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28th Fusion Energy Conference Open for Submissions of Abstracts

Q&A with a Fusion Pioneer


Fusion pioneer Jean Jacquinot at Fontenay-aux-Roses (France), in the early 1970s.

The 28th Fusion Energy Conference (FEC 2020) will take place in Nice, France, from 12 to 17 October 2020, organized by the IAEA, in cooperation with France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the ITER Organization. Those interested have until 16 March to submit abstracts on magnetic fusion experiments, magnetic fusion theory and modelling, fusion energy technology, inertial fusion energy, and innovative and alternative fusion concepts.

The conference will provide a forum for the discussion of key physics and technology issues of direct relevance to the use of nuclear fusion as a future source of energy. The event will bring together prominent scientific fusion project leaders, plasma physicists including theoreticians and experimentalists, experts in the various multidisciplinary fields of fusion science and technology, engineers, and operators of fusion devices.

Anyone wishing to present a contribution during the conference must submit an abstract (see Scientific Guidelines for Authors) through IAEA-INDICO. The conference is also open to participants who wish to attend without presenting a contribution. More information can be found here and on the host's local website.

This year, the fusion community will also celebrate a special anniversary: the centenary of articles by Jean Perrin and Arthur Eddington, who first hypothesized that the nuclear process powering the stars was fusion. We interviewed fusion pioneer Jean Jacquinot, Scientific Adviser to the CEA and Senior Adviser to the ITER Organization Director General, to discuss plans for the conference and some recent developments in fusion research and technology.

What will make FEC 2020 special?

This FEC will be exceptional as it coincides with the start of the ITER machine assembly with a technical tour planned to its construction site. But in more general terms, fusion programmes worldwide have greatly increased their R&D capability and strength to an unprecedented level. Several new devices and updated facilities are coming into operation like the JT60-SA and H2-LM tokamaks. Superconducting facilities such as LHD, Wendelstein 7X, WEST, KSTAR and EAST are all coming to great maturity and are capable of long pulse operation of high-performance plasmas, a major milestone to be achieved in preparation of ITER and the next step after that.

Which was your first FEC and what role did it have in your career?

My first FEC was the one in Novosibirsk, in the Soviet Union in 1968. I was very lucky to witness a major breakthrough in fusion research. Pioneering results from the Russian tokamaks were presented. These contributed to the spectacular success of the Tokamak concept. The event had a huge effect on global fusion research. A great number of research centres across the world decided to focus on tokamak research. For example, at my Fontenay-aux-Roses lab, we built the first French tokamak: TFR – the most powerful tokamak in the world at that time. Our experiments with this machine confirmed and extended the Russian results. After Novosibirsk, I attended nearly all the other FECs.

What role can nuclear fusion play in the future world’s energy mix?

In my view, nuclear energy will be an essential component of the energy mix in a carbon free economy. It will be required as baseload in energy intensive areas and as a back up to the intermittent output of renewables. Nuclear energy and renewables are very complementary. In the longer term, nuclear fusion energy will play a key role because of its advantages with regards to safety and the absence of very long-lived waste with high toxicity.

What are the main challenges that remain ahead on the road to fusion power production and how will the conference help to address them?

The key challenge ahead is making ITER a great success, and this looks increasingly likely thanks to the extraordinary support of the ITER members and of the entire fusion community. The other important challenge is to develop the necessary materials for next step reactors after ITER. Here, too, it is very satisfying to note that important developments are taking place in the design of irradiation facilities dedicated to validating materials at fusion-relevant neutron energies and fluences. The FEC has always been the most important event where all the research centres present their best results and liaise with other laboratories around the globe to exchange information, codes, equipment and staff as well as to plan joint experiments tackling the challenges ahead. It’s an event not to be missed!

Is it important to teach nuclear fusion science to the younger generation?

Fusion technology development spans more than one generation, so a thorough exchange of experience among the generations is necessary. I am an untiring advocate of the need for true training workshops where senior experts in the field carry out joint research with the younger generation. In 2000, I created the Theory Festivals – a series of international scientific research events that takes place every two years in France to promote interactions between PhD students, postdocs and young scientists in fusion plasma physics and related fields with leading researchers from around the world. I encourage every young scientist interested in fusion to take part in similar workshops.

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