Meeting Information

Fusion Energy: Concepts, Progress and Prospects

November 16, 2016
The American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Speaker: Stephen O. Dean, Fusion Power Associates

Topic: Fusion Energy: Concepts, Progress and Prospects

Time and Location: 1:00 p.m., with Q&A to follow; in a 1st floor conference room at the American Center for Physics (, 1 Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD - off River Rd., between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: A research effort has been underway worldwide for over 50 years to develop the physics and technology basis for producing energy from fusion reactions of hydrogen isotopes. Many concepts have been studied and abandoned over the years; others have survived or been more recently resurrected or revised.

Concepts to be discussed in this talk, that are currently most popular, include “low density” (tokamak, stellarator and field-reversed magnetic configurations), “high density” (magnetized target compression) and “ultra-high density” (inertial confinement). Another less popular approach, inertial electrostatic confinement, will also be described. Status and progress on these concepts will be summarized. The U.S. effort effort will also be placed in the context of the much larger world effort.

Most effort over the years has been devoted to developing the physics that underpins various fusion concepts and to validate physics “scaling laws” that are then used to design and predict the performance of potential future, more advanced performance, versions of these concepts. These “scaling laws” have formed the basis of periodic estimates of the facilities, costs and time-scales for operation of fusion demonstration or commercial power plants.

Why fusion has “always been and always will be fifty years in the future” will be discussed. This inevitably requires acknowledgement of issues beyond understanding the physics of fusion and includes the need for advances in the technologies required for power-producing systems and the potential economics of fusion concepts vis-à-vis other competing commercial energy systems.

Biography: Dr. Stephen O. Dean has worked on the development of fusion for energy and other applications for over 50 years. In 1966, he co-authored (with Amasa S. Bishop and Richard F. Post) the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s AEC Policy and Action Plan for Controlled Thermonuclear Research. In 1976, he led the preparation of the Fusion Power by Magnetic Confinement Program Plan that provided the basis for the Magnetic Fusion Engineering Act of 1980, signed into law by President Carter. In 1979, he co-founded Fusion Power Associates a non-profit research and educational foundation. He has served as president of the foundation since that time.

After receiving a B.S. in physics from Boston College (1960) and an S.M. in nuclear engineering from MIT (1962), he joined the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as a staff member in the Controlled Thermonuclear Research (CTR) Branch of the Research Division. In 1969, he transferred to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as a Research Physicist in the Plasma Physics Division. While there, he completed his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Maryland (1971) and performed some of the early experiments on laser-plasma interactions. He returned to the AEC in 1972 and became Assistant Director for (magnetic fusion) Confinement Systems in the CTR Division. AEC evolved into the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) in 1976, and then into the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) in 1978, and Dr. Dean became Director of the (magnetic) Confinement Systems Division of the Office of Fusion Energy. In that capacity, during the 1970s, he oversaw the construction and operation of several new, large fusion facilities at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and General Atomics.

In August 1979, he left government and co-founded (with former University of Maryland physics professors Alvin Trivelpiece and Nicholas Krall) Fusion Power Associates. From 1979 to 2013 he also worked part-time as a scientist for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), providing consulting services to a variety of government laboratories and industries.

He is a member of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society (elected ANS Fellow in 1987). He has received numerous awards, including the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Research Publications Award (1972), two Energy Research and Development Administration Special Achievement Awards (1976 and 1977), and two U.S. Department of Energy Distinguished Associate Awards (1988 and 2000).

In 2013 he authored the book Search for the Ultimate Energy Source: A History of the U.S. Fusion Energy Program (Springer ISBN 978-1-4614-6036-7). He has served as Editor of the scientific Journal of Fusion Energy (published by Springer) since 1986.