The physics 
of ITER and fusion power


Australian Institute of Physics Public Lecture

Start Date

27th Jul 2017 8:00pm

End Date

27th Jul 2017 9:00pm


Physics Lecture Theatre 1, Sandy Bay campus

RSVP / Contact Information

E:; or T: 03 6226 7588


Presented by

Associate Professor Matthew Hole

ITER Science Fellow and Chair
Australian ITER ForumProfessor

ABSTRACT: Assuming energy security and stability will always demand some base-load power stations on the grid our children and grandchildren will use, what will provide the heat to boil the water? The most attractive and yet elusive alternative to the chemical burning of carbonaceous fossil fuels and the nuclear fission of the rare heavy nuclei left over from supernovae has long been the nuclear fusion of the light nuclei left over from the big bang, still by far the most common form of ordinary matter.

Spawned by Reagan and Gorbachev as a grand international collaboration to thaw the cold war, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is now under construction, is the final step towards a demonstration power plant.  

ITER heralds a new era in fusion research. Over 70MW of auxiliary heating will be used to initiate fusion events producing 500MW of fusion power.  Temperatures will range from near absolute zero in the superconducting cryostat to 10 times hotter than the core of the Sun. The plasma volume approaches that of an Olympic swimming pool, and it will carry 15 MA of current, more than the current in 500 lightning bolts. The machine itself will weigh 23,000 tons, or about half the weight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

ITER’s research goal is to explore the uncharted physics of burning plasmas, in which the energy liberated from the confined products of reaction exceeds the energy invested in heating the plasma. To access these conditions, ITER will rely critically on external heating methods such as neutral beam injection.  ITER will also feature fully 3D asymmetric field structure, imposed to mitigate performance limiting edge localised modes. 

In this talk Matthew will outline fusion-relevant research across Australia, and highlight ANU-led extensions to ideal magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). Ideal MHD, which is an enabling science of astrophysical plasmas, forms most of the physics basis for ITER.

D A/Prof. Matthew J. Hole is a Senior Fellow of the ANU.  His principal field of research is magnetohydrodynamics, fluid modelling, and wave analysis of industrial plasmas, fusion plasmas, and space plasmas.  Matthew is the founding Chair of the Australian ITER Forum, a research network spanning over 180 scientists and engineers; the Australian member of the IAEA International Fusion Research Council, the Vice Chair of the Asia Pacific Physics Society Division of Plasma Physics, and on the Board of Editors of Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, one of three top journals in this field.  

On 12 May Matthew was appointed an ITER Science Fellow by the ITER Director General. It is the only such appointment to a scientist outside the ITER member nations, the European Union, Japan, United States, Russia, South Korea, China and India.  Matthew is one of only 25 ITER Science Fellows from across the globe, who will work on key research issues, collaborating not only with international scientists, but drawing in the Australian science community to tackle these challenges.