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Of Interest

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History

Fusion and The Queen

The 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II spanned a time of incredible change and transformation in the world, and not the least in technology and the sciences. Twice, her official duties led her to visit laboratories that were at the vanguard of fusion research.

The JET tokamak was officially inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II on 9 April 1984, ''In an energy-hungry world,'' she declared, ''the JET may be a step along the road towards a virtually unlimited source of electric power.'' Directly behind the Queen in this photo is French President François Mitterrand. (Click to view larger version...)
The JET tokamak was officially inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II on 9 April 1984, ''In an energy-hungry world,'' she declared, ''the JET may be a step along the road towards a virtually unlimited source of electric power.'' Directly behind the Queen in this photo is French President François Mitterrand.


At the vanguard of fusion research in the late 1950s, Zeta was a ''circular pinch'' machine. But this species proved to belong to an evolutionary dead end, as the tokamak rapidly became the most promising configuration from the late 1960s on. (Click to view larger version...)
At the vanguard of fusion research in the late 1950s, Zeta was a ''circular pinch'' machine. But this species proved to belong to an evolutionary dead end, as the tokamak rapidly became the most promising configuration from the late 1960s on.
Through more than 600 patronages, Queen Elizabeth II supported and encouraged organizations carrying out vital work to improve the human condition, including organizations and professional institutions advancing science and technology. It is no wonder that on two occasions, her path crossed that of fusion science—a nascent field of research in which UK researchers were playing an important part. 

She was only 31 when she was introduced for the first time to fusion research during a visit to the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment in 1957. The Zeta project—a ''circular pinch'' fusion machine that operated at Harwell between 1957 and 1968—was at the time of its construction by far the largest and most powerful fusion device in the world.

In April 1984, Her Majesty officially inaugurated the Joint European Torus (JET) at Culham, pronouncing the following statement to an audience that included French President Francois Mitterand and numerous other dignitaries. "In an energy-hungry world, the JET may be a step along the road towards a virtually unlimited source of electric power. I am delighted to be able to applaud this magnificent technical achievement, the full potential of which is still to be fully revealed."

Videos exist of both events. For the 1957 visit to Harwell and Zeta, click here. For the 1984 opening of JET at Culham, click here.



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