Posted on: 3rd July 2008

picture of Francesco Romanelli

Associate Leader Francesco Romanelli praised more than 130 former scientists, engineers and JET staff at the 25th anniversary of the first plasma.

The celebration on that sunny day brought together over 130 people with diverse backgrounds and ages: engineers, physicists, students, postgraduates, retired staff, and three of the five directors who all made Europe’s largest Fusion Device become such a successful world-class experiment. Hans-Otto Wüster, JET’s very first director, was represented by his widow Gisela.

After lunch, former Director Paul-Henri Rebut reflected on the design and realization of the machine which, in his own words, were founded on two core principles: “simplicity and robustness”. These features made JET, right from the start, flexible and able to develop its hardware with the changing requirements of the European fusion community. The 25th June 1983 was an exciting day for all parties concerned. It became even more exciting due to the fact that the press were also eyeing the scene: journalists were allowed to experience the very first steps in the life of the experiment.

picture of Francesco Romanelli

Francesco Romanelli cut the commemorative cake supported by the former directors. Left to Right: Jérôme Paméla, Martin Keilhacker, Gisela Wüster (widow of first director Hans Otto Wüster), Francesco Romanelli and Paul-Henri Rebut.

This personal talk enlightened many on that day. Afterwards, the current director, Francesco Romanelli, in his lively talk focused on the future of JET and presented the plan for the machine exploitation. He commended the intellectual diversity of the cosmopolitan workforce and mentioned the challenges to which scientists and engineers never run out of inspired solutions.

A look back

On June 25 1983 the plasma current reached 16 kiloamps. Plasma current characterises the confinement properties of the machine. It was a big success, and scientists and engineers went on to achieve one mega-amp only a few months later. The preceding five years of frantic construction had made it possible for the JET Team to start, on that day full of suspense and expectation, the process which opened the way for a string of successes and achievements. Two examples illustrate the milestones set by JET in International Fusion Research – two outstanding successes were reached: In 1991 the first ever experiment in a Tokamak took place using the fuel mixture (deuterium-tritium) to be used in a future full-scale fusion reactor, where 2 megawatts of fusion power were produced. Six years later the world record in fusion power production was achieved when the huge power of 16 megawatts was attained.

A look forward

In 2005 the decision was made to build ITER, the next step experimental reactor. The mission of ITER is to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power production. This includes the production of 500 megawatts with a power amplification factor of 10. JET is the physics model for ITER and, without its results, ITER would not have been possible. Today, JET continues to play a major role in supporting ITER’s construction and operation, as clearly defined within the “JET Programme in support of ITER”. Since 2006 JET has operated with ITER-like plasma shapes. In the near future experiments are foreseen with the same combination of materials for plasma-facing components as in ITER. This should deliver answers to urgent plasma-surface interaction questions, such as tritium retention, and provide operational experience in steady and transient conditions with ITER wall materials.