Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory reactor fails
Date: Monday, October 03, 2016 @ 15:09:22 EDT
Topic: Science

From Physics Today: Director forced to step down after Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory reactor fails
The world’s most powerful spherical tokamak will be off-line for a year while new magnets are built.

The director of the flagship US fusion research laboratory was forced to resign in the wake of a mishap that has caused an extended shutdown of one of the world’s top fusion experiments. The failure two months ago of a magnet at the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U) is expected to take the machine out of commission for a year...

Full text here: Director forced to step down after Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory reactor fails

[Vlad] I found Donald Jasby's comment very appropriate:

The Prager matter is the latest of forced resignations of directors of fusion labs. The previous Director of PPPL (Goldston) was also forced to resign after his pet project, the NCSX stellarator, could not be built after expending more than $100M, and in fact the machine was never fully designed.

Two years ago NIF (Livermore) director Moses (2014) was force to resign because of his ongoing false claims of “guaranteed ignition” for NIF and the viability of laser-fusion power plants by the mid-2020’s.

Meanwhile in Europe, the JET project at Culham Lab. has not produced a significant fusion result in the last 10 years or more. Every JET 5-year program since 2000 has planned to perform experiments with 50-50 D-T fuel, but they have always been postponed. JET cannot even replicate the fusion results that it reported 20 years ago, which form much of the basis of projected ITER performance. This refusal to use fusion fuel has not stopped Culham director Cowley from proclaiming in one speech after another that fusion power plants are about to take over the world’s energy supply. Fed up with non-performance and endless delay, European funding sources have forced Cowley to announce his imminent retirement.

--Donald Jasby

In this train of machine debacles and director “retirements”, there is a message to fusioneers. This lesson is that to sustain the fusion enterprise, expensive Public Relations depts. and grandiose promises are not quite enough. The lavishly funded fusion show cannot continue indefinitely on the basis of P.R. propaganda about continued great achievements when there have been none, and promises to deliver a working fusion power reactor in 10 years when it’s probably impossible on any time scale.

No, there actually has to be a significant real result once in a while, such as once a decade. (My gosh, who wodhavthunkit?) Otherwise, even the bureaucrats get antsy that the normally sedated taxpayer will bestir himself, and the guillotine is dusted off and rolled out for the lab. director.

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