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  • Just before entering the narrow Canal de Caronte, which connects the Mediterranean to the inland sea Étang de Berre, the barge passes the old Fort de Bouc lighthouse.

    Test convoy takes to the sea

    Back in September 2013, an 800-ton convoy had tested the physical resistance of the ITER Itinerary—a stretch of 104 kilometres of road between the Mediterranean Sea and the ITER site that has been specially modified for the transport of ITER's most exceptional components (see ITER Mag #1, December 2013). [...]

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  • From left to right: Mark Oliphant (1901-2000); Lyman Spitzer (1914-1997); Arthur Eddington (1882-1944); Hans Bethe (1906-2005); and Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937).

    Who "invented" fusion?

    The droves of visitors who come to see the ITER site every yearoften ask: "Who discovered (or invented) fusion?" [...]

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  • Four thousand tons of reinforcement will form the "skeleton" of the basemat that will support the Tokamak Complex. Steel density is at its highest in the central area (one fourth of the total rebar).

    Spider webs of steel

    In the middle of the Tokamak Complex Seismic Pit a vast circle is now visible, part of the complex reinforcement work underway for the B2 foundation slab. Once in place, 16 levels of 40-millimetre-thick rebar will support the weight of the machine. [...]

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  • DEMO is the machine that will bring fusion energy research to the threshold of a prototype fusion reactor. After ITER—the machine that will demonstrate the technological and scientific feasibility of fusion energy—DEMO will open the way to its industrial and commercial exploitation.

    ITER ... and then what?

    In the world of fusion research, experimental programs aren't carried out consecutively ... they overlap. Physicists were already trying to imagine ITER (under the name of INTOR) when construction of the European JET tokamak was just getting underway in the early 1980s; now, work is underway on the conception of the next-stage machine, DEMO, while the ITER installation is still years from finalization. [...]

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Mag Archives

When fusion was (almost) there

Dedicated to ''Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,'' the 1964 New York World's Fair opened on 22 April in Flushing Meadows. One of its most spectacular attractions was General Electric's Progressland where the Fusion Demonstration was performed non-stop. (Click to view larger version...)
Dedicated to ''Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,'' the 1964 New York World's Fair opened on 22 April in Flushing Meadows. One of its most spectacular attractions was General Electric's Progressland where the Fusion Demonstration was performed non-stop.
Fifty years ago, in 1964, human beings believed in progress. Manned space capsules were routinely sent into space, a revolutionary supersonic commercial airliner was nearing the prototype stage, the computer mouse had just been invented, and the official decision had been taken to build a cross-Channel tunnel.

Nothing epitomized this optimistic and conquering mood more than the 1964 New York World's Fair. From 22 April 1964 to 17 October 1965, the World's Fair drew over 51 million visitors—more than the entire population of France at the time.

The huge exhibition showcased and exalted the promises of mid-twentieth century technologies. In General Electric's Progressland pavilion the public pressed around a rather strange machine—a quartz tube surrounded by magnets that gave off a vivid flash and a loud report at regular intervals: the Nuclear Fusion Demonstration.

Here's how it was described in the New York World's Fair official guide: "In the first demonstration of controlled thermonuclear fusion to be witnessed by a large general audience, a magnetic field squeezes a plasma of deuterium gas for a few millionths of a second at a temperature of 20 million degrees Fahrenheit. There is a vivid flash and a loud report as atoms collide, creating free energy (evidenced on instruments)."

''After a countdown, brilliant flashes of light and a loud popping crack would signify that GE was successful in tapping into the nuclear science of sun building,'' writes a Disney historian, recalling the magic of the Fusion Demonstration experience. (Click to view larger version...)
''After a countdown, brilliant flashes of light and a loud popping crack would signify that GE was successful in tapping into the nuclear science of sun building,'' writes a Disney historian, recalling the magic of the Fusion Demonstration experience.
The Fusion Demonstration left many visitors convinced that fusion-generated electricity was at hand, which of course did not reflect the actual state of fusion research. As General Electric reviewed its corporate involvement in fusion one year later, it concluded that "the likelihood of an economically successful fusion electricity station being developed in the foreseeable future is small."

Fifty years have passed. Since Progressland's quartz tube and the confinement of a 20-million-degree plasma for a few millionths of a second, progress has been remarkable. Beyond ITER, beyond DEMO (see the article on page 2), the "economically successful fusion electricity station" is programmed for the middle of the century. A prospect that is hardly more distant than the "foreseeable future" of 1965.