Fusion energy is undergoing a major renaissance in the international community, with impressive technical advances in the public sphere and the burgeoning of a strong fusion industry both in the US and worldwide. Together, these developments present a remarkable opportunity to realize the dream of fusion energy in our lifetime and to address some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. The ITER device, currently under construction in the south of France, promises to demonstrate routine sustained fusion power (400 MW) by the middle of the next decade. Technological advances in the coming decade, including large bore high temperature superconducting magnets, plasma exhaust handling and fuel cycle solutions, and innovations in magnetic confinement systems, will combine with the scientific foundations coming out of ITER to inform the design of the first operational fusion power plant. In order to realize the scientific value of ITER in time to inform reactor design, an international data science ecosystem must be built that effectively integrates data from all leading international experiments and simulation codes to inform ITER operation. The convergence of artificial intelligence with fusion research provides a unique vehicle for broad international participation in ITER research and outstanding opportunities for workforce development in the 21st century. Various developments on multiple fronts in the rapidly evolving fusion landscape will be discussed with particular emphasis on ITER and data science innovations.
Raffi Nazikian earned his Ph.D. at the Australian National University before moving to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory where he participated in the world’s first fusion power experiment and lead national and international collaborations in support of ITER. He is currently senior director for Magnetic Fusion Energy at General Atomics, a fellow and distinguished lecturer of the American Physical Society, twice winner of the Kaul Award for excellence in plasma physics, and board member for the International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA) and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. His scientific contributions address a wide range of fusion challenges involving Alfvenic instabilities, turbulent transport, and magnetic reconnection. His recent focus includes data science innovations that can accelerating fusion research, facilitate ITER operation and enable the timely transition to fusion energy.