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Alpha particle physics in a tokamak burning plasma experiment

  • Author(s): Heidbrink, WW
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Much is known about the behavior of energetic ions in tokamak devices but much remains to be understood. Single-particle effects are well understood and provide a firm basis for extrapolation to a burning plasma. In contrast, collective effects involving fast ions are more poorly understood and extrapolations are unreliable. Collective modes of concern include toroidicity-induced and ellipticity-induced Alfvén eigenmodes, kinetic ballooning modes, and internal kink modes. In addition to these magnetohydrodynamic normal modes, there are also energetic particle modes characterized by strong dependence on the fast-ion distribution function. Although many issues are important areas of study in current experiments, five issues distinguish burning plasma experiments. First, the energetic alphas are not the dominant source of free energy for the instabilities unless the fusion power exceeds the heating power by a factor of 10. Second, the damping of the instabilities depends sensitively on mode coupling to other heavily-damped waves. The magnitude of this coupling is expected to depend on the normalized thermal gyroradius, which is much smaller in a reactor. Third, in a reactor, both the radial extent of the instabilities and the fast-ion orbit contract relative to current experiments, so the fast-ion transport will change. Fourth, when instability occurs, a larger number of modes are unstable, so the mechanism of nonlinear saturation could shift from fast-ion transport to mode coupling. Fifth, because of the extreme sensitivity of energetic particle modes to the distribution function, an isotropic alpha particle distribution function differs from anisotropic fast-ion populations. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.

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