The Relevance of Atomic Processes to Magnetic Confinement and the Concept of a Tokamak Reactor

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Abstract

The origins of research into controlled nuclear fusion may possibly be traced to the discovery of deuterium, whose existence was postulated (albeit on the basis of incorrect measurements) by Birge and Menzel in 1931, and to the discovery by Oliphant, Harteck and Rutherford in 1934 that new isotopes, T and He3, were produced in disintegration experiments involving D-D reactions. The possibility of using nuclear fusion as a source of energy was explored in many laboratories but the first statement regarding the scale of research into its controlled application appeared in 1958 in the form of concurrent publication in Nature1 of several papers describing the US and UK programmes. This was shortly followed by publication of comparable work in the USSR. The world-wide effort now amounts to over 3000 scientists and engineers but so complex are the scientific and technological problems that it is still not possible to predict with absolute certainty the route that will eventually lead to an economic and reliable fusion reactor.