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New DOE Fusion Head Sketches Out Vision

JAN 02, 2024
Jean Paul Allain’s priorities include expanding academia-industry collaborations through centers focused on “use-inspired, use-defined” research.
Mitch Ambrose headshot
Director of Science Policy News American Institute of Physics
Fusion Cactus Tour Jean Paul Allain October 2023.png

DOE Fusion Energy Sciences program head Jean Paul Allain speaks at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab in October 2023.

(Michael Livingston / PPPL)

Jean Paul Allain, who took the helm of the Department of Energy’s fusion program last summer, detailed his priorities in a presentation last month to the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee.

Allain said the program will push to expand collaborations between academia and industry, including through new Fusion Innovation Research Engine (FIRE) Centers focused on “use-inspired, use-defined” research that addresses key gaps in fusion materials and technology development relevant to building a pilot fusion power plant.

Stressing the increasing global interest in the field, Allain estimated that China is spending roughly $1.5 billion a year on fusion energy and is taking actions along the lines of those proposed in the U.S.’ own long-range plan for fusion, which FESAC published in 2020.

Allain noted DOE has asked FESAC to report back by fall 2024 on what elements of the fusion program should be prioritized to better support both the long-range plan and the White House’s “bold decadal vision” for accelerating development of fusion power plants. Allain said he aims to restructure DOE’s fusion budget to better support the long-range plan.

Among other actions, Allain said he intends to launch a New Emergent Plasma Concepts program to explore potential alternatives to the tokamak approach to fusion and to establish Plasma Frontier Research Centers focused on advancing fundamental plasma science and exploring ways to apply plasmas “in every part of life.”

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