This is the beginning of a series of posts to discover the tokamaks all over the world.
ISTTOK is, as its name suggests it, the tokamak of the Instituto Superior Tecnico based in Lisbon, Portugal. Its construction started in 1990 and the first shot took place in 1991. It is a small-sized machine with a major radius of 46cm and a plasma current of 7 kA. This small tokamak (one technician can make it run) is very interesting because of its flexibility: it makes it possible for people to have an overview of all aspects of tokamak operations. That’s why it used for academic purposes and to train physicists and engineers, something which is very difficult on tokamaks like Jet, where newcomers have the greatest difficulties to seize the operational aspects, the relations between the shots parameters, the technical subtleties.
This type of machine gives also the opportunity to test all sorts of equipment, especially the diagnostics, the control and acquisition systems.
I must say that Portugal plays a very good game in fusion research. They have a very limited budget and yet they play a leading role in the development of diagnostics techniques and digital instruments for ITER. They are very active as the number of conferences organized there proves it.
I think that the program leaders there understand the political mechanism of fusion research. They promote interdisciplinary work between fusion and other related areas (digital instrumentation is also useful for all other areas of physics or biology), they take part into other countries’ programs, they establish partnerships with south-american countries willing to start a fusion program, they organize summer schools, conferences, promote at the european level the fusion program.
There is a lot of things to learn from this kind of very active and motivated institute.