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U.S. Rep. Andy Kim is positive about fusion energy during visit to PPPL

Fusion energy could be a “game changer” as a possible future option for generating clean, safe, and abundant electric energy, U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) said during a visit to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) on July 8. 

Kim, whose New Jersey District 3 includes 53 municipalities in Burlington and Ocean counties, said he wanted to visit the Laboratory because he is interested in fusion energy as an alternative energy source that could be part of the solution to addressing climate change. “Everything I’ve seen here has shown me that fusion has to be part of that equation so it’s very exciting to be here,” Kim said. 

Jon Menard, PPPL deputy director for research, gave Kim an overview of the laboratory’s  mission and research priorities. Menard described how PPPL’s National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) research will help advance predictive capability for magnetic fusion and much better understand the potential of the spherical tokamak configuration for future fusion energy. Also attending the meeting were Andrew Zwicker, head of Communications and Public Outreach; Pete Johnson, head of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Princeton Site Office; Sandy Rogan, deputy head of the Princeton Site office; Scott Weidner, Princeton University assistant vice president for engineering for PPPL; Julie Groeninger, Princeton University associate director of governmental affairs; Ben Chang, Princeton University director of media relations and spokesperson; Brent Colburn, Princeton University vice president for communications and public affairs; and Ben Giovine, director of Kim’s district office. 

After the meeting, Zwicker, Menard, Johnson and Weidner led Kim on a tour of the Laboratory. They visited the NSTX-U test cell and the Science Education Laboratory. 

“It was great talking to him,” Menard said. “He learned about the Lab and what we do and he was genuinely interested in how we can move faster with fusion and what we can do to help.” 

Zwicker discussed how fusion energy can play a key role in future energy needs here in the United States and worldwide. “It was great to have a member of the New Jersey delegation here,” Zwicker said. “Congressman Kim has a strong interest in the research here and our program and sees the potential economic impact of our research on New Jersey and the country.”

Kim is a first-term congressman who was elected in November 2018. He was a national security advisor for the White House under President Barack Obama and served as a United Nations Security Official under the Obama Administration. He previously worked at the U.S. State Department, serving in Afghanistan as a civilian adviser to two four-star generals, David Petraeus and John R. Allen. A graduate of the University of Chicago with a degree in political science, he received a Rhodes Scholarship and a Harry S. Truman Scholarship to study international relations at Magdalen College, Oxford, U.K. Kim is the second Korean American to serve in Congress. 

He serves on the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities and the Subcommittee on Readiness of the House Armed Services Committee; and chairs the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access and serves on the Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce Development of the Committee on Small Business. Originally from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Kim was elected to Congress in 2018.

Kim said after his visit to PPPL that he believes fusion energy could have far-reaching impact. “The potential implications are limitless here, that’s what I find so exciting,” he said. “There are very few times that I encounter a technology that could have the impact of fusion.” 

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit www.energy.gov/science.

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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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