Dodging the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajökull, is more difficult than confining a fusion plasma? This was probably a common question among the reversed field pinch community in mid April this year when volcanic ashes disrupted European air traffic and put the 2010 IEA RFP workshop at risk.

But all went well and late spring saw the 80 participants of the 14th International Reversed Field Pinch (RFP) workshop in Padova, organised as part of the framework of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Implementing Agreement on RFP research. The workshop is held about every eighteen months and brings together scientists interested in RFP physics and its links with the tokamak and stellarator. Four RFP devices were represented: RELAX based at Kyoto Institute of Technology, MST at University of Wisconsin, Madison, EXTRAP T2-R at Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden and RFX-mod at Consorzio RFX, Padova. The event drew a good number of young colleagues, which reflects one of the strengths of the RFP community: With all of its four devices based and run in university environments, they take on a strong role in education and training.

The International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on RFP research was signed in 1990 by the US Department of Energy, EURATOM and the Government of Japan. It is designed to improve the physics and technology base of the RFP concept and to enhance the effectiveness and productivity of research and development efforts related to the RFP concept by strengthening cooperation among the contracting parties. Executive Committee: EURATOM: Piero Martin (Chair) and R. Giannella; Govt. of Japan: A. Komori, S. Masamune; US DOE: N. Podder, J. Sarff

Talks given at the meeting portray very significant progress. Recent results on helical states and regimes in which magnetic fluctuation is strongly suppressed by a poloidal current drive – with beta record values – have reinforced the perspectives of RFPs to support the advancement of fusion. European RFP devices are at the leading edge of research on active control of MHD plasma stability with well-established collaboration with tokamaks on this subject. Recently, a growing partnership with the stellarators on the subject of three-dimensional physics has started up. As a result, the workshop was, for the first time, enriched by talks given by stellarator colleagues.

The RFP family is growing and thus welcomed a delegation from the University of Science and Technology of China led by the Dean of the School of Physical Sciences Prof. Wandong Liu. USTC, one of the top Chinese universities, is planning to construct a new RFP device. It will be located on the USTC campus and will be designed and built in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Science Institute of Plasma Physics, which also realised the EAST tokamak. The new RFP will contribute towards meeting the need for a strong research program on alternate concepts, which is considered essential for the success of the Chinese domestic fusion programme in the ITER era. As Prof. Wandong Liu reminded the audience during his lecture, an ancient Chinese philosophy (770 BC) states: “Let a hundred schools of thought contend”!

Piero Martin, Consorzio RFX

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