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International Atomic Energy Agency holds conference on fusion roadmap

Seventy participants from 16 countries and international groups gathered at the University of California at Los Angeles under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in mid-October to formulate the early stages of a roadmap for the worldwide magnetic fusion program. This “IAEA DEMO Programme Workshop,” the first in an annual series inaugurated this year by the IAEA, focused on key issues for demonstrating electricity generation from fusion on an industrial scale, and identified opportunities for international collaboration.

Such demonstration projects are collectively known as DEMO. “Many countries are developing their own plans for DEMO,” said Hutch Neilson, who directs advanced projects at PPPL and chaired the four-day workshop. “But while the plans may vary from nation to nation, resolving DEMO scientific and technical issues and facility requirements is of common interest, and there are substantial benefits to sharing knowledge.”

All parties to the workshop foresaw the need to build a facility that would mark the final step before construction of a commercial fusion power station. Some envisioned at least one intermediate fusion facility between ITER, the international project that is being built in Cadarache, France, and the final step. These intermediate devicess could test processes ranging from trying out components in a fusion environment to breeding tritium to sustain fusion reactions.

Also discussed at the workshop were plans for facilities to develop materials that can stand up to long-term exposure to neutrons, the main product of fusion reactions and the source of the heat that will be used to generate electricity.

All such steps toward a DEMO remain tentative at present. “The pace at which various plans will go forward will become clearer over the next few years as plans mature and DEMO initiatives are considered by governments,” Neilson said. “Modes of international collaboration will become clearer as well.”

Workshop participants agreed to reconvene at IAEA headquarters in Vienna for the next annual meeting to be held in November or December, 2013. Proposed topics for the session include computer codes for designing fusion facilities; simulated scenarios for controlling plasma; and a continuation of the first workshop’s discussion of methods for dealing with the heat that strikes the inner walls of fusion facilities.

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

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