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Fusion Symposium looks to ITER and beyond

12 Sep 2008 Hamish Johnston

Fusion researchers from around the world will gather in Germany next week to chart the way forward to commercial fusion reactors. Hamish Johnston surveys what will be on offer in Rostock

Building the Wendelstein 7-X reactor

The The 25th Symposium on Fusion Technology is being held on 15–19 September 2008 in the northern German coastal city of Rostock. The conference is expected to attract nearly 700 delegates who will present and discuss more than 500%nbsp;papers and posters on a wide range of topics in fusion technology.

The event is organized by the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). Not surprisingly, many presentations will cover aspects of the ITER experimental reactor that is currently being built in Cadarache, France.

Invited speakers who will cover ITER include Octavi Quintana Trias, director of EURATOM, who give the first lecture of the event at 9.40 a.m. on Monday, 15 September. Quintana Trias will outline the European Union’s present and future contributions to the development and operation of ITER .

Later that day Norbert Holtkamp, ITER’s construction leader, will provide an overview of the status of the ITER design and how construction efforts are progressing in Cadarache. Holtkamp will highlight recent design changes and will report that all the modifications needed to meet French safety and licensing requirements have been made successfully.

An update on the design and construction of the ITER superconducting magnets will be presented on Monday by Neil Mitchell, deputy head of the project’s tokamak department. Mitchell will explain how ITER is dealing with the challenge of ensuring that construction gets underway in good time, while making sure that the latest breakthroughs in plasma and fusion physics are incorporated into the ITER design.

Schemes for plasma heating

Tuesday morning will feature a talk by Jean Jacquinot of EURATOM and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), who will explain the electron cyclotron resonance heating and ion cyclotron resonance heating systems, which ITER will use to heat its plasma to temperatures high enough for fusion to occur.

Jumping ahead to Thursday there will be a series of invited talks on ITER-related research that is being carried out at other fusion facilities. Francesco Romanelli, European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) associate leader for the Joint European Torus (JET) in the UK, will start the morning with an explanation of how that facility is being used to perform a wide range of physics- and engineering-related studies for ITER, including the evaluation of the use of tungsten and beryllium heat shielding tiles.

Bernard Saoutic of EURATOM and the CEA will then take the podium to explain how researchers at the Tore Supra fusion reactor in Cadarche are contributing to the development of ITER by establishing techniques for plasma control; testing a new type of carbon-based heat shielding tiles; and developing a new type of lower hybrid current drive for creating currents within the ITER plasma.

Other ITER-related talks on Thursday include one by Otto Gruber, project leader at Germany’s ASDEX Upgrade in Garching, where researchers are studying a range of physics and engineering problems relevant to ITER. Gruber will outline how the reactor’s control and data-acquisition systems have been updated to mirror the system to be used at ITER. He will also discuss how the inside of the ASDEX reactor has been recently redone in tungsten-coated heat tiles, which should provide insight into the performance of similar tiles that will be used in certain parts of ITER.

Excursion to Wendelstein 7-X

Of course, not everyone will be speaking about ITER. For example, Lutz Wegener of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics will provide an update on Monday about the construction of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator fusion reactor. Currently being built at the Institute’s facility in Greifswald, Wendelstein 7-X is due for completion in 2014. Greifswald is about 100 km from Rostock and a tour of the facility will take place on Wednesday.

Back in Rostock on Tuesday, Toshihide Tsunematsu of the Naka Fusion Research Institute in Japan will be speaking about the broader approach (BA) research activities – a collaborative effort between researchers in Japan and Europe that aims to pursue fusion research that is complementary to that being done for ITER.

Tsunematsu will discuss three projects planned by the BA – the Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities for The International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF/EVEDA); the conversion of Japan’s JT-60 tokamak to a satellite research facility that will support ITER and, ultimately, the development of fusion power reactors; and the planned creation of an International Fusion Energy Research Centre.

On Wednesday, Didier Gambier, director of a new Barcelona-based organization called Fusion for Energy (F4E), which was set up last year by the European members of ITER, is due to explain how F4E is establishing a fast track strategy for the accelerated development of fusion power and how F4E is recruiting scientists and engineers so that it can become a “centre of excellence for fusion engineering in Europe”.

Looking ahead to DEMO

If ITER is successful, the next step will be to build a demonstration fusion reactor that actually produces electricity. The EFDA has spent the last two years developing preliminary plans for such a reactor, which has been dubbed DEMO. On Friday Jerome Pamela of the EFDA Close Support Unit in Garching, Germany, will discuss long- and midterm targets that have been set for the development of DEMO.

Also on Friday, Minh Quang Tran of the Swiss Federal Technical University in Lausanne will provide and overview of the current work being done towards the development of a R&D strategy for DEMO.

Finally, the symposium also includes a Fusion Technology forum commercial exhibition, which will run from Monday to Friday and will feature about 35 companies. Exhibitors include Babcock Noell of Germany, France’s Air Liquide, Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum of Germany, and UK-based Oxford Technologies and D-TACQ. Other firms showing their wares at the exhibition include Linde-Kryotechnik of Switzerland, the UK’s MG Sanders, and Siemens of Germany.

Thales Electron Devices of France, Switzerland’s Thomson Broadcast & Multimedia and WEKA, and Pfeiffer Vacuum of Germany will also be exhibiting at the Fusion Technology forum.

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