing modeling is a key enabling tool for our program

– It is a key strategy for my proposed program
– A state-of-the-art supercomputing cluster based on GPU parallel computing is planned for our proposed program.


Target Magnetization

• Our favorite technique for target magnetization is the use of lasers, but we are open to other possibilities.
• The basic principle is based on the beating of two plasma waves to produce a beat wave which is optimally coupled to the electron thermal motion, resulting in a net acceleration of the electrons in the direction of the plasma beat wave.
• The plasma waves are excited by electromagnetic waves in the form of laser beams.
• Prior to the firing of the lasers, a pre-initial magnetic field is set up to guide the accelerated electrons.


Target Magnetization: What has been done and what remains to be done

• The principle has been demonstrated in the microwave regime in plasmas with densities several orders of magnitude less than what we plan in PJMIF.
• The use of lasers to produce plasma beat waves to drive currents in dense plasma is a new and innovative technology to be developed on the program. The technology might have other scientific and industrial applications.
• Advanced 3D particle-in-cell (PIC) plasma code with accurate laserplasma interaction physics and EM field calculation need to be developed.
• Experiments need to be conducted to validate the code, so that it has a predictive capability.
• The computer codes and the lessons learned in developing the technique is the technological know-how to be owned by the company, and which cannot be acquired in any other way.
• The codes need to be applied to search for and design the most optimal way of establishing an initial seed magnetic field in the target plasma.


The Key to PJMIF is the ability to produce plasma jets of high density, high Mach number and high velocity

Plasma jet properties


How are these plasma jets produced?

Plasma jet gun schematic


Conventional mode of operating pulsed plasma guns

conventional plasma jet gun operation


What generates the accelerating force in an electromagnetically driven plasma

plasma gun current


40+ years of research based on this snow-plow mode of accelerating the plasma

• Plasma guns were researched since the 1960’s mainly by NASA (or its predecessor) and the Air Force as pulsed plasma thrusters (PPT) for space applications.
• The snow-plow mechanism was formulated by Marshall Rosenbluth in a 1952 paper to explain the acceleration of plasma in a theta pinch.
– Researchers then apply it to accelerate plasma in plasma guns instead.
• PPTs have been flown by NASA and the Air Force on many satellites for station keeping
• Very well developed technology


However, there was an inherent performance barrier of the conventional PPTs

• Performance improvements on these PPTs grind to a halt in the mid-1990’s
• Thio reviewed the field and concluded the performance barrier was rooted in the pre-fill and the snow-plow mechanism of accelerating the plasma (Thio, 2000)


There were two major flaws in the snow-plow mechanisms

• Critical ionization velocity barrier
– When the current sheet reaches a velocity sufficient to cause ionization of the neutral atoms in front of it, the neutral atoms are ionized, and energy is taken out of the current sheet, slowing it down
• The snow-plow was found to be leaky
– Not all of the neutral atoms get entrained by the current sheet
• Some leak past the current sheet
• As bad as 10% to 20%
– Neutrals left behind become seeds for arc re-strike behind the main plasma.
• The restrike arc draws current away from the main current sheet, causing a reduction in the force of acceleration.

Fault in conventional plasma gun


A paradigm shift is required: No pre-fill, no snow-plow, no surface flashover

• To produce plasma jets with the required density, velocity and Mach number required for PJMIF, a new mode of operating the plasma gun was proposed by Thio (2000) with the following prescription:

(1) Evacuate the gun
(2) Inject the plasma to be accelerated with sufficient density supersonically
(3) Turn on the voltage across the injected plasma, producing a controlled current sheet over the back of the conducting plasma – no surface flashover.
– The plasma has a well defined initial condition, making controlled acceleration of the plasma slab possible
(4) The electrodes are shaped so that the plasma is accelerated as a compact slab


What happens when the electrodes are not shaped?

plasma gun with unshaped electrodes


MHD shaping of the electrodes stabilize the acceleration of the plasma as a slab

plasma gun with shaped electrodes


Engineering implementation of the new plasma gun concept

new gun engineering concept

We have now routinely produce plasma jets with these devices

new gun design in use


For expediency, in the LANL PLX experiment, we are using plasma railguns with cylindrical nozzle

plasma gun used at LANL


What remains to be done for the Plasma Guns

• The overall objective is to deliver the required density, Mach number, velocity and degree of purity, and electricto- kinetic efficiency
– Learn to inject two or more gaseous materials into the same gun
• Demonstrate the ability to attain the required degree of purity
• Demonstrate the attainment of the required jet density and mass
• Demonstrate the attainment of the required jet Mach number (temperature)
• Learn to operate the gun repetitively and demonstrate its lifetime between maintenance
• Advanced 3D hybrid, 2-fluid, Hall PIC-MHD
• Development will be assisted by the development of predictive computer codes for modeling the gun.


Concluding Remarks

• PJMIF is an attractive fusion concept with relatively low cost scientific experimental analysis and research & development path
•Can PJMIF produce economic fusion power?

– There are a number of learning curves and uncertainties in the physics data to be acquired
– The resolution of these uncertainties and learning curves is the objective of Phase I of the program, and will provide a definitive answer to the question
– There is no guarantee what the answer will be at this point. It requires a minimum amount of scientific experimental research, pure and simple.
– By the same token, the group that pays for Phase I will own all the computer codes and the engineering experience and lessons, which collectively is the technological know-how.
– This technological know-how might still be valuable in spin-off applications if the answer is “No”, or it might be worth billions if it is “Yes”. To the best of our knowledge, we believe the answer is likely to be “YES”.



Download this article as a printer friendly PDF

Fusion & ITER by CBS News

“Nuclear fusion is the energy that powers the sun and stars,” Mike Mauel, professor of applied physics at Columbia University, told “It takes hydrogen gas, heating up to millions of degrees, and brings the atoms together to release energy and make helium.”

Instead of splitting an atom’s nucleus, like in fission, nuclear fusion is the process of bringing together two atomic nuclei to form a new nucleus. And there is no need for dangerous chemical elements like uranium or plutonium — easing the fears of nuclear proliferation. Energy derived from fusion is appealing because very few natural resources are required to create fuel.

“The fuel for fusion basically comes from sea water. Every bottle of water that we drink has heavy water — deuterium — inside. Enough that’s equivalent to a whole barrel of oil,” Mauel says.