History of the Hungarian fusion research programme

From the beginning to 2000.

The great opportunities lying in transforming nuclei were recognized by the Hungarian researchers as well during the years after the second world war. The first accelerator driven nuclear reactions were created by Károly Simonyi in 1951 at the Sopron Technical University. The nuclear physics research was proceeded at Csillebérc (Budapest) after the establishment of the Central Research Institute for Physics (KFKI), where the application of controlled fusion was also considered. In 1959, just after the Geneva conference, Károly Simonyi wrote a hundred page long lecture note for university education in which the starting point of today’s knowledge can be found. Unfortunately Károly Simonyi was expelled from KFKI due to his assumed involvement in the 1956 revolution, and fusion research stopped at KFKI.

After the great success of tokamak fusion devices during the 70’s, the idea of re-launching Hungarian fusion research emerged. An agreement was reached with the the Soviet Union on Joint research. A tokamak device – MT-1 (Hungarian Tokamak 1) – was transported and refurbished from the Soviet Union to Hungary in 1979. MT-1 was fitted with KFKI’s state-of-the-art computing devices, and some specific diagnostic methods were developed e.g. laser blow-off and fluorescence, proton beam diagnostic, X-ray pinhole camera.  However, the device had limited measurement possibilities as the 2 cm thick passive stabilization copper shell enabled only a small number of measurement ports. In 1992 it was refurbished under the name MT-1M by a new larger minor radius vacuum chamber, more ports, active position control and networking data acquisition system. In the following years it was used for developing X-ray tomography, micro-pellet acceleration and ablation and impurity particle transport studies. In 1998 MT-1M was shut down as part of  consolidation of the HAS institutes. However, part of the staff already set up collaborations with mostly German institutions and continued some of the work abroad.

As part of the EURATOM program

At the end of 1999, Hungary joined EURATOM and with this also the European fusion research program. As fusion research background and links to the EU program were already present the Hungarian Euratom Fusion Association (Association HAS) was founded in 2000. This organization was led by KFKI-RMKI (former part of KFKI) with participation of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME), KFKI-AEKI, the Széchenyi University and ATOMKI. Up until 2004, diagnostic developments and plasma physics research were performed on the Wendelstein 7-AS stellarator, the ASDEX Upgrade, TEXTOR and JET tokamaks. Since a preliminary agreement on the construction of the international ITER facility was reached in 2003, it was clear that a more serious technological background would be needed in  Hungary as well. In 200 composed of KFKI-RMKI, KFKI-AEKI and BME was founded and won a 3 year grant at the National Research and Technology Office for developing technologies in fusion and fission. In the fusion field this grant enabled setting up a strong engineering group at KFKI-RMKI and BME and engaging into several diagnostic development projects for ITER and the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator. The fusion research community grew to about 50 employees, about half of whom are engineers and the other half physicists. Also the grant resulted in a strong fusion education program at BME, attracting a number of university students who work in a fusion research topic. At the National Scientific Students’ Associations conferences, a separate fusion section had to be organized for the large number of students.

Significant technological developments have resulted from requests from large fusion experiments (Wendelstein 7-X, KSTAR, EAST, JT-60SA, MAST, COMPASS, ITER) to design and manufacture various diagnostic components. One such equipment involves 3 to 5 physicists and engineers and a budget in the range of a milliono Euros. The cost is covered by this large devices, thus ensuring the survival and development of the Hungarian fusion community.

This dynamic Hungarian fusion community adapted well to the changes in 2014 when EURATOM handed over the management of the fusion program to the EUROfusion consortium, which was formed from national institutions. A member of the consortium, Wigner RCP (former KFKI-RMKI), has become the “Wigner fusion” brand name known throughout the world.