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Home / Publications / Journals / Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 47 / Number 3

Historical Perspective on the United States Fusion Program

Stephen O. Dean

Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 47 / Number 3 / April 2005 / Pages 291-299

Technical Paper / Fusion Energy - Fusion Plenary and Overview

Progress and Policy is traced over the approximately 55 year history of the U. S. Fusion Program. The classified beginnings of the effort in the 1950s ended with declassification in 1958. The effort struggled during the 1960s, but ended on a positive note with the emergence of the tokamak and the promise of laser fusion.  The decade of the 1970s was the "Golden Age" of fusion, with large budget increases and the construction of many new facilities, including the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) and the Shiva laser. The decade ended on a high note with the passage of the Magnetic Fusion Energy Engineering Act of 1980, overwhelming approved by Congress and signed by President Carter. The Act called for a "$20 billion, 20 year" effort aimed at construction of a fusion Demonstration Power Plant around the end of the century. The U. S. Magnetic Fusion Energy program has been on a downhill slide since 1980, both in terms of budgets and the construction of new facilities. The Inertial Confinement Fusion program, funded by Department of Energy Defense Programs, has faired considerably better, with the construction of many new facilities, including the National Ignition Facility (NIF).

 
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