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Fusion research gets major grant

The Plasma Fusion Center (PFC) has received first-year funding of $7 million from the Department of Energy under a five-year cooperative agreement that will provide an estimated $48.5 million in total support for the development of fusion technology.

The agreement covers 15 subtasks designed to advance critical technologies for an engineering test reactor such as the Internation Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and to develop a vision for future commercial reactors. The tasks will build on previous studies and experimental work done at the Center and will carry out the work in the context of the various national design activities.

The period of the agreement is intended to parallel the proposed six-year Engineering Design Activity (EDA) phase of the ITER project with participants in the US, the European Community, Japan and Russia, who signed an international cooperative agreement last July.

The goal of the ITER EDA is a test facility design that would, if built, demonstrate the basic scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy. The design activity will be carried out at three centers in San Diego, Naka, Japan; and Gerching, Germany. Professor Ronald R. Parker, director of the PFC, is on leave from MIT to serve as deputy director for ITER and head of the Garching ITER co-center. Dr. Richard Thome, head of the fusion energy and technology division at the PFC, is also on leave from the Center and will serve as the head of the Magnetics Division at the ITER co-center in Naka.

The Development and Technology Program is headed by Dr. D. Bruce Montgomery, associate director for engineering and technology. The development of superconducting materials and cunductors is one of the program's activities. The ITER Magnetics R&D program is the largest co-center of the agreement, with ITER-related base technology and general base technology in the areas of gyrotron development, reactor studies and safety studies on ITER diverter development as the other major task groups supported by this agreement.

MIT's PFC has one of the nation's broadest research programs to investigate the physics and engineering aspects of magnetic fusion. It is recognized as one of the world's leading university research laboratories in confinement fusion and plasma research, with its research programs producing significant results on several fronts, including major confinement results on the Alcator series of tokamaks.

The objective of this latest agreement with the DOE is to advance technology to a point that will allow ITER to decide on a construction phase and to make advances in such necessary technologies as conductors and materials development and computer code development.

A version of this article appeared in the March 3, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 24).

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