U.S. Fusion Head Jim Van Dam to Retire September 10

July 26, 2022

Jim Van Dam, head of the U.S. fusion energy sciences program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced his intention to retire.

The following was issued by the DOE:

Dear colleagues,

After serving 11 years in the Office of Science, including five years as Associate Director of Science for Fusion Energy Sciences (FES), Dr. James Van Dam has informed us of his plan to retire from federal service effective September 10, 2022. Among his accomplishments as a science director and strategic program leader, Jim led a two-year effort by the community and the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) that produced a new long-range strategic plan, Powering the Future: Fusion and Plasma (2021), the first in two decades, for the entire FES program with extensive community engagement and consensus.

He also sponsored several important studies by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research (2018); a decadal survey Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration (2020); and Bringing Fusion to the U.S. Grid (2021). The last of these inspired a White House Fusion Summit (March 2022) at which DOE launched a bold decadal vision for fusion energy via partnership with the private sector.

Also during his tenure, the LaserNetUS research consortium and the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy public-private voucher program were successfully launched; FES solicitations for artificial intelligence/machine learning, quantum information science, micro-electronics, and advanced fusion technology (with ARPA-E) were initiated; construction of the new Material Plasma Exposure Facility began; international research collaborations were enhanced; and an important FESAC study on transformative enabling technology was carried out.

Previously, Jim served as FES Research Division Director for six years. Earlier in his career, he spent 31 years at The University of Texas at Austin as a research scientist, Assistant Director, and for nine years Director of the Institute for Fusion Studies. Concurrently, he was Director of the U.S. Burning Plasma Organization and U.S. Chief Scientist for the ITER Project. Jim has made outstanding contributions to the Office of Science. He is highly respected by his colleagues, SC management, and community leaders. His easygoing nature and personal integrity have made him a pleasure to work with.

Please join us in wishing him good health and happiness in retirement. A transition plan for Associate Director of Science for FES will be announced soon.

Jim can be reached at: James.Vandam@science.doe.gov