Nuclear engineering department head speaks on fusion pilot plant panel


By Gabrielle Stewart

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jean Paul Allain, head of the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State, was invited by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to speak at a panel discussion on the key goals and innovations needed for development of the first fusion energy pilot plant in the country. Allain joined three other representatives of the nuclear engineering academic community to lead the virtual discussion on Oct. 7.

Allain provided input to the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research on the necessary innovations for design and construction of a nuclear fusion pilot plant; the role of Penn State and other universities in supporting pilot plant development and operation; and the role of public-private partnerships in nuclear fusion development.

“This was an excellent opportunity to increase the visibility of Penn State nuclear engineering, especially in the area of nuclear fusion, which is rather new for us,” Allain said. “This contribution is just one of our department’s many efforts to engage in nuclear fusion advancement and establish Penn State as a leader in this field for the future.”

Allain said his contribution centered on the need to establish a strong supply-side ecosystem around development and building of a fusion pilot plant. According to Allain, other discussion topics included the challenges facing nuclear fusion in a very competitive and dynamic competitive energy market in the United States.

The committee also welcomed Allain’s perspective on the necessary workforce development for successful design, construction and operation of a pilot plant as well as initiatives to support diversity and inclusion within that workforce.

Allain’s research focuses on the development of advanced fusion materials for use in a future fusion pilot plant’s fusion reactor. He has served on more than 10 national and international committees and panels for examining the requirements for potential fusion materials as well as the efficacy of those materials for providing energy. Allain has also held numerous leadership roles within the nuclear fusion community.

“All members of the fusion community — in academia, the private and public sectors, national laboratories and more — are being included in this discussion,” Allain said. “This panel was just one of many important steps toward the advancement of nuclear fusion.”


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Megan Lakatos