The European Commission had established a panel of independent high-level experts to evaluate the Euratom research programme which comprises fission and fusion research. The findings, which were recently published, are more than a pat on the back for Europe’s fusion research activities, especially with regard to EUROfusion’s flagship device the Joint European Torus (JET) and the Roadmap to the realisation of fusion energy (referred to later as Fusion Roadmap).
The panel’s findings place JET firmly at the heart of Europe’s fusion research activities and underline its role as the device that is crucial to the developments at ITER, which is being built in Cadarache, France. JET is currently the largest operating tokamak in Europe and also the only machine that is capable of carrying out experiments using the deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel. And because D-T is the fuel of choice for a fusion reactor, results from the upcoming D-T experiments in JET will provide the know-how pertinent to ITER experiments. In addition, JET’s ITER-like plasma facing wall, its tungsten divertors, and its highly sophisticated remote-handling systems are all features that will lend invaluable knowledge and experience relevant to ITER.
Another facet the panel recognised as important is the European Fusion Roadmap which looks to steer the fusion programme from being solely laboratory-based and science-driven to include industry and technology in its fold. The roadmap, which has been put together with inputs from all the EUROfusion consortium members, looks to solidify collaboration with industry in areas ranging from standardisation of parts to plant design and integration and materials development. Also featuring prominently in the Fusion Roadmap is the role of JET as the testing ground for ITER operation– an aspect that is completely aligned with the panel’s findings.
The independent panel’s evaluation strongly backs this endorsement stating that “the decision to extend the use of JET to support the development of ITER was not only correct but essential.” It further goes on to say that “high priority should be given to keeping JET operating until the design for ITER has been finalised and ITER has been successfully commissioned.”