you're currently reading the news digest published from 16 Oct 2023 to 23 Oct 2023



29th FEC in London | At a "crucial moment" in fusion development

The regular chimes of Big Ben sound in the background; the British Parliament is just around the corner. For one week in October London's Westminster City—the bustling political power centre of the United Kingdom—provided the backdrop for a different kind of power, fusion energy, as the 29th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference gathered fusion enthusiasts from all over the world at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. 'Fusion is making progress ... all around the world,' said Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the opening of the 29th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference on 16 October 2023. 'We are at a crucial moment in the development of the field and there are new stakeholders who want to be—and need to be—part of the dialogue.' 'This next leg of the fusion energy journey will get us from experiment to demonstration to commercial fusion energy production,' he said as he announced the creation of a new initiative to enhance fusion energy collaboration—the World Fusion Energy Group. The Director General also introduced the IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023, the first issue of a publication that he is confident will become the 'global reference' for authoritative information on fusion energy. The first-time achievement of a self-heating plasma was the major announcement that kicked off the conference program. Costanza Maggi, a Fellow of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency and former JET Task Force Leader, recounted that one of the most noticeable results of JET's 2021/22 campaign with deuterium and tritium fuel was the first direct observation of a fusion plasma keeping itself hot through alpha heating—where high-energy helium ions (alpha particles) coming out of the fusion reaction transfer their heat to the surrounding fuel mix to keep the fusion process going. "Studying this process under realistic conditions is crucial to developing fusion power plants.' Later in the same session, ITER Director-General Pietro Barabaschi gave an update on ITER and the issues, such as the repair of critical components, that the project is facing. 'Despite these challenges,' he said, 'we are on a good track with ITER. We just have to be conscious about the problems we have and not put things under the carpet. This is a change of culture in the ITER Project.' Barabaschi added that he would propose a new project baseline to the ITER Council, the project's governing body, in 2024. He also also raised an issue that was echoed throughout the conference: the need for ensuring knowledge management and the availability of a skilled workforce for a future fusion economy. For an entire week, approximately 1,000 participants from over 80 countries—fusion scientists, engineers, policy makers, regulators and entrepreneurs—gathered in London to review recent developments and chart the way to a future with fusion energy. Another 1,600 participants joined online. The conference was organized around 23 technical sessions with over 100 talks and more than 800 poster presentations. Participants at the conference came from many different fusion initiatives in the world, both public and private, and the range of themes in the scientific sessions—magnetic confinement, inertial fusion, materials science, machine designs, plasma physics and more—reflected this diversity. In several side events, important societal issues were discussed in relation to fusion, such as energy justice, public engagement and pathways to fusion electricity. One of these side events was organized by Women in Fusion (WiF). At 'Creating an Inclusive Fusion Workforce,' it was clear that the topic of improving gender equity in fusion resonated with many of the FEC attendees, as there were more than 100 participants from 13 countries. Women in Fusion, launched in July 2022, already has more than 500 members and has launched a mentoring program. What does it take to make a fusion machine? In a side session on ITER technology, representatives of ITER Domestic Agencies shared their insights and lessons learned from manufacturing first-of-a-kind components for ITER. Among the main challenges, presenters mentioned technical issues such as the tight tolerances during manufacturing, and also logistical and organizational questions related to global transport and contract management. The most important lesson shared was that effective international collaboration is a critical precondition in order to succeed with a project of this magnitude. Representatives of public and private fusion initiatives looked at 'Pathways to Fusion.' They identified a range of issues that need to be addressed to make fusion energy a reality, including collaboration between public and private fusion projects, training the future work force for fusion energy, involving communities—locally and globally—to ensure energy justice, making fusion economically viable, engaging with existing energy companies, and finally addressing the licensing and safety of fusion energy. As the conference came to a close, the venue of the next conference was revealed: the 30th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference will take place in the ancient city of Xi'an, China. Describing Xi'an as the city of light and eternity, Min Xu from the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in China said it was 'one of the most historic cities in China, where history resonates in every corner.' History will meet the future when the pre-eminent conference on fusion energy comes to the historic setting of Xi'an in 2025.

Outreach | Making fusion fun

Bringing ITER out into the community was the job of 14 volunteers in October, as the ITER Organization participated two weekends in a row in France's annual Festival of Science (Fête de la Science). Kneeling at a table at children's height for hours on end is not for everyone, but for ITER's group of seasoned Fête de la Science volunteers it's just part of the job. Every October, in municipalities all around France, science is celebrated in public gardens, city halls, and community spaces—anywhere in fact that can receive thousands of interested members of the public. And scientific organizations of all stripes answer the call, setting up welcoming stands and thinking hard about the best way to share their domain of scientific activity in a way that is both understandable and fun. For the ITER displays, which were set up in the local communities of Villeneuve-Loubet, Marseille and Manosque, this meant glowing plasma sticks, bags of marshmallows, and magnets for the youngest visitors ... and videos and documentation for the adults. There was also plenty of conversation, as the volunteers shared their specific area of expertise and answered questions about the project, the science and the engineering. The children came away with a better understanding of scientific phenomena such as vacuum and magnetism, while the adults learned a little bit more about the world-spanning scientific collaboration for fusion that is just a few kilometres from their front doors.  

On site | A United Nations plenary in the ITER amphitheatre

Speaking and acting as seasoned diplomats and referring to one another as 'the honourable representative' of the country they chose to represent, one hundred French high-school students took the stage in the ITER amphitheatre last week to enact a United Nations plenary session. 'Model UN' groups have been a staple of American colleges and high schools for more than half a century but have only recently developed in a few secondary schools in France. For the Model UN group of Lycée La Nativité, a private school in nearby Aix-en-Provence, ITER was the obvious choice. 'The students are quite admirative of the project,' explains Anne Moullec, the English teacher who started the Model UN group. 'Discussing the session's theme—Nuclear Energy and the Energy Challenge—in this environment added a very realistic dimension to the experience.' There are of course some theatrics when smartly dressed 16-year-olds perform as ambassadors to the UN. But there is a purpose here: 'It is important that our students get acquainted with the codes and manners of international civil servants, and remain courteous even when disagreeing or opposing.' In the ITER amphitheatre last week, UN protocols and procedures were strictly observed, with the exception of one: students were required to deliver their addresses in English, the command of which is 'indispensable in an international environment.'


A new source for updates on fusion energy

The IAEA's World Fusion Outlook aims to be the global reference for authoritative information and updates on fusion energy. The IAEA has been promoting fusion energy research and development for over 60 years, and it continues to strongly support R&D and future deployment by bringing the fusion community together to create solutions for both scientific and technological challenges. This first issue of the publication outlines achievements in fusion energy; its safety, security, safeguards, nuclear law and liability challenges; as well as the role of the IAEA. Download the full report from the IAEA website here. The introduction to the IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023 is available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish here (scroll down the page).


California recognises fusion energy as distinct from nuclear fission

Brabantse unieke testfaciliteit naar resistente materialen voor kernreactor officieel van start

Unique test facility into resistant materials for nuclear reactor officially launched

Fusion's friends on the Hill

ITER director general promises 'realistic' project timeline

Closer than ever to making fusion energy generation a reality — IAEA

Nuclear Fusion / UK Wants To Collaborate More Closely With Europe, Says Minister (paywall)

ムーンショット型研究開発の目標に核融合追加へ 文科省検討会

Investigadores portugueses anunciam resultados inéditos na área da fusão nuclear

UK / Government Announces £650 Million In Funding For Nuclear Fusion

Experiments end at JET after 40 years

Un centenar de científicos de 17 países analiza los diferentes usos del acelerador

스페인과 핵융합 공학 연구 위한 협력 확대

核聚变中心率团赴法出席ITER理事会 管理咨询委员会第三十六次会议

New Fusion Futures Programme gets £650m injection

Three projects to accelerate fusion energy development awarded to ORNL

IAEA's 29th Fusion Energy Conference attracts 2000 participants

New IAEA Initiative to Enhance Fusion Energy Collaboration

IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023 (Introduction in French: Présentation des Perspectives de l'AIEA sur la fusion dans le monde 2023)

IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023 (Introduction in Spanish: La energía de fusión: presente y futuro)

IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023 (Introduction in Russian: МИРОВОЙ ПРОГНОЗ МАГАТЭ ПО ТЕРМОЯДЕРНОМУ СИНТЕЗУ — 2023)

IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023 (Introduction in Chinese: 介 绍 国际原子能机构 2023 年 世界聚变展望 聚变能:过去和未来)

IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023 (Introduction in Arabic: الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية تقدم: اآلفاق العاملية يف ميدان االندماج لعام)

IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023

Tungsten nanoparticles produced by tokamak plasmas

Nuclear fusion: New initiatives outlined at IAEA's FEC 2023 conference

UK updates fusion energy strategy with £650m package

Nya milstolpar för fusionskraft: "Det visar att vi är på rätt väg"

Nuclear Fusion / 'Formidable' Challenges Remain And Increased Private Funding And State Support Needed (paywall)

Thousands of new training places created as part of £650 million fusion package

Towards fusion energy: the UK fusion strategy

Harnessing the Sun: The ITER Project's Battle Against Time, Costs, and Global Disruptions

World's Biggest Fusion-Energy Project Searches for Lost Memory