EPFL Fusion Lab Tour

27 Jun. 2009

The sun was out and the blue waters of Lac Léman rippled along the waterfront at Ouchy, where a group of members and guests of your MIT Club gathered on the terrace of a restaurant and ate filets de perche. We went over to the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) where we learned about the progress in fusion energy (my particular hobbyhorse). Fusion energy is the alternative form of nuclear energy based on fusing hydrogen and/or its isotopes, and for which the future is looking brighter every day. Dr. Yves Martin of the EPFL’s “Centre de Recherches en Physique des Plasmas” (CRPP) gave us a spirited rundown of fusion science and technology and on the participation of Switzerland in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project under construction in Cadarache, France. This reactor is expected to begin operation in 2018. The tokamak at EPFL is unique, in that it can modify and deliberately distort the shape of the plasma in its torus, at 170 million degrees Celsius. Reactions from the members were enthusiastic. A good way to spend a day!

Howard Hornfeld