The JASON scientific advisory panel cautiously endorsed further research into what is known as Magneto-Inertial Fusion (MIF) as a step towards achieving fusion-generated electricity.
“Magneto-Inertial Fusion (MIF) is a physically plausible approach to studying controlled thermonuclear fusion in a region of parameter space that is less explored than Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) or Magnetic Confinement Fusion (MCF).”
“Despite having received ~1% the funding of MCF and ICF, MIF experiments have made rapid progress in recent years toward break-even conditions,” the JASONs said in a report to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) late last year.
Even so, “Given the immaturity of the technologies, the future ability of fusion-generated electricity to meet commercial constraints cannot be usefully assessed. Rapidly developing infrastructures for natural gas and renewable energy sources and storage will compete with any future commercial fusion efforts.”
See Prospects for Low Cost Fusion Development, JASON Report JSR-18-011, November 2018.
The fusion report is one of two unclassified reports prepared by the JASONs in 2018. (Release of the second is pending.) The other twelve reports from last year are classified.
The New York Times recently provided an overview of fusion research in Clean, Abundant Energy: Fusion Dreams Never End by C. Claiborne Ray, January 11, 2019.
Meanwhile, the Federation of American Scientists warned that the current shutdown of federal agencies threatens many aspects of U.S. science and technology.
“The partial government shutdown is compromising the very research that is important to the health and security of our nation. Important scientific breakthroughs could be compromised or lost with each and every day that the shutdown continues,” FAS said in a January 16 letter to the White House and Congress.
“We therefore urge you to open the federal government, send researchers back to work at their agencies, and allow science to flourish throughout the United States.”