OF INTEREST: Scientists use plasma shaping to control turbulence in stellarators

​Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Germany have devised a new method for minimizing turbulence in bumpy donut-shaped experimental fusion facilities called stellarators. This month in a paper published in Physical Review Letters, these authors describe an advanced application of the method that could help physicists overcome a major barrier to the production of fusion energy in such devices, and could also apply to their more widely used symmetrical donut-shaped cousins called tokamaks. This work was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

Turbulence allows the hot, charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions to escape from the magnetic fields that confine the gas in stellarators and tokamaks. This turbulent transport occurs at comparable levels in both devices, and has long been recognized as a challenge for both in producing fusion power economically.
’Confinement bears directly on the cost of fusion energy,’ said physicist Harry Mynick, a PPPL coauthor of the paper, 'and we’re finding how to reshape the plasma to enhance confinement.’
The new method uses two types of advanced computer codes that have only recently become available. The authors modified these codes to address turbulent transport, evolving the starting design of a fusion device into one with reduced levels of turbulence. The current paper applies the new method to the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator, soon to be the world’s largest when construction is completed in Greifswald, Germany.
Results of the new method, which has also been successfully applied to the design of smaller stellarators and tokamaks, suggest how reshaping the plasma in a fusion device could produce much better confinement. Equivalently, improved plasma shaping could produce comparable confinement with reduced magnetic field strength or reduced facility size, with corresponding reductions in the cost of construction and operation.

Read the full report on the PPPL website.

— Magnetic field strength in a turbulence-optimized stellarator design. Regions with the highest strength are shown in yellow.


OF INTEREST: Using radio waves to control the density in a fusion plasma

​Recent fusion experiments on the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics (California, US) and the Alcator C-Mod tokamak at MIT (Massachusetts, US), show that beaming microwaves into the centre of the plasma can be used to control the density in the centre of the plasma, where a fusion reactor would produce most of its power. Several megawatts of microwaves mimic the way fusion reactions would supply heat to plasma electrons to keep the "fusion burn" going.

The new experiments reveal that turbulent density fluctuations in the inner core intensify when most of the heat goes to electrons instead of plasma ions, as would happen in the center of a self-sustaining fusion reaction. Supercomputer simulations closely reproduce the experiments, showing that the electrons become more turbulent as they are more strongly heated, and this transports both particles and heat out of the plasma.
"We are beginning to uncover the fundamental mechanisms that control the density, under conditions relevant to a real fusion reactor," says Dr. Darin Ernst, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the experiments and simulations, together with co-leaders Dr. Keith Burrell (General Atomics), Dr. Walter Guttenfelder (Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory), and Dr. Terry Rhodes (UCLA).
Read the full report on Science Daily.
–Supercomputer simulation shows turbulent density fluctuations in the core of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak during strong electron heating. Credit: D. R. Ernst, MIT

OF INTEREST: New Advisory Board to promote project and safety culture at ITER

In order to improve project performance and in light of the ITER Project’s specific managerial and cultural complexities, an External Management Advisory Board (EMAB) was established earlier this year. This week, the members of the EMAB convened for their first meeting at ITER Headquarters.

The objective of the EMAB is to advise the ITER Organization’s senior managers and the Director-General on enhancing project and safety culture, a challenging activity in the context of a mega international project with seven Members. Also, the Board is charged with assessing the practical implementation of the set of actions that was decided in response to the Management Assessment carried out in 2013.

The Chair of this new entity is Jean Jacquinot, who also serves as scientific advisor to the Chairman of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Bernard Bigot.

Other Board members are Michael Tendler, professor at Sweden’s Alfvén Laboratory (Royal Institute of Technology); Richard Hawryluk, head of the department of ITER and Tokamaks at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (US); Dhiraj Bora, director of the Institute for Plasma Research, IPR (India); and Yuanxi Wan, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and former Chairman of the ITER Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC). ITER’s Colette Ricketts, of the System Management Section, is in charge of the secretariat.

’During our first meeting held on 20-21 October, we had a very fruitful discussion,’ the Board members reported after the first meeting. 'We openly addressed issues such as the project’s nuclear and safety culture, options for improved alignment between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies, and last but not least the creation of the ITER Chief Executive Team, (ICET), formed to improve collaboration between all actors of the ITER Project.’

The Board will continue to address key ITER management issues at its next meeting, scheduled for 11-12 December 2014.

OF INTEREST: Puzzling new behavior found in high-temperature superconductors

​Research by an international team led by SLAC and Stanford scientists has uncovered a new, unpredicted behavior in a copper oxide material that becomes superconducting — conducting electricity without any loss — at relatively high temperatures.

This new phenomenon — an unforeseen collective motion of electric charges coursing through the material — presents a challenge to scientists seeking to understand its origin and connection with high-temperature superconductivity. Their ultimate goal is to design a superconducting material that works at room temperature.
"Making a room-temperature superconductor would save the world enormous amounts of energy," said Thomas Devereaux, leader of the research team and director of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES), which is jointly run with SLAC. "But to do that we must understand what’s happening inside the materials as they become superconducting. This result adds a new piece to this long-standing puzzle.’
The results were published 19 October in Nature Physics.


Read the full article on the SLAC website.

OF INTEREST: Russia and China to develop hybrid reactor

​Russia is developing a hybrid nuclear reactor that uses both nuclear fusion and fission, said head of leading nuclear research facility. The project is open for international collaboration, particularly from Chinese scientists.

A hybrid nuclear reactor is a sort of stepping stone to building a true nuclear fusion reactor. It uses a fusion reaction as a source of neutrons to initiate a fission reaction in a 'blanket’ of traditional nuclear fuel.
The approach has a number of potential benefits in terms of safety, non-proliferation and cost of generated energy, and Russia is developing such a hybrid reactor, according to Mikhail Kovalchuk, director of the Kurchatov Research Center.
’Today we have started the realization of a distinctively new project. We are trying to combine a schematically operational nuclear plant reactor with a 'tokamak’ to create a hybrid reactor,’ he told RIA Novosti, referring to a type of fusion reactor design.
Photo:  Director of the Kurchatov Research Center Mikhail Kovalchuk
Read the whole story on Russia Today website, and also (in Russian) on Newsland website.

OF INTEREST: Manufacturating for acceleration grid power supplies has started in India

​Manufacturing is underway in India for the acceleration grid power supplies that will be supplied to the SPIDER test bed in Italy as well as to ITER’s diagnostic neutral beam.

The technical specifications for both acceleration grid power supplies are similar (system rated for 96 kVDC, 75 A). The SPIDER test bed is designed to finalize the development of the ion sources required for the ITER neutral beam injectors and to test all essential aspects of the diagnostic neutral beam accelerator.
Following the Final Design Review held in August 2013 for the acceleration grid power supplies, a Manufacturing Readiness Review was conducted early this year at the Indian Domestic Agency with the participation of the ITER Organization and ECIL, the Indian manufacturer responsible for the fabrication of the system and its installation at the SPIDER test bed in Padua, Italy.
Major components of the acceleration grid power supplies—60 kW water-cooled switched power supply modules and 2.8 MVA oil-cooled multi-secondary transformers—are presently being inspected at intermediate stages and the factory acceptance test for the first batch is scheduled for the end of November 2014.
Discussions are also being held with local support agencies for SPIDER site works with coordination assistance from the Consorzio RFX team in Padua.
Dilshad Sulaiman, ITER India

OF INTEREST: General Atomics physicist gets top fusion award

​A General Atomics physicist has won one of the most prestigious awards in fusion energy research, it was announced this week at a major international scientific conference in Russia.

Dr. Philip Snyder, who works in General Atomics’ San Diego headquarters, received the 2014 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Nuclear Fusion Prize. The award was announced at the biennial conference during the opening ceremony of the 25th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference being held 13-18 October in St. Petersburg.

Dr. Snyder won the prize for his published scientific paper judged to provide the most impact in nuclear fusion over the last two years. Dr. Snyder has spent the last 15 years working in fusion research at General Atomics, where he serves as Director of Theory and Computational Science for the Energy and Advanced Concepts Group.

Read more on the Energy Industry Today website.

OF INTEREST: World’s largest fusion conference opens in St. Petersburg

The 25th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference (FEC 2014) will be held from 13 to 18 October 2014 in Saint Petersburg, the Russian Federation.
The event, hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation through the Rosatom Nuclear Energy State Corporation, provides a forum for the discussion of key physics and technology issues as well as innovative concepts of direct relevance to fusion as a source of nuclear energy. The Conference is the world’s largest conference in the field of nuclear fusion.
Thematic sessions on topics such as fusion engineering, fusion nuclear physics and technology, innovative confinement concepts and more will be held as part of the Conference, which also includes the awarding of a Nuclear Fusion Prize for outstanding achievements in nuclear fusion.
The IAEA hosts an International Conference on Nuclear Fusion Energy every second year. More information is available at the conference website.

OF INTEREST: Sandia’s Z machine makes progress toward nuclear fusion

Scientists are reporting a significant advance in the quest to develop an alternative approach to nuclear fusion. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, using the lab’s Z machine, a colossal electric pulse generator capable of producing currents of tens of millions of amperes, say they have detected significant numbers of neutrons—byproducts of fusion reactions—coming from the experiment. This, they say, demonstrates the viability of their approach and marks progress toward the ultimate goal of producing more energy than the fusion device takes in.

Read more on Science web site.

OF INTEREST: Latest "Fusion in Europe" is out

​The autumn issue of Fusion in Europe is available for download at this link.

The 20-page issue covers the recent launch of EUROfusion (the European Consortium for the Development of Fusion Energy), preparations for the initial plasma experiments on the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator (scheduled next year), and news from the control rooms of the JET and ASDEX Upgrade tokamaks.

Fusion in Europe is published three times per year.


​On 9 October 2014 the European Commission officially launched the European Consortium for the Development of Fusion Energy, EUROfusion for short. EUROfusion manages the European fusion research activities on behalf of Euratom, which awards the appropriate grant to the consortium.

The new consortium agreement will substitute the fourteen year-old European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA), as well as 29 bilateral Association agreements between the Commission and research institutions in 27 countries. The Grant Agreement (contract) provides EUR 424 million in funding from the Euratom Horizon 2020 programme 2014-18 and the same amount from Member States, adding up to an overall budget of EUR 850 million for 5 years.

The launch of EUROfusion was celebrated with Europe’s fusion research community in the heart of the European Quarter, the Solvay Library.

Read the full report on the new EUROFusion website here.

OF INTEREST: Divertor cassette replaced by remote control at VTT Finland

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has reached an important objective in the development of ITER fusion reactor remote control, when the divertor cassette was replaced for the first time using remote control in the research facility for remote controlled maintenance. This operation is one of the most demanding measures in the forthcoming ITER fusion reactor, the construction of which is proceeding rapidly in Cadarache, Southern France.

The requirements for the technologies used in ITER, are high, since they are used to control the fusion plasma burning at a temperature of hundred million degrees centigrade. Once the ITER comes into use, its core is activated when bombed by neutrons. Therefore, all maintenance, inspection and repair measures are performed using remote operation.

Located in the lower part of the ITER reactor chamber, the 54 cassettes of the reactor component, or the divertor, measuring 3.4 m x 2.3 m x 0.6 m and weighing approximately 10 tonnes each, need to be handled at tolerances of a few millimetres. The divertor cassette is like a giant ashtray, into which the hot ashes and impurities settle.
Read more on PhysOrg website.

OF INTEREST: F4E business forum announced

The European Domestic Agency for ITER, Fusion for Energy (F4E), is organizing a major business event from 10 to 12 June 2015.

The Fusion for Energy Forum is designed as a networking event, aiming to bring together industry representatives, SMEs, European fusion laboratories and policy makers around ITER business opportunities.

Participants will have access to the latest information regarding Europe’s procurement strategies, the opportunity to meet with F4E procurement staff and the possiblity of creating ties through business to business (B2B) sessions.

All information on the Fusion for Energy Forum is centralized on the event website.

OF INTEREST: WEST Newsletter #6 is out

The Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research, ITER’s neighbour in Saint Paul-lez-Durance, has published issue #6 of the WEST newsletter.

The issue features a report on the 1st international WEST workshop held in Aix-en-Provence on 30 June-2 July and several articles documenting the project’s progress.

WEST stands for (W Environment in Steady-state Tokamak), where "W" is the chemical symbol of tungsten.

Read WEST Newsletter #6 here.