For the first time, the Fusion Power Coordinating Committee has convened outside of International Energy Agency (IEA) headquarters in Paris, gathering at ITER on 24 and 25 January. Since 1975, this IEA body has piloted strategically coordinated fusion research and science. Physicist Jean Jacquinot*, the newly elected Chair, tells us about the Committee's role and its strong links to ITER.
The Fusion Power Coordinating Committee (FPCC) is described as "a forum for the coordination of international science and research with regard to fusion." How does it operate?
Fusion research has long been defined by broad international collaboration ... and the community is expanding. As part of IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes on fusion, members identify issues, meet to discuss possible experimental programs, and then share results.
The objective of the Fusion Power Coordinating Committee is to stimulate and rationalize R&D activities in fusion science and technology with an eye to the long term. The goal is the realization of fusion energy; the method is a step-by-step approach based on coordinated research activities that can be device-specific or cross-cutting. The Committee initiates, or promotes, R&D and cooperative experiments among participating IEA members and partner countries internationally.
Under the FPCC umbrella, for example, experiments are conducted on tokamak devices worldwide and the results are compared. This type of scaling activity is extremely valuable; in fact, it was just this type of coordinated experimentation that contributed to the dimensioning of ITER. We are continuing in this direction to support the ITER program and to plan in parallel for the steps after ITER. We don't just exchange words, but also hardware, people, and scientific results.
Why hold this year's meeting at ITER Headquarters?
ITER is a key device on the road to fusion energy and the Fusion Power Coordinating Committee is marshalling fusion community resources to contribute to its success. Our role is to identify the most urgent ITER needs in terms of scientific or technological issues and see how we can support their resolution. For this, we have a tool—the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes.
Technology Collaboration Programmes operate in different areas of IEA activity. As part of the fusion portfolio there are Programmes in eight areas: tokamak cooperation; the environmental, safety and economic aspects of fusion power; materials, fusion reactor technology; plasma-wall interactions; reversed field pinch devices; spherical tori; and the stellarator-heliotron concept. The FPCC manages these Programmes.
Physicist Jean Jacquinot, now Chair of the Fusion Power Coordinating Committee, has always had a passion for plasmas. When not working toward them during the day, he observes them at night.
The ITER Organization has been a contracting party since 2012 to the Programme on tokamak cooperation (CTP-TCP), with the ITER Science & Operations Department chairing the CTP-TCP Executive Committee from 2016 to this most recent meeting. This group looks in particular at issues related to the stability of the plasma, with experimental programs for example on the prediction and control of disruptions.
How does the work of the Technology Collaboration Programmes overlap with the topical groups of the International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA), which operates under the auspices of ITER?
It's true that the ITPA is also a framework for internationally coordinated fusion research activities, but it focuses on science issues only. There can be overlap between the areas of focus, but we are careful to make sure there is no duplication. You'll find that a good number of top scientists participate in both activities and that there is excellent understanding between the two groups.
There is one other major difference. Participants to the FPCC Technology Collaboration Programmes actually sign formal Implementing Agreements, which establish a contractual relationship between at least two IEA member countries or contracting parties. These agreements are multilateral technology collaboration mechanisms that permit the exchange of material, the exchange of personnel, and joint experimentation.
What were the highlights from the most recent meeting?
The level of cooperation around fusion issues is quite remarkable, and it is widening. It's no exaggeration to say that the world community around fusion is expanding. Originally, participation in IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes was limited to OECD nations, but the enlargement of membership is now encouraged. We have been joined by Costa Rica and Australia, as well as non-IEA countries like China, India and Russia.
The Fusion Power Coordinating Committee met for the first time at ITER Headquarters from 24 to 25 February.
Essentially all significant R&D in the tokamak fusion area is done through international collaboration: we identify issues, meet to discuss how we could respond, and then share our results.
The chairs of most Technology Collaboration Programmes were present at our most recent meeting, as well as a delegation of ITER scientists and other representatives of the members—about 30 people in all. The ITER Director-General also participated actively through a number of presentations, including one in which he identified the top ITER R&D needs. We then made detailed proposals for joint collaboration.
My role as Chair will now be to report to the Committee on Energy Research and Technology (CERT), which oversees technology forecasting and analyses, and the research, development, demonstration and deployment strategies for the IEA. Throughout the year I will keep in close contact with the Technology Collaboration Programme chairs to see how implementation is proceeding.
*Formerly Director of the Joint European Torus (JET) and Director of the French CEA's magnetic fusion research department (DRFC, today IRFM), Jean Jacquinot has been closely associated with ITER for the past quarter century. He is presently a scientific advisor to the French High Commissioner for Atomic Energy and Senior Advisor to the ITER Director-General.