Fusion researchers and engineers took a good look at the current state of fusion machines, engineering solutions and materials research at the 26th Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT) held in Porto, Portugal between 27th September and 1st October. The conference drew over 1,000 participants, including more than 200 industrial representatives and an excitingly large number of young researchers. Here we provide a brief review based on a broader conference summary carried out on behalf of the International Organising Committee.

The new ITER Director General, Dr. Osamu Motojima, took the opportunity to introduce his plans for the ITER project to the fusion community. He touched, among other things, on the proposed new departmental and management structures as well as on cost and risk minimisation strategies. Along with Frank Briscoe, Director of Fusion for Energy, Motojima gave a status update and, with the ITER baseline accepted in July 2010, was able to report that arrangements for more than 60 percent of the total procurement value have already been signed. Motoijima’s account of the SOFT conference can be found on ITER newsline: http://www.iter.org/ newsline/148/433 Going into more detail during the ITER physics session, Motojima also called for an aggressive R&D programme with respect to the effectiveness of the invessel coils planned for ITER. One of several highlights of the ITER sessions was the good progress made jn the ITER divertor cassette remote handling system which is under development at the Divertor Test Platform DTP2 in Tampere, Finland.

Status updates of other machines under construction showed that the projects were proceeding well. At Wendelstein 7-X (IPP, Germany), 40 percent of the device assembly is completed and all large components and sub-components are on site. Most of the in-vessel components have been manufactured and the project schedule has been stable for more than three years now. JT60-SA (Naka, Japan) EU Home Team Leader Pietro Barabaschi presented the new project baseline. He expects to complete testing of all magnetic coils by 2016. KSTAR has installed all in-vessel components to enable 20 second shots and aims to achieve 9 megawatts heating and current drive in 2012. At EAST, the integration of plasma facing components is already underway. With actively cooled carbon and tungsten, lithium wall conditioning and a flexible divertor, the programme aims to implement steady state operation in five years.

Only a brief selection of the discussed technological concepts and reported results from various fusion experiments shall be given here: JET researchers gave an update of the ITER-Like-Wall project, the ITER-Like-Antenna, the plasma vertical stabilisation system upgrade (see also this issue). Tore Supra’s upgraded lower hybrid launcher as well as newly developed diagnostics tools and their potential for long pulse operation were also presented. ASDEX Upgrade team showed a video based realtime system designed to protect wall components. On the material sciences side, the development of the Intense Neutron source for IFMIF-EVEDA was reported to be well on track. Characterisations of low activation steels (CLAM) show that the material resembles the creep and fracture properties of RAFM steels. Oxide dispersion strengthened ferritic steels produced by mechanical alloying and pressing were reported to exhibit high strength and promising fracture behaviour.

In two years time, 24th – 28th September 2012, the SOFT will be held in Liège, Belgium.


Thanks to Thomas Klinger, IPP Greifswald, and Bruno Soares Gonçalves, IST, for their input.