Process and Meetings
This report is the culmination of a two-year, two-phase strategic planning process. The first phase, the Community Planning Process (CPP), was the primary mechanism for all members of the fusion and plasma science community to provide input. The second phase, the FESAC Long Range Planning (LRP) study, used the CPP report as a starting point. During its 10-month study, the FESAC subcommittee sought inputs from the community and other sources, including community focus groups, workshops, and briefings from several federal agencies that support plasma and fusion related activities. That input, along with discussions at weekly subcommittee meetings, facilitated the development of this LRP report. The activities are described in more detail below.
The CPP, organized under the auspices of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics (DPP), was a year-long, community-led process that occurred just prior to our FESAC LRP activity. The findings of the CPP report were based on the synthesis of community-generated white papers, webinars, town halls at fusion and plasma meetings, and five major workshops. The report described opportunities in fusion and plasma science in order to improve our understanding of them and to facilitate the translation of science to societally beneficial applications. The CPP report included discussions of 1) Fusion Science and Technology, 2) Discovery Plasma Science, and 3) Cross Cutting Opportunities. The CPP report achieved significant community consensus, and its initiatives and priorities formed the basis for our prioritization and development of the budget scenarios in this report.
Community Focus Groups
The FESAC subcommittee gathered input through community focus groups. Nine focus group sessions were carried out through June and July 2020, with a total of 90 participants. Representatives from all program areas, across all demographic categories, and with a wide range of experience levels participated. The focus group sessions had three objectives:
Address the question of resource division between fusion science and technology (FST) and discovery plasma science (DPS; called plasma science and technology in this report)
Determine program synergies and identify cross-cutting opportunities
Gather feedback on the LRP report formulation process
On August 20, 2020, a virtual workshop was held to gather additional information from the community. The meeting provided an opportunity for the fusion and plasma research communities to exchange ideas and understand the priorities of each program area. An additional objective was to merge the mission and vision statements, along with the values developed in the two communities, into a single strategic plan. Input provided by the workshop informed development of a process to merge the plans and allocate resources between the two areas in the constrained budget scenarios. The workshop included approximately 200 participants.
Stakeholder Federal Agency Briefings
The FESAC subcommittee was briefed by representatives from other government agencies and projects with synergistic research interests. The goals of the briefings were to provide insight into plasma-related focus areas and their funding footprint in the various agencies, discuss the potential for partnerships, and learn about the execution of large projects and public–private partnerships by other government agencies. The committee received presentations from the following individuals and agencies:
On synergistic topical reports
Prof. Mike Mauel (Columbia University), on the 2019 NAS report A Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research
Prof. Roger Falcone (University of California, Berkeley), Dr. Felicie Albert (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and Prof. Jon Zuegel (University of Rochester) on the 2018 NAS report Opportunities in Intense Ultrafast Lasers: Reaching for the Brightest Light
Prof. Mark Kushner (University of Michigan) and Prof. Gary Zank (University of Alabama in Huntsville) on the 2020 NAS Decadal Assessment of Plasma Science (a presentation to FESAC)
Prof. Carolyn Kuranz (University of Michigan), Dr. Lauren Garrison (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Dr. Nathan Ferraro (Princeton Plasma Physica Laboratory), Dr. Nathan Howard (MIT), and Prof. John Sarff (University of Wisconsin) on the CPP Report
From other agencies
Ms. Ann Satsangi (National Nuclear Security Administration)
Dr. Scott Hsu (ARPA-E)
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA)
Dr. Vyacheslav Lukin (National Science Foundation)
On public–private partnerships
Dr. Alan Lindenmoyer (NASA) on the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program
Dr. Dave Petti (Idaho National Laboratory) on the Next Generation Dr. Adrian Collins (Idaho National Laboratory), on the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) Nuclear Plant (NGNP)
As with many other activities in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic obviated all plans for the subcommittee to meet in person. The entire subcommittee met weekly via Zoom for the duration of our activities, for discussions aimed at understanding overall program needs and for synthesizing the strategic plan. Additional weekly meetings included separate DPS and FST meetings to develop program-specific priorities and multiple meetings of smaller subgroups tasked with drafting specific portions of the report or addressing issues for later discussion by the larger group. The overarching goal of the meetings was to formulate a plan for three budget scenarios: constant level of effort, modest growth, and unconstrained but prioritized. Cost estimates for program elements and facilities informed the development of the three budget scenarios in the FESAC Charge (see Appendix C) but were not the sole basis for the scenarios. Status updates were provided at regular virtual FESAC meetings on March 16, June 23–24, and August 24.
Costing and Budget Scenarios
DOE Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) briefed the subcommittee several times on budgets and provided details of the FY 2019 budget that is called out in the Charge along with historic budget information and information on the FY 2020 budget enacted. FES also provided information on costs for ITER operations during the 10-year window of the Charge. Subgroup meetings took place to establish which program elements and user facilities from the CPP report would need to be costed by outside experts. Once the list of those facilities was finalized, outside experts provided cost estimates. Program elements were costed by the subcommittee. The program elements and facilities cost estimates were used in exercises to understand the three budget scenarios in the FESAC Charge. The subcommittee determined that the cost estimates of facilities and program elements could only be used to provide a range of plausible costs, given that the facilities were at a low level of development (a few were even at the preconceptual level). Given the range and the associated uncertainty, the subcommittee decided not to include cost estimates in this report or in the budget scenarios. The resulting budget scenarios are a combination of prioritization within the program as derived from the CPP report and costing exercises targeting each budget scenario.
The CPP recognized high-heat-flux testing of materials as a critical step in the development of plasma-facing components for future fusion reactors. However, the CPP did not specify how to fulfill this need. Given the safety-driven limitations of international collaborations in the study of nuclear materials (such as the difficulty of transporting activated samples) and the lack of capability for high-repetition, multi-megawatt heat-flux exposure currently in the US, we concluded that two new facilities are needed for FPP preparation: a coupon-scale (sample sizes of centimeters) high-heat-flux exposure facility for candidate material testing and model validation that form the basis for FPP plasma-facing component designs, both solid and liquid; and a component-scale facility (sample sizes of tens of centimeters up to 1 meter, as needed) for qualification of components and related systems, such as active cooling.
This long range plan and its recommendations are advisory input to DOE Office of Science and DOE Fusion Energy Sciences (FES). Implementation of these is the responsibility of DOE.
The successful completion of this activity and report resulted from the efforts of several individuals beyond the subcommittee itself. We sincerely thank Jeff Hoy and Carl Strawbridge for their assistance with cost estimation; Jim Dawson and Martha Hanna for professional editing of the final report and Michael Branigan for art direction and design; Sam Barish for critical insight from FES throughout the process; and Laurie Moret for facilitating consensus, during both the CPP and LRP activities.