The Indian programme

Print edition : January 27, 2006

THE Indian programme of research in nuclear fusion began in 1982 when the design and construction of India's first tokamak, called Aditya, was undertaken. Aditya was commissioned in 1989 and tokamak-based experiments on magnetically confined plasmas began to be carried out. In 1995, it was decided to build the second-generation superconducting steady-state tokamak (SST-1) capable of sustaining a 1,000-second-long plasma. Since a high investment of about Rs.350 crores was envisaged for the project, the institute was moved from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to the DAE, which could provide the required level of funding.

The first phase of SST-1 is nearing completion now and if the targeted 1,000 seconds can be achieved it would be the first machine in the world to sustain a fusion reaction that long. The temperatures reached in SST-1 will be 20-40 million degree Celsius. Since ITER too is based on the physics of plasma in a superconducting steady-state tokamak, but on a much larger scale, SST-1 is expected to enable studies of ITER physics on a smaller scale. Participation in ITER will thus be directly relevant and beneficial to advancing the indigenous fusion programme further.

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