Posted on: 13th July 2016
The Joint European Torus, JET, has been a European experiment ever since it started operation in the 1980s. Up until now Euratom has facilitated the manifold collaborations amongst European fusion labs and the ITER Organization.
Between 13 and 15 July 2016, EUROfusion is inviting some 50 representatives from 27 research Centres to visit the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), home to JET, in order to brainstorm on how to make best use of JET for the proof-of-principle device ITER. The usual list of European invitees was extended to include representatives from the ITER Organization and potential new partners from beyond European borders.*
What has already been coined as ‘JET internationalisation’ covers a number of aspects in support of ITER: saving ITER time, using the device as a test rig and training ground for ITER and, by doing so, helping the project to start off with the right foot in 2025.
JET’s assets speak for themselves: the machine is currently the largest operating tokamak in the world and also the only one that is capable of carrying out experiments using deuterium-tritium (DT) fuel. In addition, JET is equipped with an ITER-like plasma facing wall, tungsten divertor and beryllium wall, tritium and beryllium handling facilities, and highly proficient remote-handling systems.
JET is unique not only because of the above-mentioned features but also because of its history. JET has been in operation since the 1980s and the research teams working at JET have always been founded on international collaboration. Xavier Litaudon, Head of EUROfusion’s ITER Physics Department says ‘ITER can benefit from JET’s vast experience and draw valuable lessons from a fully internationalised JET programme. JET will continue to produce results which help to optimise ITER operation.’
Doing so will inevitably lead to an extension of JET beyond 2018. A plan that gained support in the first Monitoring Report of Horizon 2020, as published in January this year. The Independent panel underlined the role of JET in the future of fusion research and stated that “high priority should be given to keeping JET operating until the design for ITER has been finalised and ITER has been successfully commissioned.”
An extension of JET under international regime, for example, under the auspices of ITER, could provide the world fusion community with access to DT plasmas in just a few years from now. In a sense, JET cannot only be treated as a site for preparatory experiments for ITER, but it must be seen as the centre stage for ITER’s dress-rehearsal.
Does JET internationalisation look equally attractive from an ITER perspective? David Campbell, Director of the ITER Science and Operations Department who is amongst those invited to participate in the workshop confirms the significance of the EUROfusion proposal before he continues: ‘Switching on a major new facility like ITER is an experiment in itself. Careful preparatory experiments in JET and other fusion facilities will help us to fine-tune our experiments, provide important training opportunities for operations staff and help our international research teams cooperate smoothly.’
Xavier Litaudon’s aim for the workshop is clearly defined: “While we do not expect concrete commitments from potential new partners, we want to understand in depth which schemes and experiments will help ITER to achieve its milestones.’
That is to demonstrate that fusion energy is a viable energy source, that produces CO2-free electricity.
The current contract to operate JET will expire by the end of 2018. EUROfusion has proposed to extend the lifetime of JET in two different scenarios, either until 2020 for DT experiments only or until 2025. The latter is known as JET internationalisation. Both schedules are being discussed and are pending approval by the stakeholders.
ITER will be largest fusion device currently being built in France. It is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy.
The ITER Organization has been proposing a schedule for the ITER Project which has been endorsed by the seven ITER members in Jnue. It sets the date of First Plasma at December 2025.
Download the first Monitoring Report of Horizon 2020: https://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/index_en.cfm