Scientists working at the recently-built facility at the ASIPP, Institute of Plasma Physics, in Hefei, China, for the jacketing of superconducting cable for ITER. Photo: Peter Ginter
Over the past 50 years, immense progress has been made in the fields of plasma science and fusion technology. Still, harnessing fusion power and delivering it for industrial applications remains one of the greatest challenges of our time.
One of the tasks awaiting ITER is to explore fully the properties of super hot plasmas—the environment in which the fusion reaction will occur—and their behaviour during the long pulses of fusion power the ITER machine will enable.
The challenge will be very great. ITER's plasma pulses will be of a much longer duration than those achieved in other devices, creating intense material stress. ITER will be used to test and validate advanced materials and key technologies for the industrial fusion power plants of the future.
All through fusion history, challenges which appeared insurmountable have been overcome. Developments in fusion science have been constant and impressive. Gains in temperature and confinement time—two of the main parameters for fusion—have been recorded steadily.
ITER, which incorporates the experience of all previous fusion machines, will take fusion to the point where industrial applications can be considered for providing mankind with a cleaner, safer, and unlimited source of energy.