A tokamak project from the 1970s was revived two weeks ago as Italy and Russia signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" to cooperate in the construction of Ignitor. The Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment (ENEA) will collaborate with the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow to finalize plans for the machine, which will be built at the Triniti site at Troitsk near Moscow.
Englen Azizov, the director of the Institute of Tokamak Physics at Triniti (left), here with colleague Oleg Filatov, director of the Efremov Institute in Saint Petersburg, says Triniti has the experience and the tools to host Ignitor.
Will it work? The project has generated much scepticism over the past 30 years. For many scientists in the fusion community Ignitor will be at best "an interesting insight into a burning plasma". Many others question the feasibility of the whole project.
A compact high-field tokamak — its radius is only 1.3 metres compared to ITER's 6.2 metres — Ignitor aims at achieving plasma ignition, a state in which the energy produced by the fusion reactions is sufficient to keep the plasma ''burning'' without external heating.