On Monday, 4 December 2006, the Australian House Standing Committee of the Australian Parliament on Industry and Resources tabled its report on the Parliamentary Inquiry into developing the nation´s non-fossil fuel energy industry. “Finally, the Committee is persuaded of the immense potential benefit that fusion energy represents for the world and, specifically, the potential benefi ts for Australian science and industry from involvement in the ITER project”, it says in the report. “The Committee believes that involvement in this experimentation is simply too important for the nation to miss, even if the introduction of fusion power is indeed many decades off. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that Australia secure formal involvement in the ITER project and seek to better coordinate its research for fusion energy across the various fields and disciplines in Australia”.

David Campbell

EFDA spoke to David Campbell, Australia born ITER Assistant Deputy Director General, about the country´s fusion programme.

As someone who grew up in Australia, could you please explain the history of fusion research Down Under?

“The origins of the fusion programme in Australia lie in the work carried out at Sydney University and the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra in the 1960s. The ANU then had one of the fi rst tokamaks outside of the Soviet Union, the LT device. During the 1970s and 1980s an extensive programme developed, involving a range of institutions across the country. However, in recent decades, to a significant extent due to limitations in funding, much of the activity has evolved towards low temperature plasma physics with the emphasis on materials processing, surface preparation etc. The focus of the Australian fusion activity is now the H-1 Heliac (a type of stellarator), situated at the National Plasma Fusion Research Facility at the ANU. Overall, Australia retains world-class expertise in stellarator physics, plasma diagnostics, fusion theory, plasmasurface interactions, materials research and in project management.

So there is a focus on stellarator physics?

“In the early 1980s it became clear that with the construction of large facilities such as JET, the tokamak programme was taking in a direction in which Australia would be unable to remain competitive due to fi nancial constraints. At the ANU it was therefore decided to explore alternative magnetic confi gurations which could open up new aspects of fusion research at modest cost. And the heliac variant of the stellarator looked to offer interesting possibilities.

Why is Australia not an ITER partner?

“I think that there are two major reasons for this. Firstly there is the “entry fee” for prospective members. It corresponds to about 50 Million Euro per year, or about $A 80 Million, which is substantially greater than the current annual budget for all plasma physics research in Australia. So full membership was never a realistic option.

“It´s too important for the nation to miss”

In addition, Australia is blessed with vast natural resources. So the recent urgency to response to the need for alternative sources of energy and the threat of global warning has not generated the same political resonance in Australia as in many of the ITER members. Nevertheless, concern about climate change has been growing in Australia and this has been a key driver of the Australian Prime Minister’s Uranium, Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review. Although this review focuses principally on fi ssion, it recognizes ITER and Generation IV as next step nuclear technologies.

Which, would you say, are the main issues for a possible Australian involvement in ITER?

“Firstly, the Australian research community, industry and government have to agree on what level of involvement would be appropriate to an economy of Australia’s size. Secondly, they have to agree on the sort of hardware or activities Australia would like to contribute to ITER and the level of resources that is appropriate. Thirdly, they need to establish an internal framework that would support an involvement in ITER. Although the H-1 experiment has National Facility status, Australia does not at present have an integrated fusion programme: in Europe the fusion programme is integrated under Euratom, in the US it is integrated under the DoE, and so on. The Australian research community is spread across a range of institutions, with a variety of funding mechanisms. In order to support involvement in a major international project such as ITER, a new framework would have to be established that tied the researchers in these institutions together in a suitable management structure and that provided a reliable source of funding to support the sort of long term commitment inherent in the ITER project. I understand that the Australian fusion community is embarking on a strategic planning process for an ITER engagement, which aims to address these issues. Finally, at an international level, the formal basis for the “third party” agreements foreseen within ITER Joint Implementing Agreement will need to be established and the Australian community will need to be satisfi ed that such an agreement adequately refl ects their ambitions for their involvement in ITER.

What is the position of the Australian government on this issue?

“The Australian government is listening to the arguments, but is, naturally, sceptical: it recognizes that ITER is one of the world’s major science and technology research projects, but it needs to be convinced of the benefi ts to Australia of becoming directly involved. Given the political considerations which I outlined previously, it’s clear that there isn’t the same level of political perception of ITER as a major energy R&D project as there is in the ITER members. And there is competition for resources: Australia is now essentially in a head-to-head competition with South Africa for the right to host the Square Kilometre Array, a major new research facility for radioastronomy and an important international research collaboration in its own right.

In which way could the ITER project profit from an Australian input?

“ITER could benefi t in several ways. Firstly, and most obviously, we would have a new pool of high quality researchers. Depending on Australia’s interests, this might allow, for example, some additional auxiliary systems foreseen as later upgrades in the original planning to be incorporated during the construction phase. Finally, once the basis of the “third party” agreement is established and other countries can understand the procedure for establishing formal links to the project, it may well encourage other potential partners to sign up.”

Dr. Romanelli, how did you become a fusion scientist?

“I was born in Florence, Italy, 50 years ago. As I have been attracted to physics since my childhood days, I guess it was only logical that I signed in for Physics at the University of Florence. There I met my wife Paola, who also works as a physicist, for the ENEA in Frascati. Then, after my PhD, I joined the fusion community as a theoretical physicist. In the meantime, after more than 25 years in the business, I learned a lot about the complexity of the topic. I have worked in various labs around the world, in Princeton and Frascati for example, and I have been working at JET before. That was in 1983 after the fi rst discharge. From 1996 until I joined JET once again as EFDA Associate-Leader I was responsible for the research done on the physics of magnetic confinement at ENEA.

Fusion seems to be very much part of your family life?

“Yes, indeed. We very much believe in the potential of fusion energy. And that includes not only my wife and me, but also our son Giovanni. He is 20 years of age and studying – guess what – physics. And there is a nice story that only happened recently that I have to tell you. Driving in his car Giovanni listened to a radio programme about the world energy crisis and the undisputable climate change. Facts, that the radio speaker commented with the words that we will most probably need a new world by 2050. My son heard this remark, stopped the car and called the radio station. They should not worry, he told the commentator and the listeners life on air. „By 2050 we´ll have energy from fusion.“

Being the new EFDA associate leader for JET, what would you say is your role within the fusion programme?

“It is my task to bring JET to its top level. JET is a fi rst class machine and until now the biggest fusion experiment in the world, with plasma parameters closest to ITER. It is our job to increase the level of scientifi c collaboration of all the ITER partners.

What will be the main issues of the future work programme?

“Since the end of September, JET is back in operation and we already gained some very interesting results. We had four discharges with heating powers above 30 MW. In the past only a couple of discharges have reached that number. This, I think, is a good signal. The JET systems have been brought to a good state following recent enhancements.

And what do we have to expect for the near future?

“The present campaigns end in March 2007. Then we want to improve the capability of JET by inserting a new antenna. In 2008 we plan a further upgrade for the neutral beam. The goal is to reach approximately 42 MW of total integrated power, which would mean a fourty percent increase to what we have seen so far. Also in 2008, the plasma facing materials (Carbon Fibre Composite tiles at present) will be replaced by Beryllium tiles and, in the divertor, with Tungsten. So, JET will have an ITER-like wall and higher heating power, which will allow unique experiments with plasma and fi rst wall conditions close to ITER.

New brooms sweep clean, they say. Any comment on that?

“We have to continue to focus on JET contribution to ITER. There are many projects being launched with well defi ned goals, such as the ITER like wall and auxiliary heating upgrade. We have to ensure that the whole scientifi c programme in support of ITER is successful. It is my main philosophy and the essential part of my job to shape all the people involved as one single team. Whether we succeed will very much depend on the right atmosphere.

Few days ago we saw the offi cial birth of the ITER organization. What are your personal thoughts concerning this historic moment?

“I think I am speaking for all of us who have worked in the fusion fi eld and followed the developments within the last 30 years since the meeting between Gorbatchov and Reagan, when I say that ITER constitutes a unique chance. Now, we should all work for this enterprise and make sure that young scientists get attracted. This is also particularly relevant for the European Fusion programme. Therefore we do have to develop and provide adequate training programmes now.

What is your impression, is there an increasing interest among students or young engineers in fusion?

“During the past years I have given many lectures at the University of Rome and I sensed a large interest among the young listeners. And now with the news of the ITER project spread I am convinced that we´ll see even more interested students entering the fusion campus – in Europe but most certainly in the eastern countries.

One last word regarding the private person Francesco Romanelli. What do you prefer to do, when you are not in your office or on the way to the next meeting?

“In my spare time I prefer to stroll through my garden near Frascati. It is the most beautiful garden I can imagine and I regret that I don´t have more time to enjoy it.”

ISSN 1818-5355

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editors: Mark Tiele Westra, Sabina Griffi th

layout: Stefan Kolmsperger

© Jérôme Paméla (EFDA Leader) 2006.

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