Fusion research in the Czech Republic: endings and beginnings

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Source: IPP.CR

The COMPASS tokamak ends: the new era of fusion research begins in the Czech Republic

On Friday, August 20, 2021 the last experiment took place at the COMPASS tokamak. In 12 years of operation, more than 21,000 high-temperature plasma discharges have been conducted on it.

In the context of the Czech Republic, this has been for a long time the largest scientific infrastructure, significantly contributing not only to the development of a clean energy source represented by thermonuclear reactors, but also serving as a platform for educating a new generation of scientists. In its place, a completely new tokamak will be built in the next years - the COMPASS Upgrade with world-unique parameters aimed at solving several key challenges associated with building a prototype fusion power plant.

Nuclear fusion is a promising path to a low-emission and clean source of energy. Worldwide research in the sector will culminate in 2025, when the international ITER tokamak will be commissioned in southern France – the first experimental facility in which hot plasma should produce more energy than is delivered for its running. The next step will be to build a prototype DEMO fusion plant.

Research in nuclear fusion has been going on in the Czech Republic since the 1970s. In 2005, the installation of the COMPASS tokamak began with the main objective of scientific and technical support for the implementation of the largest international project - the ITER tokamak. COMPASS was successfully commissioned in 2009 and the scientific results obtained in 12 years of operation significantly exceeded initial expectations and brought the Czech scientific team among the European top teams.

The experiments on the COMPASS tokamak had a major impact on the design of the ITER tokamak. For example, owing to a series of detailed measurements of the thermal flow distribution on the components of the so-called first wall of the COMPASS tokamak, the shape of these components has been optimised for ITER, which in turn will allow the desired discharge parameters to be achieved. An important research topic was also the study of so-called error magnetic fields, which are created as a result of inaccuracies in the installation of huge superconducting tokamak coils. “ Tokamak COMPASS was the only one in the world equipped with a large set of additional coils that allowed these error fields to be mimicked. As a result of the experimental results obtained, it was not only possible to determine the minimum accuracy of the installation of the magnetic coils of the ITER tokamak, but it was also possible to successfully develop procedures to compensate for these disturbance fields additionally", highlightone of the most important results of the tokamak Director of the Institute of Dr. RNDr. Radomír Pánek.

In addition to cutting-edge research, the COMPASS tokamak served as a training facility for young fusion scientists and scientists. More than 300 students and students from 30 different countries around the world participated in regularly organised summer and winter schools. COMPASS has thus made a significant contribution to train the new generation that will run the ITER and DEMO tokamaks.

The entire COMPASS tokamak infrastructure has undergone continuous upgrading during its operation. The last of these was the installation of a new 1 MW plasma heating system, which allowed the exploration of new operating modes promising for future power plants. At the same time, intensive work is already underway to construct a new COMPASS Upgrade device, which will occupy the same experimental hall and which will be the only one in the world capable of confining the plasma using extremely high magnetic fields (up to 5 Teslas), similar to the future largest tokamaks ITER and DEMO. The COMPASS Upgrade will be able to generate conditions similar to those reached within these future facilities and thereby make a significant contribution to addressing the key challenges associated with the design and operation of future fusion power plants.

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhHsOwLdCu4&t=36s – inside the tokamak, nuclear fusion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDfJhaQ7JIc – simulation of potentially dangerous discharges

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDARj0ZxWDY – work inside the chamber

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGfg0A5EsSE– visualization of the new COMPASS Upgrade tokamak

This story was originally published by our Czech Consortium Member IPP.CR, the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

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