The federal Department of Energy has awarded the University a five-year contract valued at $390 million to continue managing and operating the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, a leading fusion-research facility.
The lab, one of 10 national science laboratories supported by the DOE’s Office of Science, has been operated by the University since it was created in 1951. The Energy Department put the contract to manage and operate the lab out for competitive bidding for the first time last July, and the University made it a top priority to secure the contract’s renewal.
“I’m delighted that DOE has continued to entrust PPPL’s management to Princeton,” said A.J. Stewart Smith *66, Princeton’s dean for research. “PPPL is a world-class laboratory that continues to make leading contributions to the basic understanding of plasma physics and to the progress toward practical fusion energy.”
The contract runs through March 2014 and includes a provision to extend the contract for five additional years. The University can earn an award fee of up to $1.8 million each year.
DOE funding for the lab for the 2008 fiscal year was $76.5 million, more than a third of the University’s $218 million annual funding for sponsored research.
The lab’s primary fusion experiment, the National Spherical Torus Experi-ment, has been operating since 1999. The spherical torus is a device to study the physics principles of spherically shaped plasmas — hot ionized gases confined in a magnetic field in which nuclear fusion will occur.The lab’s new director, Stewart Prager, said planned upgrades to the torus experiment “will prepare the United States for possible large next steps in fusion.”