The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced finalization of a cooperative agreement with General Atomics (GA) to operate the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, the country’s largest magnetic fusion research facility with 2019 authorized funding of $121.5 million for GA and collaborating institutions.
The cooperative agreement enables GA’s stewardship of DIII-D to continue through 2024, providing opportunities for scientists from around the world to carry out important research in the development of practical fusion energy. The actual funding associated with the agreement will depend on yearly appropriations.
“DIII-D has been the source of many important discoveries in fusion science, and GA is proud to have played a key role in achieving them,” said David Hill, Director of DIII-D. “We look forward to continuing our research toward making fusion energy a practical reality.”
The DIII-D tokamak, which General Atomics operates as a national user facility for DOE’s Office of Science, hosts researchers from more than 100 institutions across the globe, including over 40 universities. The heart of the facility is a tokamak that uses powerful electromagnets to produce a doughnut-shaped magnetic bottle for confining a fusion plasma. In DIII-D, plasma temperatures more than 10 times hotter than the Sun are routinely achieved. At such extremely high temperatures, hydrogen isotopes can fuse together and release energy. (See Fusion Energy 101 below for more detail on how fusion works.)
Funding will support a variety of research efforts in fusion science. A new set of initiatives will enable DIII-D to pursue continued development of the advanced tokamak concept, which experts believe is the next important step toward realizing the vast potential of fusion energy. These initiatives include a first-of-a-kind steerable neutral beam system, a unique technique for increasing the current drive produced by microwaves, and a new lower hybrid current drive system provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
New hardware will also enable DIII-D to better simulate the ITER experiment under construction in France, allowing improved performance when ITER begins experiments in the late 2020s. This hardware includes enhanced coils for 3-D magnetic field shaping and an upgraded power supply. Another major initiative aims to develop the physics basis for a compact U.S. fusion facility that will lay the groundwork for power plants after ITER.
The agreement with the DOE Office of Science will also enable the development and installation of new instrumentation on DIII-D provided by scientists from across the U.S. The comparison of these data with state-of-the-art modeling tools, including those that take advantage of high-performance computing, will provide enhanced confidence that scientists can reliably predict the performance of future fusion systems.
“DOE’s renewal of this cooperative agreement is a clear sign that DIII-D remains in the vanguard of research in the U.S. fusion community,” said Jeff Quintenz, Senior Vice President of GA’s Energy Group. “This agreement provides the resources and support necessary to ensure that DIII-D maintains a vibrant, productive and extremely collaborative environment. We’re proud to continue our partnership with the Office of Science.”