Magnetic fusion 1985: what next Page: 3 of 10
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Fusion research has also made enormous scientific strides. On
contemplating the scientific achievements in this field, such as the recently
attained high temperatures in the TFTR that you will hear about later in the
morning, it is hard to remember where we started. Yet, when the quest for
fusion began back in the 1950's, lasers did not exist and the largest plasma
physics devices were little more than the fluorescent bulbs lighting this
hall. Even then, everyone knew that what was required was higher density,
much higher temperatures and longer energy confinement times. But has it
occurred to you that, as seen from today, one or the other of these three
critical parameters has increased about a factor of 2 on the average every
year for 20, even 30, years?
Yet, however superb the science or how challenging the technology, these
are means, not ends. To maintain its support, fusion must also offer the
promise of commercial power reactors that could be competitive in the future.
This is particularly true of the magnetic fusion program, on which I will
concentrate for the remainder of this talk.
In short, we need an ever improving product. What better forum than the
American Nuclear Society to critique our efforts? And what more exciting
challenge to bring out the inventor in all of us? In his book The Physicists,
Cal Tech science historian Daniel Kevles contends that inventors such as
Thomas Edison lost out to scientists around World War I when scientists at the
University of Wisconsin rather than Edison succeeded in developing sonar
detection of submarines. Perhaps, with its blend of forefront science and
engineering, fusion is the right home for the modern sophisticated inventor
who succeeds because he understands.
Fortunately, a number of our inventive colleagues have already been at
work. At this conference, several new magnetic fusion reactor designs will be
described that claim to be smaller and economically competitive with fission
reactors of the future while retaining the environmental and safety
characteristics that are the hallmark of fusion. I know that the presenters
of these papers would welcome your critical coimients and suggestions. I
suggest that, as a service to the magnetic fusion community at large, a
critical examination of these designs as to their credibility and promise is
the appropriate theme for this conference.
As a preview, let me now discuss briefly three of the new reactor designs
tnat will be presented in later sessions. I will also preview the session on
fusion breeders, and conclude with my view of a strategy for the future
development of fusion.
Figure 1 shows a small tokamak reactor developed by TRW and Princeton.
This design makes use of the possibility that beta values in tokamaks can
perhaps be higher than previously anticipated - for example, by entering the
so-called second stability regime, or by bean-shaped cross sections. Further
experiments will be required to verify that higher beta values can in fact be
achieved and to find the best approach for doing so. Reactor studies such as
this one help to motivate these experiments. Besides higher beta, this design
also incorporates new engineering features that you will hear about later.
Some of these features, I might add, have their roots in the mirror research
Here’s what’s next.
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Fowler, T.K. Magnetic fusion 1985: what next, article, March 1, 1985; [Livermore,] California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1104093/m1/3/: accessed January 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.