Fusion research has increased key fusion plasma performance parameters by a factor of 10,000 over 50 years; research is now less than a factor of 10 away from producing the core of a fusion power plant.
Achievements like these have led fusion science to an exciting threshold: the long sought-after plasma
point (Q=1). Breakeven describes the moment when plasmas in a fusion device release at least as much energy as is required to heat them. Plasma energy breakeven has never been achieved: the current record for energy release is held by JET, which succeeded in generating 16 MW of fusion power, for 24 MW of power used to heat the plasma (a Q ratio of 0.67). Scientists have now designed the next-step device—ITER—as a Q ≥ 10 device (producing 500 MW of fusion power for 50 MW consumed by the heating systems). ITER will begin writing the chapter on 21st century fusion. But it will not be striving alone in its quest—fusion machines all over the world have re-oriented their scientific programs or modified their technical characteristics to act either partially or totally in support of ITER operation. These machines are conducting R&D on advanced modes of plasma operation, plasma-wall interactions, materials testing, and optimum power extraction methods, contributing to the success of ITER and the design of the next-phase device. (Find these devices and laboratories in our