Since the official start of operations on 19th February, the COMPASS tokamak at the Institute of Plasma Physics Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (IPP Prague) has had its share of visitors. A group of Members of the European Parliament visited on 26th February. The event, linked to the current Czech Presidency of the EU, was initiated by Vladimir Remek, Member of the European Parliament and Member of the ITRE (Industry, Transport, Research and Energy) Committee of the European Parliament. Remek was the fi rst non US/USSR astronaut and is a signifi cant supporter of fusion. On 23rd March, the EFDA Steering Committee held its meeting in Prague. On 2nd and 3rd April, over 40 experts from Euratom Associations and Russia met for the COMPASS programmatic conference. This ad hoc conference was combined with the annual meeting of the International Board of Advisors of Association Euratom-IPP.CR. The next important group of foreign visitors is expected on 6th May in conjunction with the EC Research Connection conference.

COMPASS is a truly European device. It was previously operated by UKAEA, who, after starting its new tokamak MAST, decided to close it down. Since COMPASS still presented many scientifi c opportunities, UKAEA and Euratom started to look for a new operator. IPP Prague, with its long history in fusion research and its small tokamak CASTOR, managed to gain substantial support from the Czech Government and offered to host COMPASS. Overall, the pledge to operate the COMPASS tokamak led to a request for approximately 13 million euros investments . Most of the funds have come from national resources, with a signifi cant contribution from Euratom . After COMPASS arrival in Prague in October 2007, new power supplies consisting of two fl ywheel generators with 35 MW each were installed.

On 9th December 2008, the COMPASS team successfully achieved the first plasma discharge. During the official start of operation on 19th February 2009, they were able to demonstrate the generation of a plasma current of 100 thousand amperes.

COMPASS has a divertor and a Dshaped vacuum chamber. It is linearly ten times smaller than ITER and has the same geometry. Hence it is useful when conducting similarity studies related to the ITER tokamak and compared to larger European devices such as ASDEX-Upgrade and JET. COMPASS is the only tokamak located in the new EU countries and will eventually become a regional centre for top level research, education and training of new experts.

At some time in the future, IPP Prague will install a neutral beam heating system which will enable ion temperatures of up to 3 keV. A state-of-the-art fully digital control and data acquisition system is being introduced. The young team also makes all key diagnostic systems.

IPP Prague has a long-standing tradition of experimental studies on plasma edge, including edge turbulences (see our article on EFDA Transport Topical Group in this issue). The scientific programme of the COMPASS tokamak will extend this expertise to ELMy H-mode plasmas which is the standard operation scenario planned for ITER. Therefore,  most of the diagnostic systems are designed to achieve high spatial and temporal resolution in the pedestal and scrape-off layer (SOL) regions of the plasma. The intention is also to study suppression of the Edge Localised Modes (ELMs) by resonant magnetic perturbation (RMP) as discovered on the US DIII-D tokamak. The COMPASS tokamak is already equipped with a suitable system of saddle coils for RMP experiments. These topics are very important for the future operation of ITER. IPP Prague researchers expect their scientific programme to enhance the scientific cooperation between the Czech Republic and Europe and to attract a young generation of Czech scientists to fusion research.

Contribution of Jan Mlynar from IPP Prague