FUSION À LA PROVENÇALE: Progress towards fusion energy at ITER

Established by the signature of the ITER Agreement in November 2006 and sited at St Paul Lez Durance in the highlands of Provence in southern France, the ITER project involves the European Union (including Switzerland), China, India, Japan, the Russian Federation, South Korea and the United States. ITER is a critical step in the development of fusion energy: its role is to confirm the feasibility of exploiting magnetic confinement fusion for the production of energy for peaceful purposes by providing an integrated demonstration of the physics and technology required for a fusion power plant.
At the core of the facility, the ITER ‘tokamak’ will confine a plasma heated initially by particle beams and high frequency radio waves to temperatures in the region of 100-200 million K, at which point the deuterium-tritium fuel will react, producing up 500 MW of fusion power. The primary aim of the project is to sustain such plasmas for periods of several hundred seconds with a fusion power gain, Q (ratio of thermal fusion power to injected heating power), of at least 10, while the ultimate goal is to demonstrate an essentially continuous mode of operation with Q≥5 which could be exploited in a fusion power plant producing electricity. Research activities will extend beyond the study of burning plasmas to the testing of key power plant technology: for example, the performance of tritium breeding modules, which are prototypical of the tritium breeding blankets forming a critical component of the fuel cycle in a fusion reactor, will be tested in ITER. The presentation will introduce the principal characteristics of the tokamak, outline the physics basis for designing a device capable of producing several hundred MW of fusion power and illustrate major elements of the technology being developed for ITER.
David Campbell is Director for Plasma Operation within the ITER Organization. Following a PhD at the University of Sydney, Australia, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik in Garching, Germany, he spent 14 years at JET, the EU’s major fusion facility at Culham in the UK, where he was responsible for various experimental teams, led the project’s plasma control group and, in 1991, was experimental programme leader during the first tokamak experiments using DT fuel. From 1996, he led the EU’s activities in physics and plasma engineering in support of the ITER design and R&D studies as Field Coordinator for Physics Integration at the European Fusion Development Agreement CSU in Garching. He joined the ITER Organization in January 2007, and in 2011 took up the leadership of the Plasma Operation Directorate, which is responsible for managing the project’s physics research and for the co-ordination of the tritium breeding module programme.