2017 Alexander and Leicester McAulay Winter Lecture Series

Australian Institute of Physics – Tasmanian Branch

The Physics of ITER and Fusion Power

Thursday 27 July 2017, 8.00-9.00 pm
Physics lecture Theatre 1
University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay Campus, Hobart


Associate Professor Matthew Hole
Australian National University

Assuming energy security and stability will always demand some base-load power stations on the grid our children and grandchildren will use, what will provide the heat to boil the water? The most attractive and yet elusive alternative to the chemical burning of carbonaceous fossil fuels and the nuclear fission of the rare heavy nuclei left over from supernovae has long been the nuclear fusion of the light nuclei left over from the big bang, still by far the most common form of ordinary matter.

Spawned by Reagan and Gorbachev as a grand international collaboration to thaw the cold war, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is now under construction, is the final step towards a demonstration power plant.

ITER heralds a new era in fusion research. Over 70MW of auxiliary heating will be used to initiate fusion events producing 500MW of fusion power. Temperatures will range from near absolute zero in the superconducting cryostat to 10 times hotter than the core of the Sun. The plasma volume approaches that of an Olympic swimming pool, and it will carry 15 MA of current, more than the current in 500 lightning bolts. The machine itself will weigh 23,000 tons, or about half the weight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

ITER’s research goal is to explore the uncharted physics of burning plasmas, in which the energy liberated from the confined products of reaction exceeds the energy invested in heating the plasma. To access these conditions, ITER will rely critically on external heating methods such as neutral beam injection. ITER will also feature fully 3D asymmetric field structure, imposed to mitigate performance limiting edge localised modes.

In this talk I will outline fusion-relevant research across Australia, and highlight ANU-led extensions to ideal magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). Ideal MHD, which is an enabling science of astrophysical plasmas, forms most of the physics basis for ITER.

Further details: Andrew Klekociuk (M 0418 323 341, E