Live Chat: The Fate of Fusion
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With threats such as climate change and declining oil stocks looming, we should be going all out to find alternative sources of energy. Nuclear fusion seems like the perfect solution, with virtually limitless supplies of fuel, no greenhouse gases, and little radioactive waste. U.S. researchers have been working to master fusion for decades and are partners in ITER, a global project to build a huge fusion reactor in France which is currently under construction. But they were shocked last week when in President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request their funding was cut by 0.8% to $398 million just at the same time as U.S. payments for ITER rose from $105 million to $150 million.
If the president’s request is approved by Congress it will put a severe squeeze on the U.S. domestic fusion program and will force the closure of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Alcator C-Mod reactor, one of only three large machines, known as tokamaks, in the United States that are doing vital research in preparation for ITER. With further increases in ITER payments required in coming years, can fusion research in the U.S. survive?