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An unparalleled opportunity

David Campbell, Asst. DDG, ITER FST Dept.

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ITER's physics R&D program benefits from contributions made by scientists and engineers across the fusion communities in the ITER Member States. During the last quarter of 2008, the development of a comprehensive physics work program covering the period 2009-2011 provided a focus for discussions between the Department of Fusion Science & Technology (FST) and senior physics representatives from the Domestic Agencies and their supporting communities. Through these discussions we have defined a program of design and R&D studies which is aimed at meeting the needs of the project over the next three years as it completes the definition of the majority of the Procurement Arrangements, and also looks ahead to some of the major issues which we will have to deal with in implementing a productive scientific program during ITER operation.

The program that we have assembled encompasses design and R&D tasks which we will implement in cooperation with the Domestic Agencies, R&D studies which will be carried out in collaboration with the International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA), a new program to develop an integrated modelling capability for burning plasmas within the ITER framework, and the further development of the ITER Research Plan. Work on the last activity will be carried out by a collaboration of experts nominated by the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies, while an Integrated Modelling Expert Group (IMEG) has been established through the ITER Organization-Domestic Agency Coordination Meeting in order to identify the priorities for the development of the integrated modelling capability.

The ITPA Topical Groups have also been active in recent months in developing their responses to the research needs identified in the Physics Work Program. Led by the ITPA Chair, Ron Stambaugh, the Groups have drawn up programs to address key ITER physics R&D challenges. Proposals for joint experiments making use of the world's major tokamak facilities to investigate high priority issues in ITER physics are an important aspect of the Topical Groups' research activities. To review the Groups' R&D programs and to consider the proposals for joint experiments, a joint meeting of the ITPA Coordinating Committee (CC) and the IEA Tokamak Implementing Agreements (IA) was held at Cambridge, Massachusetts in December 2008.

The enthusiasm with which the international fusion community responds to ITER's needs is encouraging.

This meeting was the seventh in the series and involved members of the ITPA Committee and the Topical Groups, program leaders from the tokamaks participating in the IEA Agreements from all of the ITER Members, as well as representatives of the Domestic Agencies and the ITER Organization's Physics Department. Its aim is to provide a mechanism for incorporating the joint experiments proposed by the ITPA into the annual experimental planning processes for the tokamak facilities. During the meeting which was hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Fusion Center and organized under the leadership of MIT's Earl Marmar, participants listened to a presentation on ITER's high priority physics research needs and discussed the reports presented by the Topical Groups' Chairs and Co-Chairs reviewing their R&D programs and joint experiment proposals. The tokamak program leaders provided valuable feedback on the proposals and were able to indicate the areas where they expected their facilities to contribute in the coming year.

While there are still some challenging questions to be resolved in ITER physics, the enthusiasm with which the international fusion community has responded to ITER's needs is an encouraging sign for the future. Whether in discussions with individual researchers or in talks with program leaders representing world-class facilities, the message that the ITER project is an unparalleled opportunity for the fusion program and provides motivation for some exciting physics research in existing tokamaks generates an immediate resonance.

December's meeting was a further illustration of the breadth of the collaboration working on some of the big questions in ITER physics and of the depth of the expertise in the fusion community which we can draw on.

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