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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Study of thermonuclear Alfvén instabilities in next step burning plasma proposals

  • Author(s): Gorelenkov, NN
  • Berk, HL
  • Budny, R
  • Cheng, CZ
  • Fu, GY
  • Heidbrink, WW
  • Kramer, GJ
  • Meade, D
  • Nazikian, R
  • et al.

The stability of α-particle driven shear Alfvén eigenmodes (AE) for nominal burning plasma (BP) parameters in the proposed international tokamak experimental reactor (ITER), fusion ignition research experiment (FIRE) and IGNITOR tokamaks is studied. JET plasma, where fusion as were generated in tritium experiments, is also studied to compare the numerical predictions with the existing experiments. An analytic assessment of toroidal AE (TAB) stability is first presented, where the α-particle β due to the fusion reaction rate and electron drag is simply and accurately estimated in plasmas with central temperature in the range of 7-20 keV. In this assessment the hot particle drive is balanced against ion-Landau damping of the background douterons, and electron collision effects and stability boundaries are determined. Then two numerical studies of AE instability are presented. In one, the HIgh-n STability (HINST) code is used to predict the instabilities of low and moderately high frequency Alfvén modes. HINST computes the non-perturbative solutions of the AE including effects of ion finite Larmor radius, orbit width, trapped electrons etc. The stability calculations are repeated using the global code NOVAK. We show that for these plasmas the spectrum of the least stable AE modes is at medium-/high-n numbers. In HINST, TAEs are locally unstable due to the α pressure gradient in all the devices under consideration except IGNITOR. However, NOVAK calculations show that the global mode structure enhances the damping mechanisms and produces stability for the nominal FIRE proposal and near-marginal stability for the nominal ITER proposal. NBI ions produce a strong stabilizing effect for JET. However, in ITER, the beam energies needed to penetrate to the core must be high (∼1 MeV) so that a diamagnetic drift frequency comparable to that of α-particles is produced by the beam ions which induces a destabilizing effect. A serious question remains whether the perturbation theory used in NOVAK overestimates the stability predictions, so that it is premature to conclude that the nominal operation of all three BP proposals without neutral beam injection are stable (or marginally stable) to AEs.

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