fusion research and development, international atomic energy agency
© Alexey Rumyantsev

Matteo Barbarino from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlights key papers from the IAEA Fusion Energy Conference (FEC) 2018

This five-part article series, that opened with the first article here, presents and places into historical context a selection of leading papers from the 27th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Fusion Energy Conference (FEC), which took place in 2018 in India. These papers were highlighted by the conference’s programme committee as they present important advancements from the world’s leading fusion research facilities.

International collaboration and exchange are central ingredients of the FEC and having a paper selected by the programme committee is very prestigious.

The 28th Fusion Energy Conference (FEC 2020) will take place in Nice, France, next year. Meanwhile, let’s glance through some of the core papers from the FEC 2018 and learn about how they relate to historic developments in fusion energy research.

Overview of Physics Studies on ASDEX Upgrade (OV/2-1)

ASDEX Upgrade (AUG) is a fusion research facility located at Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, in Germany.

AUG Scientists and engineers were among the first to research and develop tungsten (W) as the material for the plasma-facing components instead of carbon, making AUG today the only medium-sized tokamak with a full Winner wall.

Tungsten is currently the top candidate material for the plasma-facing components of future fusion reactors, thanks to its very high melting point and high neutron irradiation resistance, combined with low hydrogen retention. Therefore, studying the full W wall is a key asset for extrapolating to future devices.

This paper highlighted the most recent results from AUG research in key fusion plasma physics areas related to ITER’s and DEMO’s operation.

One of the most important findings in the history of fusion research – the discovery of the high confinement mode (H-Mode) on the old ASDEX tokamak – was the highlight of the FEC 1982:

WAGNER, F., et al., “Confinement and ßp-studies in neutral-beam-heated ASDEX plasmas”, Plasma Physics and Controlled Nuclear Fusion Research (Proc. 9th Int. Conf. Baltimore, 1982, Paper No. CN-41/A-3) IAEA, Vienna (1983) 43.

Recent Advances in EAST Physics Experiments in Support of Steady-State Operation for ITER and CFETR (OV-2-2)

EAST is a fusion facility at the Institute of Plasma Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in China. This superconducting tokamak can operate in a continuous mode for great lengths of time and reach temperatures over 100 million degrees, which allows to study key plasma physics and technology issues for ITER.

The findings from EAST contribute to the development of the device called China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR) that would bridge the gaps between ITER and DEMO.

This paper presented world-record results in the continuous operation of EAST (>100 s) with good plasma performance, impurity control and heat exhaust, making once more significant contributions to some critical issues of ITER, CFETR and DEMO.

EAST, “the Chinese artificial Sun”, debuted at the FEC 2006 in home ground:
WAN, Y., et al., “Overview progress and future plan of EAST project”, Fusion Energy Conference (Proc. 21st Int. Conf. Chengdu, 2006, Paper No. CN-149/OV/1-1) IAEA, Vienna (2007).

Overview of the KSTAR Research Progress and Future Plan Toward ITER and K-DEMO (OV/2-3)

KSTAR – the Korean superconducting reactor in operation since 2008 at the National Fusion Research Institute complements efforts toward achieving steady-state high-performance operation. KSTAR achieved 100 million degrees of plasma temperature in 2018 – seven times hotter than in the centre of the Sun. This machine serves as a base for ITER’s operation and for constructing and operating a Korean DEMO (K-DEMO) to demonstrate net electricity generation.

This paper presented results from long pulse H-mode operation as well as future research plan toward ITER and K-DEMO.

Last year, KSTAR celebrated 10 years of successful long-pulse operation. It all started back at the FEC 2008:
BAK, J.S., et al., “Overview of recent commissioning results of KSTAR”, Fusion Energy Conference (Proc. 22nd Int. Conf. Geneva, 2008, Paper No. FT/1-1) IAEA, Vienna (2009).

Overview of Research Results from the Alcator C-Mod Tokamak (OV/2-4)

C-Mod is the third in a series of tokamaks with high-filed magnets developed at Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the United States, since the 1960s. Alcator is able to produce very dense and well-confined plasmas in a relatively compact device, which have led to ground-breaking discoveries in key areas of fusion plasma physics.

This paper presented results from last operation, in which C-mod broke its own world’s record for volume average plasma pressure, and highlighted the top results achieved during the operational history.

Alcator C-Mod started operating in 1993, and first promising results were presented at the FEC 1994:
PORKOLAB, M., et al., “Overview of recent results from Alcator C-Mod”, Plasma Physics and Controlled Nuclear Fusion Research (Proc. 15th Int. Conf. Seville, 1994, Paper No. CN-60/A1-6) IAEA, Vienna (1995) 123.

Progress of Indirect Drive Inertial Confinement Fusion in the USA (OV/2-5)

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in the United States, is the largest and most energetic laser facility ever built. While magnetic confinement fusion relies on ingenious heating schemes to ionize the gas and strong magnetic fields to trap it, Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) is based on heating and compressing fuel pellets using lasers or particle beams (the drivers).

Via inertial or magnetic approach, the fusing of Deuterium and Tritium nuclei generates energetic alpha-particles as well as neutrons. The plasma heating which is provided by these alpha-particles – or simply alpha-heating – will be essential in achieving ignition: the point at which a fusion reaction becomes completely self-sustaining.

This paper highlighted the considerable progress that has been made towards ICF ignition since the beginning of experiments at the NIF in 2010.

Key results from the 2015 NIF experimental campaign were presented at the FEC 2016:
EDWARDS, M.J., SANGSTER, T.C., SINARS, D.B., “The quest for laboratory inertial fusion ignition in the US” Fusion Energy Conference (Conference Material 26th Int. Conf. Kyoto, 2016, Paper No. OV/3-2) IAEA, Vienna (2017).


Matteo Barbarino


International Atomic Energy Agency


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