Next Generation of Fusion Scientists Protest Cuts to the Domestic Program
December 3, 2012 • 8:39AM

The December issue of Physics Today prints an open letter sent in September by 63 "under 40" fusion and plasma science researchers to the Department of Energy, requesting that the fusion budget not "weaken" the world-class program in the U.S.

Describing themselves as having "committed themselves to careers in plasma and fusion science," the younger scientists explain that a "vibrant domestic program must be maintained and nurtured, so that today's graduate students and postdocs can become experienced scientists and leaders 15 years from now," when the ITER international fusion experiment becomes operational. "Instead, the Administration's FY13 budget redirects 1/6 of the FY12 domestic spending to the ITER project. If this trend continues," they state, "within the next two years, hundreds of scientists and engineers at some of the premier U.S. institutions will be laid off." (The cuts in the domestic program, in order to meet the U.S.'s international commitment to fund ITER, the Department has recommended, would, for example, shut down the tokamak program at MIT.)

It is not only fusion energy research that is at risk here, they point out. Under the broad plasma and fusion program, the letter explains, "we study supernovae explosions, solar coronal mass ejections, galaxy clusters, wake-field accelerators, the basic complexity of dynamic systems, and many other natural and man-made plasma phenomena."

The letter invites others to add their names to the letter, "regardless of their age and professional status." As of November 30th, dozens more scientists have done so.