Fusion Research Centres

Fusion energy, the awesome power behind the sun and stars, has long been the "holy grail" of nuclear researchers world wide. Its proponents argue the vast potential for cheap, clean energy from hydrogen isotopes extracted from sea water, without the long term radioactive waste associated with nuclear fission. In simple terms, the fusion process works by combining light atoms, such as isotopes of hydrogen, under very high temperatures and pressures to make heavier ones, such as helium. Fission is the opposite: it starts with very heavy atoms, such as uranium, and splits them into two or more pieces called "fission fragments" or "fission products". Both fission and fusion release large quantities of energy, which can be converted into heat and electricity. Nuclear fusion does produce radioactive waste. However, in contrast to fission produced wastes, they are short lived and decay to background levels in a very short time.

While great strides have been made over the past few decades, the high cost of research, and very expensive hardware, limits most of the work to multi-national consortia. Current research efforts are focused in two main areas: inertial confinement and magnetic confinement. A third method, so called "cold fusion", had the research community all a-buzz in the early 1990's with the prospect of a much cheaper alternative. Although cold fusion still has its supporters, most of the mainstream scientific community has dismissed it "poor science" (or worse).

AFRG - Australian Fusion Research Group (Australia)

The aim of the AFRG is to contribute towards the development of Fusion Energy, an evironmentally attractive, comercially viable, and sustainable energy source for the next century. The Australian Fusion Research Group (AFRG) is a consortium drawn from several universities and is undertaking research into high-temperature plasma physics under the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) umbrella.

CEA Cadarache (France)

Activities of the EURATOM-CEA Association:

  • Contribution to development of the Fusion Safety approach and associated methodology with direct applications to ITER.
  • Development and qualification of safety analysis codes.
  • Analysis of accidental sequences and development of mitigation systems (see example opposite).
  • Decommissioning and waste management.
  • evelopment of detritiation processes.

Fusion Power Associates

Fusion Power Associates is a non-profit, tax-exempt research and educational foundation, providing timely information on the status of fusion development and other applications of plasma science and fusion research.

General Atomics

General Atomics was conceived in 1955 at San Diego, California for the purpose of harnessing the power of nuclear technologies for the benefit of mankind. General Atomics basic research into fission and fusion has matured into competence in many technologies, making GA and its affiliated companies one of the world's leading resources for high-technology systems development ranging from the nuclear fuel cycle to remotely operated surveillance aircraft, airborne sensors, and advanced electric, electronic, wireless and laser technologies.

ITER Fusion Research Collaboration

ITER is an international project to design and build an experimental fusion reactor based on the "tokamak" concept.

Max-Planck-Institut fur Plasmaphysik (Germany)

The research conducted at Max-Planck-Institut fur Plasmapysik (IPP) in Garching and Greifswald is concerned with investigating the physical basis of a fusion power plant. Like the sun, such a plant is to generate energy from fusion of atomic nuclei. The research conducted at IPP is part of the European fusion programme. With its workforce of approx. 1.000 IPP is one of the largest fusion research centres in Europe.

MIT Plasma Science & Fusion Center (US)

The central focus of PSFC activities has been to create a scientific and engineering base for the development of fusion power. Nevertheless, non-fusion applications involving plasmas at the PSFC are numerous and diverse. A recent example is the significant growth of programs in plasma-based technologies, including environmental remediation and hydrogen production.

National Institute for Fusion Science (Japan)

Fusion research at NIFS focuses on a stellarator concept. Major projects: Large Helical Device (LHD) and Compact Helical System (CHS).

PPPL - Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (US)

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) is a collaborative national center for plasma and fusion science. The Laboratory is managed by Princeton University funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science. An associated mission for PPPL is to provide the highest quality science education in fusion energy, plasma physics, and related technologies.

Russian Research Centre Kurchatov Institute (Russia)

The Russian Research Centre Kurchatov Institute has available a high-capacity high-resource research and experimental basis which includes large and sophisticated installations (plasma thermonuclear installations, various-purpose nuclear reactors, various-type accelerators, test facilities and other unique research equipment) as well as designing basis, large pilot-scale production. This extensive basis permits a full cycle of studies from the birth of scientific idea to development of technology and fabrication of finished product to be accomplished.

UKAEA Culham Fusion Lab (UK)

The UKAEA Fusion Programme at Culham is centred on the tokamak line of development. Culham is at the heart of international efforts to develop fusion as a sustainable source of energy. The site also houses a hi-tech business centre where companies are exploiting technology transfer from fusion research.