Powering Ahead: A National Response to the Rise of the International Fusion Power Program
The urgent need to develop clean base-load power systems has sparked a global renaissance in fusion power research.
The next step ITER tokamak, now under construction in France, is designed to demonstrate the technical feasibility of fusion power generation. Supported by governments representing more than half the population of the planet, the ITER experiment will now commence operation in 2020. The slightly delayed starting date delivers a window of opportunity for Australia to make important research contributions to this largest of global scientific endeavours. It is expected that ITER will pave the way for a demonstration power plant, leading to commercial fusion power in the second half of this century. A strong Australian engagement with the international fusion program, including ITER, will see Australia well prepared for the coming fusion age.
In recent years, the Australian fusion science community, largely through the Australian ITER Forum, has worked hard to increase government and public awareness of the potential of fusion and to enhance the visibility of fusion science across the Australian scientific community. In 2007 the Forum released a strategic plan “A strategy for Australian Fusion Science and Engineering: Through ITER and into the Future”. Many elements of the plan have been realized, including Super-Science infrastructure upgrade for the Australian Plasma Fusion Research Facility (APFRF), and support for a fellowship scheme that is similar to the ARC Future Fellowships program.
There has also been growth in fusion plasma and materials science across the wider university research community. A new “Extreme Materials for Fusion” program embracing collaborations in the field of nuclear science was commenced in 2012 under the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Australian National University (ANU). The University of Newcastle has expanded its international collaborations in fusion related materials through its formal involvement in the CERAMAX consortium (which involves mainly European researchers).
In December 2012, it was agreed at a meeting of senior ANSTO representatives and the Australian fusion science community, including the Australian ITER Forum, that as Australia’s premier nuclear organisation, ANSTO would in future represent the formal interests of the Australian fusion community with the ITER organisation (see Appendix 2). In early 2013, ANSTO CEO Dr Adi Paterson met with ITER Director General, Dr Osamu Motojima, to identify pathways for future linkages between Australian science and ITER.
In concert with these developments, the ANU, ANSTO and Australian ITER Forum, on behalf of the Australian fusion community, have commissioned this new plan, with the goal of securing an Australian capability and preparedness for fusion power. Building on the work of the first plan, this will be achieved by expanding domestic research, maintaining world class facilities and infrastructure, and by broadening collaboration and engagement with international programs.