About every two years for decades, PAW has published an article extolling the glorious activities at PPPL that were supposed to establish an energy utopia. The last paean was in the issue of April 6, 2016, but this sequence of dazzling nothingburgers was disrupted when the lab’s “flagship” project (N$TX-U) damaged one of its magnet coils in July of that year.
That incident occurred not long after an extensive upgrade of N$TX that required $94 million and five years (!) to complete, and glorified in the April 2016 paean. Much of PPPL has been paralyzed since.
But it’s not just a mechanical implosion that triggered the current stagnation. It’s the absolute inability of PPPL to recover from a relatively minor issue by spending two years and many tens of millions of dollars solely on navel contemplation. And the prospect of more of the same.
The present status of N$TX-U and PPPL is summarized in the following verse:
A tale of extreme bungling
with now continuous bumbling.
Lab directors are fumbling,
from Nassau there’s great rumbling
lest funding take a drubbing,
but DOE is mainly grumbling.
Review committees are plumbing
while engineers are still stumbling
and most staff is mumbling
as delays are truly numbing.
The Lab is now crumbling
and reputation goes tumbling,
but so far there’s no humbling
that’s needed after such pummeling.