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Timeline of nuclear fusion

From Academic Kids

Timeline of significant events in the study and use of nuclear fusion:

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1954-1958: The ZETA -Zero Energy Toroidal (or Thermonuclear) Assembly device at Harwell
  • 1952 - 1 Nov, Ivy Mike shot of Operation Ivy: The first detonation of a hydrogen bomb, yield 10.4 megatons.
  • 1953 - pinch devices in the US and USSR attempt to take the reactions to fusion levels without worrying about stability. Both report detections of neutrons, which are later explained as non-fusion in nature.
  • 1954 - ZETA stabilized toroidal pinch device starts operation in England built at Harwell south of Oxford.
  • 1958 - American, British and Soviet scientists began to share previously classified fusion research, as their countries declassified controlled fusion work as part of the Atoms for Peace conference in Geneva (an amazing development considering the Cold War political climate of the time)
  • 1958 - ZETA experiments end. Several firings produce neutron spikes that the researchers initially attribute to fusion, but later realize are due to other effects. Last few firings show an odd "quiet period" of long stability in a system that otherwise appeared to prove itself unstable. Research on pinch machines generally dies off as ZETA appears to be the best that can be done.
  • 1967 - Demonstration of Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor appears to generate neutrons in a nuclear reaction.
  • 1968 - Results from the T-3 Soviet magnetic confinment device, called a tokamak, which Igor Tamm and Andrei Sakharov had been working on - showed the temperatures in their machine to be over an order of magnitude higher than what was expected by the rest of the community. The Western scientists visited the experiment and verified the high temperatures and confinement, sparking a wave of optimism for the prospects of the tokamak, which is still the dominant magnetic confinement device today, as well as construction of new experiments.
  • 1974 - Taylor re-visits ZETA results of 1958 and explains that the quiet-period is in fact very interesting. This leads to the development of "reversed field pinch", now generalized as "self-organizing plasmas", an ongoing line of research.
  • 1976 - Design work on JET, the Joint European Torus, begins.
  • 1978 - The JET project is given the go-ahead by then EC. The chosen site is an ex-RAF airfield south east of Oxford, UK.
  • 1982 - TORE SUPRA construction is started at Cadarache, France. Its superconducting magnets permit it to generate a strong permanent toroidal magnetic field.
  • 1983 - JET is completed on time and on budget. First plasmas achieved.
  • 1985 - The Japanese tokamak, JT-60 is completed. First plasmas achieved.
  • 1988 - The Conceptual Design Activity for the ITER, the successor to TFTR, JET and JT-60, begins. Participants are EURATOM, Japan, Soviet Union and United States. It ends in 1990.
  • April 1988 - The first plasma is produced in TORE SUPRA.
  • March 1989 - two Utah physicists, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, announced that they achieved cold fusion: fusion reactions which could occur at room temperatures. However, they made their announcements before any peer review of their work was performed, and no subsequent experiments by other researchers revealed any evidence of fusion.
  • 1992 - The Engineering Design Activity for the ITER begins. Participants are EURATOM, Japan, Russia and United States. It ends in 2001.
  • 1993 - The TFTR tokamak at Princeton (PPPL) does experiments with 50% deuterium, 50% tritium, which eventually produces as much as 10 megawatts of power from a controlled fusion reaction.
  • 1996 - A record is reached at TORE SUPRA: a plasma duration of two minutes with a current of almost 1 million Amperes driven non-inductively by 2.3 MW of lower hybrid frequency waves (i.e. 280 MJ of injected and extracted energy). This result was possible due to the actively cooled plasma-facing components installed in the machine. This result opens the way to the active control of steady state plasma discharges and the associated physics.
  • 1997 - The JET tokamak in the UK produces 16 MW of fusion power - the current world record of fusion power. Four megawatts of alpha particle self-heating was achieved.
  • 1997 - combining a field-reversed pinch with an imploding magnetic cylinder results in the new Magnetized Target Fusion concept in the US (which has not been participating in international Tokamak research). In this system a "normal" lower density plasma device is explosively squeezed using techniques developed for high-speed gun research.
  • 1998 - The JT-60 tokamak in Japan produces a high performance reversed shear plasma with the equivalent fusion amplification factor <math>Q_{eq}<math> of 1.25 - the current world record of Q.
  • 1999 - The United States retreats from the ITER project.
  • 2001 - Negotiations Meeting on the Joint Implementation of ITER begins. Participants are Canada, European Union, Japan and Russia.
  • 2002 - Claims and counter-claims are published regarding bubble fusion, in which a table-top apparatus is reported as producing small-scale fusion in a liquid undergoing acoustic cavitation. Like cold fusion, it's later dismissed. However, in 2004, new claims of replication were made.
  • 2002 - European Union proposes Cadarache in France and Vandellos in Spain as candidate sites for ITER while Japan proposes Rokkasho.
  • 2003 - The United States rejoins the ITER project, and China and Republic of Korea newly join while Canada withdraws.
  • 2003 - Cadarache in France selected as the European Candidate Site for ITER
  • 2003 - Sandia National Laboratories begins fusion experiments in the Z machine
  • 2004 - The United States drops its own fusion research project, FIRE, in favor of concentrating all resources on ITER.
  • As of May 2005, no site has been decided for ITER. The candidates remain those in France and Japan. In May 2005, the EU and Japan agreed to a process which should settle their dispute over the siting of the ITER fusion reactor by July.

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