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Facilitating Fusion Research

Caption: An artist's depiction of a giant solar flare on the red dwarf star EV Lacertae. Fusion is the process that powers the stars. Credit: Casey Reed/NASA

IAEA has always played an important role in facilitating safe and environmentally responsible nuclear energy sources.

A year after the IAEA was founded, it supported the first fusion conference in 1958. Later, in 1972 the International Fusion Research Council (IFRC) was created to provide the IAEA Director General expert advice to help steer the Agency's controlled nuclear fusion programme and to promote international cooperation in this field.

Commercial fusion reactors are yet a theoretical possiblity. To help overcome the challenges presented in demonstrating the technological and commercial feasibility of generating electricity using fusion power, the IAEA has been collaborating with the international fusion community, and in particular with researchers at the ITER organization. ITER's partners and experts are building the world's first international demonstration reactor for fusion power in Cadarache, France.

The IAEA has been closely involved with ITER since its inception in 1985. At that time, during the US/USSR Summit, held in Geneva in November 1985, USSR General Secretary Gorbachev proposed to U.S. President Reagan an international project aimed at developing fusion energy for peaceful purposes. This agreement lead to the establishment of the ITER project and an international agreement. The initial signatories were the former Soviet Union, the USA, the European Union and Japan. In 2003, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea joined the partnership, followed by India in 2005. Together, these seven nations represent over half of the world's population. Eleven years after the Gorbachev-Reagan summit, the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project was established in November 2006. The IAEA's Director General is the Agreement's depositary.

In October 2008, ITER and the IAEA signed a cooperative agreement to exchange research information on the study and potential application of fusion energy, participate in each other's meetings and organise joint scientific conferences. The agreement also includes plans for cooperation on training, publications, plasma physics and modelling, and fusion safety and security. In addition to cooperating with ITER, the IAEA's fusion programme focuses on increasing international cooperation and support for science and technology for fusion power.

Knowledge management and dissemination in fusion research are also strategic priorities for the IAEA. For instance, the Agency has published the monthly scientific journal Nuclear Fusion for half a century. Nuclear Fusion and related publications, the World Survey of Activities in Controlled Fusion Research, the International Bulletin on Atomic and Molecular Data for Fusion and the Atomic and Plasma-Material Interaction Data for Fusion are considered journals of record and are distributed to hundreds of institutions and researchers among Agency Member States.

The Agency also maintains nuclear data libraries, such as the Fusion Evaluated Nuclear Data Library, atomic and molecular data, and plasma-material interaction data that are relevant to fusion research. The data can be accessed via Internet on IAEA's Nuclear Data Information System (NDIS, http://www-nds.iaea.org/ndisintro.htm) and the Atomic and Molecular Data Information System (AMDIS, http://www-amdis.iaea.org/publications/bulletin.php).

For over fifty years, the IAEA has drawn together the world's leading fusion researchers to help find ways to utilize fusion's potential for delivering clean, sustainable and abundant energy by the biennial Fusion Energy Conference. The 2010 conference takes place in Daejeon, the Republic of Korea. It assembles more physicists than ever before. The six-day conference began on 11 October and is hosted by Korea's National Fusion Research Institute.

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Last update: 18 Oct 2019

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