American Physicist Wins IAEA Nuclear Fusion Prize for Model that Will Help Design Containment Wall

Wednesday 18 November 2015
Richard Kamendje, IAEA Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences
Sophia Jane Le Masurier, IAEA Division of Conference and Document Services

Robert Goldston

Robert J. Goldston, winner of the 2015 IAEA Nuclear Fusion Journal Prize

Robert J. Goldston, professor of astrophysics at Princeton University and a former director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, has won the IAEA’s 2015 Nuclear Fusion Journal Prize for his development of a theoretical physics model that will ultimately enable engineers to design the wall for a vessel containing fuel used in nuclear fusion to generate electricity. The discovery, presented in the paper ‘Heuristic drift-based model of the power scrape-off width in low-gas-puff H-mode tokamaks,’ fills a gap in the development of the tokamak, one of several types of magnetic confinement devices used in fusion research.

Nuclear fusion is an almost inexhaustible source of clean energy akin to natural processes occurring in the sun, and harnessing commercially-viable fusion power has been the focus of worldwide research for years.

During the operation of a tokamak reactor, the plasma that holds the hot fuel generates heat, which is directed towards a particular area of the containment wall called the divertor. What had not been clear until now is how much heat the divertor will be exposed to, and how that heat is distributed on its wall. As such, engineers had not been able to properly select materials for this section of the containment wall.

“Potentially one of the most important results obtained in recent years in fusion, this paper provides a simple yet well-designed model that will help calculate the size of the wall regions of the tokamak that will be subject to heat and particle loads from the plasma,” said Ralf Kaiser, Head of the Physics Section at the IAEA.

“This model is of crucial significance as it will contribute to making accurate predictions of the loads to be expected on the walls of future larger tokamaks,” Kaiser said. It will drive an informed decision on suitable materials with required thermo-mechanical properties that should be used to build these devices.

Since 2006, the IAEA has celebrated excellence in its journal, Nuclear Fusion, by means of an annual prize. This is awarded to the authors of papers which are judged to have made the greatest impact in the two years following the paper’s publication. The selection process involves consideration of citations and recommendations by the journal’s Board of Editors. The shortlist and eventual winner are decided by confidential votes by the journal Board.

The winner of this annual award was announced yesterday by the co-publisher of the Journal, the Institute of Physics Publishing, at the 57th annual meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics in Savannah, Georgia in the United States.

Details on Goldston’s award winning paper can be accessed here.

Nuclear Fusion was launched in 1960. It is the most frequently cited journal in the field. It is steered by an international board of eminent scientists, who give direction on content and policy. It facilitates communication between research groups worldwide, disseminating results and concepts and aiding collaboration. The journal now regularly receives submissions from over 30 countries and its geographical balance reflects the significant body of work being done globally in fusion. Every major advance in fusion has been reflected in the journal’s published articles.