you're currently reading the news digest published from 10 May 2021 to 17 May 2021



FEC 2020 | The virtual experience

The international fusion community charts the progress of its craft. There was a time, before the invention of the internet, when conferences were the only opportunity to exchange the latest news, whether good or bad. In the field of fusion energy research, the Fusion Energy Conference (FEC), organized since 1961 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has offered a regular platform for the international research community to present the latest experimental results and to align theoretical approaches. Sixty years after the start of the conference series, and even in the context of high-speed internet that places the world at each scientist's fingertips, the FEC remains the most important gauge for measuring the progress made towards the taming of the atom. Only this time, the boundary conditions had changed. A virus had first forced the IAEA and the local hosts, the ITER Organization and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), to postpone the meeting originally planned in Nice in September 2020. When it became clear that a live meeting would not be feasible, the decision was made to go virtual. But would that format work for the FEC? A conference whose uniqueness and importance is not only grounded in the official presentations but also in the informal talks in the corridors—the very feature, in fact, that had helped to overcome the political divide between the East and the West during the Cold War and that had ultimately laid the basis for today's world-spanning cooperation in fusion research. The answer, in short, is yes—it worked. And it worked so well that the 28th FEC broke all records. During the course of the week, 4,200 registered attendees connected to the platform set up by service provider AOS, two-thirds of whom were observers. The virtual experience had made it possible to open the FEC to a much wider scientific audience, and to students, media and industry. Over six full days, participants followed an impressive line-up of 134 talks and 544 poster presentations, all pre-recorded, charting the most recent progress made. "Over the last years, we have seen fusion advancing quicker than ever before," stated IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in his opening speech. While publicly funded fusion experiments such as ITER, JT-60SA, JET and Wendelstein-7X continued to progress, "research in fusion science and technology is also being conducted more and more in the private sector." The increase in public and privately funded research and development¹, including emerging examples of public-private partnerships, "demonstrate growing trust in fusion as a promising option to provide a sustainable, worldwide supply of energy for centuries to come," concluded Grossi. The focus of attention at this 28th FEC conference, by nature, was on the ITER Project. In addition to the latest progress report on construction and assembly presented by ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot (see related video, here), significant progress has also been made in addressing open R&D issues for the implementation of the ITER Research Plan, according to ITER Science Division Head Alberto Loarte. "Of special importance are the advances in disruption mitigation with shattered pellet injection, ELM (edge localized mode) suppression with 3D magnetic fields, tungsten plasma-facing components under stationary and transient loads, enhanced confinement plasmas for long pulse Q=5 ITER scenarios, and high performance H-mode plasmas with neon seeding."    "We observed a lot of efforts devoted to these topics in many machines around the world," added Sehila M. Gonzalez de Vicente from the IAEA Physics Section. "This is directly connected with the objective of being able to operate in long pulse and finally in steady state." Gonzalez de Vicente also welcomed the growing involvement of the private fusion community and the diversity of approaches presented at FEC. "Spherical tokamaks are becoming a relevant community in fusion, with the Japanese ST research program, NSTX-U in the United States, Globus-M2 in Russia, and ST40 in the UK (built and run by a private company)." The highlight for Elisabeth Surrey, Chairwoman of the 28th Fusion Energy Conference, was "the progress made on ITER construction since the last FEC and how many lessons we can learn from ITER, JT-60SA and WEST as we start to consider designing fusion demonstration power plants." It was also gratifying to see "a greater involvement of industry in fusion and an awareness in the community of the need for representative-scale manufacturing, testing and qualification," Surrey said. "Collaboration between nations, academia and industry will be essential to realizing fusion power and this FEC has shown that we are now achieving this. I hope it grows and strengthens in the future." Two new machines were presented at the conference. HL-2M (Chengdu, China) achieved its first plasma in 2020, while and JT-60SA (Naka, Japan) is now in the integrated commissioning phase. Experimental results for both machines are expected at FEC 2023, scheduled to take place in London. At the start of the conference, representatives of the European Commission, France (as host country), and the United States had confirmed their commitment to the development of fusion energy. European Union Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, highlighted the Union's 2050 climate-neutrality ambitions as a means to confront climate change, and described the bloc's commitment to ITER as a scientific investment that could support climate goals. François Jacq, CEA Chairman and French High Representative for the ITER Project, echoed messages on climate action and fusion's potential role in post-2050 energy mix, describing how the CEA is involved in both magnetic confinement and inertial fusion research and saluting the progress being made at ITER despite COVID-19. Representing the United States, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said fusion warrants far greater support than what has been provided to date, arguing that a breakthrough in fusion research would be a major step in enabling a clean energy future and that "the policy decisions and research investments we make now could well enable those key advances to come much sooner." Plenty of work for scientists and researchers until the FEC meets again. ¹Consult the IAEA's Fusion Device Information System (FusDIS) for a complete database of public and privately funded fusion devices in the world.

FEC 2020 | Celebrating 60 years of Fusion Energy Conferences

"It is the year 1958. For the second time, the United Nations have invited the nuclear community to its headquarters in the Swiss capital of Geneva to discuss the peaceful use of the atom. And it is during this week of September that history is written. After decades of research carried out in top secrecy behind both sides of the Iron Curtain, the status of work on controlled nuclear fusion is disclosed to the world at large." So begins the narration of a commemorative video produced by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with the support of the ITER Organization, on 60 years of the IAEA Fusion Energy Conference. The second Atoms for Peace conference marked the beginning of global cooperation on nuclear fusion, and the starting point of the IAEA's support activities. The IAEA's Fusion Energy Conference (FEC) series was established in 1961, and from then on the international fusion community met in a different city in a different country every three years—the main platform, before the age of internet—for discussing key physics and technology issues and innovative concepts directly relevant to the use of nuclear fusion as a future energy source. The number of papers submitted for the FEC has increased significantly over the years, from 100 to 150 papers in the 1960s to over 700 in the last decade, and the number of participants has doubled from 500 to over 1,000. Today, more than 40 countries and international organizations attend the FEC. The 40-minute film, featuring historic photos and video footage, premiered at the FEC 2020 conference in May 2021. If you had registered for the conference, the video can be viewed in replay here. For others, the video is available on the ITER Organization YouTube channel.

FEC 2020 | Women in Fusion event

Five experts share their experience of entering and evolving in the field of fusion as women, and offer a number of suggestions for reducing the "fusion gender gap.' 'I've been the only woman in the room, so many times,' remarks Gabriella Saibene, Head of Unit of Plasma Engineering and Operations at Fusion for Energy, whose career in fusion spans over 30 years. A common experience for all the panelists. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reports that women account for less than 30% of the world's scientists and researchers—and this percentage is even lower in fields such as nuclear physics and nuclear engineering, including fusion science and technology. During this month's Fusion in Energy Conference (FEC 2020), a side event with a panel of fusion experts offered clear-headed assessment of the challenges that exist and a number of suggestions for encouraging and supporting women in the field. Entering a highly male-dominated field represents a pyramid, which is 'very steep, and very hard to climb,' panelists emphasized. Women do not benefit from the same established networking opportunities, and they face specific challenges related to maternity and work/family life balance that may complicate their presence and visibility at international conferences. And although progress has been made in the past years in attracting a greater number of women to the field of fusion, the rate of progress is slow and much work remains to be done to build a true 'pipeline,' according to the specialists. The panelists agreed on the importance of supporting and mentoring young women training in fusion, not only to encourage them to persist in the investment they are making in their education, but also to ensure that good professional opportunities exist once they finish their courses of study. Creating a mentorship and networking mechanism would be the most effective next step to speeding up the process of attracting highly qualified candidates to this 'exciting and demanding' field. You can watch a replay of the Women in Fusion event on the ITER YouTube channel here. The FEC 2020 Women in Fusion event was organized with the support of Aleksandra Peeva, Associate Communication Officer at the IAEA, and Shira Tabachnikoff, Internal & Stakeholder Relations Manager at ITER. The panelists were: Gabriella Saibene, Head of Unit of Plasma Engineering and Operations at Fusion for Energy (F4E) Min Liao, Magnet Section Leader at the ITER Organization Simona Breidokaitė, PhD student in fusion at the Lithuanian Energy Institute Zabrina Johal, Strategic Development Director at General Atomics Sehila M. Gonzalez de Vicente, Nuclear Fusion Physicist at the IAEA (facilitator)


Technical tour of the ITER worksite (FEC 2020)


Cryopanels completed for the MITICA cryopump

IAEA Bulletin: Fusion Energy, Vol 62-2, May 2021

IAEA's fusion 'Olympics' goes online — and heads for the UK in 2023

Not Just Disturbance: Turbulence Protects Fusion Reactor Walls

Fusion nucléaire : l'assemblage d'Iter se poursuit malgré la crise sanitaire

What is Fusion, and Why Is It So Difficult to Achieve?

EU adopts Euratom Research and Training Programme

Fusion / IAEA's Grossi Calls For International Cooperation On Pilot Plant Criteria

Csúszik a koronavírus miatt a világ első kísérleti fúziós reaktorának építése

Energie de fusion : lancement de la FEC 2020

IAEA Fusion Energy Conference attracts record participation

La Conférence FEC2020 bat son plein

International Fusion Energy Gathering Opens

Hungary's secret to growing top fusion talent

IAEA 핵융합에너지 학회서 한국 인공태양 KSTAR 연구 성과 발표


Nuclear Fusion / Pandemic Could Lead To Iter Delays And Cost Overruns

Fusion Reactor Waylaid by Latest Waves of Covid Pandemic

El ITER espera realizar pruebas de fusión en 2035 pese al retraso por la covid