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Suggested Citation:"Future Prospects." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.
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Page73

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MAGNETIC CONFINEMENT FUSION 73 the promise of an operational regime of enhanced stability and improved confinement. A second class of important but less virulent MHD instabilities is the resistive instabilities. They allow the magnetic field lines to open up and reconnect and may be accountable for the degradation of confinement. A third class of MHD instabilities is that driven by energetic particles. Experiments have observed instabilities in beam-heated plasmas that resulted in the ejection of energetic beam particles. Other experiments have used energetic beam ions to simulate the alpha particles in igniting plasma. Of particular concern are the effects associated with self-generated plasma currents ("bootstrap" currents) owing to high plasma pressures at high temperatures and finite density gradients. High bootstrap current fractions (>50%) have been self-consistently calculated and found to be stable at reasonable values of βp in major fusion devices. Nevertheless, as the pressure is increased, the plasma may become unstable, and this is observed in some of today's experiments. Once we develop a better understanding of these processes, there are plans to improve the stability at high pressures and high bootstrap current fractions in future tokamak experiments. Future Prospects In recent experiments, so-called toroidal Alfvén eigenmodes (TAEs) were driven unstable with neutral beams and high-energy particles driven by radio- frequency power. These TAE instabilities are important since they may be driven unstable by the alpha particles produced in the deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion reaction. Theoretical calculations of fast particle destabilization thresholds for TAE modes are in reasonable agreement with the experimental results. Upcoming tritium experiments at the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) in the United States and the Joint European Torus (JET) in Britain will test these models for the first time in tokamaks that have significant densities of alpha particles. Despite the stability problems as the limits of plasma pressure and currents are approached, significant progress has been achieved by building larger and "smarter" machines. Tokamaks' confinement and stability continue to improve, and it is important to continue to improve the tokamak concept for eventual use as an economical power-producing reactor. The DOE is proposing to build the Tokamak Physics Experiment (TPX), a new "steady-state" national tokamak research facility at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. This device is now being designed by a national team of physicists and engineers. The plan is to start operation at the beginning of the next decade. One of the TPX's key objectives will be to push the stability limits by controlling the toroidal current profile with current-drive methods (see below).

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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