The 21st IAEA Fusion Energy Conference was held in Chengdu, China, on 16-21 October 2006. It was hosted by the Government of The Peoples's Republic of China through the China National Nuclear Corporation, the Southwest Institute of Physics and the local Government of Chengdu.

The conference was opened by Mr. Werner Bukart, Deputy Director General of the IAEA in representation of Mr. Mohamed El-Baradei, Director General of the IAEA. In his welcoming address Mr. Burkart pointed out the remarkable success achieved with the decision to build ITER and noted that this is maybe the largest international scientific project ever, involving about half of the world's population. As more challenging steps are still required to deliver net power from fusion Mr. Burkart emphasized the importance for the IAEA continued involvement: "We have to be prepared for the next step - a demonstration of fusion power to work over a long time period. As with ITER, I am sure that the path will be complex, and many discussions and decisions will be necessary before the first plant can become operational. The Agency, as it did in the development of nuclear fission energy, stands ready to serve its Member States in the field of fusion. The traditional roles of the Agency are as the facilitator of knowledge promotion, as the international body for agreement on safety standards, and the independent voice of nuclear energy to the public. We are ready to continue such roles as and when they are relevant to fusion development, and as and when they are requested of us".

Following the welcome address of Mr. Burkart, Mr. Zhang Huazhu, conveyed a congratulatory message on behalf of the Vice Premier of China, Mr. Zeng Peiyan welcoming the delegates to the People's Republic of China and making votes for a successful and fruitful conference.

Mr. Xu Guanhua, Minister of Science and Technology have expressed the commitment of China in contributing to the path for fusion energy development. Fusion is a challenging endeavor that requires still a few decades of research and developments before it can deliver net power but China is determined to support it and engage in strong international collaboration.

Mr. Kang, president of the China National Nuclear Corporation, gave an overview of the China's strategic three step approach for nuclear energy development: "thermal reactor - fast reactor - fusion reactor". Noting the contribution on the development of China's nuclear power industry the CNNC support for the fusion option is patent in the research developed at the Southwest Institute of Physics where the HL-1 and HL-2A devices where build.

The Vice Governor, Mr. Wang Huaichen of Sichuan Province and the Vice Mayor, Mr Liu Peizhi of Chengdu Municipality in their addresses have expressed their hospitality and welcomed the delegates to the city of Chengdu. Chengdu is becoming an important international center attracting the realization of many conferences and tourists worldwide which come to visit the many natural and gastronomic attractions of the Sichuan Province.

The Fusion Pioneers Memorial session started with homage to the pioneers of fusion research who passed away in the last two years. Professor Kaw, the Chairman of the International Fusion Research Council, called the ITER representatives to join in a minute of silence honoring the contributions of the following pioneers: Dr. Dieter J. Sigmar (USA), Dr. Harold Eubank (USA), Dr. Hiroshi Kishimoto (Japan), Professor Nobuyuki Inoue (Japan), Dr. Robert Dory (USA), Professor Shigeo Nagao (Japan), Professor Tadashi Sekiguchi (Japan), Professor Ms. Tatiana Davydova (Ukraine), Professor Vladimir K. Chernyshev (Russia), and Professor Wang Enyao (China).

Academician E. Velikhov and ITER-Director General K. Ikeda gave the two lectures of the Fusion Pioneers Memorial session.

Academician Velikhov addressed the fast track approach to fusion power starting from the past achievements to the present perspective of fusion, i.e., before ITER, during ITER and towards DEMO, and discussed the future on terms of energy demands and fusion opportunities. It is expected that when available, by the middle of the century, fusion will take a share in the energy market at the same level as fast breeders and solar power. In the path for fusion energy, he pointed out that the main ingredients for the success of ITER project are all present: the large international collaboration, the success achieved with large tokamak and stellarator programmes (TFTR, JET, JT-60, DIII-D, TORE-SUPRA, T-15, W7-AS, LHD) in physics basis development, the progress in tokamak technologies (Magnets, Heating&CD, MHD contro, etc.), the implementation of a broader approach, and the awareness of an urgent need to face the fast growth of the energy demands in the world. However, the developments needed are challenging, among others, the material requirements for a DEMO power plant still have to be meet, in particular for the divertor: "In my view, the divertor is the most critical component on the way to the reactor". In a more technical note Velikhov argued that possible divertor alternatives for DEMO such as limiter-like radiative configurations worth to be investigated. He summarized the basic physics and technology challenges that fusion will meet and emphasized the need for a broader approach and accompanying programmes for material developments. Mr. Velikhov expressed that in his view DEMO and material development programmes should be developed on a broad international approach as the Fusion community needs integration of resources which will deliver results faster and cheaper. He stated that the "IAEA supervising the fusion development will be natural". The problem of facing the energy demand from present to the next century in a sustainable way will require global efforts. The IAE prevision is that 16 trillion dollars will be invested in the next 30 years in the energy sector. At present one quarter of the world population still do not have access to electric power and in 2030 this number will be of 1.4 billion representing about 1/6 of the global population. Present forecasts show that the energy consumption is levelling with time and by 2025 the difference between the larger and the smallest per capita consumption groups of people will be no longer distinguishable in the global consumption picture. Academician Velikhov pointed that "levelling of the energy consumption doesn't necessarily mean the levelling of welfare - it rather indicates the growing capabilities of the developing countries to consume more energy (i.e. a technological levelling)" and concluded: "Present economic mechanisms promote active transfer of capital to the developing countries, the only alternative of assuring the welfare of the developed countries would be a new technological breakthrough, capable to provide their relative energy independence".

ITER-DG Ikeda presented the status of the ITER project. ITER ("the way" in Latin) is the essential next step in the development of fusion. ITER is the world's biggest fusion energy research project developed under international collaboration involving China, the EU, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the USA. During its mission ITER will aim to operate up to steady state conditions with a power production of 500 MW from the fusion plasma, 10 times more than is necessary to sustain it. ITER has dimensions comparable to a power station and will demonstrate or develop all the new technologies required for fusion power stations, except for materials endurance. The forthcoming steps are obtaining the license for construction and operation, for about 20 years. ITER will cost about EUR 5bn to construct (over 9 years) and EUR 5bn for operation and decommission. The construction cost sharing among parties is sliced in main groups: group A, mainly to be provided by the host industry partners (buildings, machine assembly, system installation, piping, wiring, assembly/installation labour, etc.); group B, "residue of systems", jointly funded, purchased by the ITER Project Team, and group C, "contributions in kind", major systems provided directly by the parties. General roles and responsibilities have been identified for the construction phase to be shared between the ITER International Organization (Planning/Design, Integration, QA, Safety, Licensing, Schedule Installation, Testing and Commissioning and Operation) and the Parties Domestic Agencies (Detailing Design, Procurement, Delivering and Support Installation). The near term targets have been listed: i) clearing of the construction site and preparation for road and utility connections (spring 2007); ii) the design review involving the physics community leading to revised baseline (spring 2007) for approval by ITER Council, the finalising of technical specifications for calls for tender for vacuum vessel, superconducting coils, building & excavation design; and iii) submission of a Preliminary Safety Report (by end 2007). The final ITER agreement is under way: the Agreement was accepted by negotiators. The write-up of the final documents was initiated by May 24th and should be signed on Nov 21st, 2006. ITER Organisation should then become a legal entity and should be able to execute all its functions. A main priority is the recruitment of staff to the ITER-IO, which is expected to increase from the present 120 to about 620 in the next 7 years. Most of the staff working on the three ITER Joint Work Sites (Garching, Naka, Cadarache) will gradually migrate to the only remaining site after 2006, in Cadarache. Mr. Ikeda in his conclusions noted that the Parties are making good progress in implementing their obligations, the project team is building up in Cadarache, the design review has begun in September and will strengthen involvement of all stakeholders, domestic agencies and project team members. He finally stressed that the ITER Organisation and domestic agencies need to be established as soon as possible to effectively execute all tasks of the construction project.

The Fusion Pioneers Memorial Session was followed by the scientific programme distributed by topical sessions on theory and experiments, along with daily poster sessions. The topics covered during the conference were:

  • Magnetic Confinement Experiments
  • Magnetic Confinement Theory and Modelling
  • ITER Activities
  • Inertial Fusion Experiments and Theory
  • Innovative Confinement Concepts
  • Fusion Technology and Power Plant Design
  • Safety, Environmental and Economic Aspects of Fusion.

The special ITER Evening session was chaired by N. Sauthoff. Two presentations where given, by P. Garin on the "ITER Site Preparation" and S. Matsuda on the "Broader Approach Activities toward Fusion Demo Reactors". ITER-DDG N. Holtkamp lead the discussion session.

The ITER site decision was taken after the last IAEA Fusion Energy Conference in Vilamoura, 2004, and this is making the 21st Fusion Energy Conference a symbolic land mark by gathering the largest number of scientists at the very beginning of the ITER Era. This is a particular celebration for the IAEA, given its involvement in ITER since the very initial steps in 1988 providing the auspices and supporting the sequential development phases of ITER: CDA, EDA and ITA. The establishing of the ITPA topical groups, the hosting of high level negotiation meetings and the participation in the signing ceremony of the ITER Agreement represents successful contributions and the recognition by the ITER parties of the importance of the IAEA's role. As the IAEA DDG Mr. Burkart had mentioned at that time: "These small steps are symbolic to the Agency of the trust and collaboration that we have long enjoyed with the ITER Parties, and are the guarantee for our future close involvement with the project".

Another important achievement was celebrated at the conference. The first totally superconductor tokamak in the world at mega-ampere scale has successfully obtained its first plasma just 2 weeks before the conference opening. The EAST tokamak construction was initiated in 2000 at the Chinese Academy of Sciences - Institute of Plasma Physics, Heifei and stands now ready to contribute to the main stream fusion research.

For the first time the International Atomic Energy Agency has awarded an annual prize to honor exceptional work published in the journal Nuclear Fusion. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has generously made a contribution of $2500 to the award. TC Luce et al. were awarded the prize for their paper 'Stationary high-performance discharges in the DIII-D tokamak' (Nuclear Fusion 43 (5) pp. 321-329). The paper outlines a tokamak scenario that can maintain high fusion performance at reduced plasma current (compared with the conventional tokamak operational scenario), thereby lessening the potential for structural damage in the event of a major disruption.

The conference closing remarks and acknowledgements were made by the Chair of the Programme Committee, Prof. K. Lackner and the IAEA scientific secretaries G. Mank and A. Malaquias.