Optimizing, Upgrading and Adapting Information Technology Applications in Fusion R&D

The 12th IAEA Technical Meeting on Control, Data Acquisition and Remote Participation for Fusion Research, organized by the IAEA, plays a key role in optimizing, upgrading and adapting information technology applications in fusion R&D. At the biannual meeting in Daejeon, Republic of Korea this week participants discussed new developments and perspectives in the areas of control, data acquisition, data management and remote participation for nuclear fusion research.

This twelfth technical meeting brought together an international community of scientists and engineers working on instruments, methods, hardware, and software solutions for research in the field of nuclear fusion and plasma physics. About 100 participants presented different applications of the latest technologies addressing the very special demands arising from dealing with nuclear fusion plasmas – an ionized gas which is very challenging to keep stable and confined.

Unlike fission, where reactors are designed to split the atoms of the fuel, in a fusion device the nuclei are heated to extremely high temperatures and trapped by strong magnetic fields (or heated and compressed using lasers or particle beams) to be joined together. The meeting included topics on controlling and operating some of the most complex experimental devices for the magnetic confinement of the plasma, including ITER – the international experimental reactor under construction in France. In addition, fusion R&D is moving from pulsed experimental devices to long-pulse operation with high neutron yields, creating ever increasing extreme engineering and computer science challenges to be solved.

As part of the exchange of scientific and technical knowledge in nuclear fusion research and development, meeting participants were treated to a visit to KSTAR at the National Fusion Research Institute in Daejeon, Korea. (Photo: M. Barbarino/IAEA)

Such long-pulse modes in high confinement plasma regimes will be essential for commercial operation of a fusion reactor, and scientists and engineers have made significant progress in achieving the capability to operate continuously. Topics related to physics and technological aspects of steady-state operation of magnetic fusion devices will be the subject on an IAEA Technical Meeting scheduled for September 2019.

Meeting participants also had the opportunity to visit KSTAR – the Koreanfusion device in operation since 2008 at the National Fusion Research Institute – which in 2018 achieved 100 million degrees of plasma temperature, seven times hotter than in the centre of the Sun. This machine is a natural home for evaluating and validating CODAC (Control, Data Access and Communication) system technologies.

“Advanced plasma and machine control systems have a pivotal role in KSTAR record performance,” said Si-woo Yoon, Director of the KSTAR Research Centre and Head of the local organizing committee of the event. “Information technology progress and development can open the way to future industrial fusion installations,” he added.

Scientists and engineers discuss instruments, methods, hardware, and software solutions for research in the field of nuclear fusion and plasma physics during the biannual meeting of the Control, Data Acquisition and Remote Participation for Fusion Research in May 2019. (Photo: M. Barbarino/IAEA)

While serving as a base for ITER’s operation, KSTAR will also be used as test bed for constructing and operating a Korean DEMO – the demonstration fusion power reactor that will represent the final step before the construction of a commercial fusion power plant. The conceptual design studies of this facility are under way in many countries and will be the subject of an IAEA Workshop scheduled for October 2019.