The Good Story of the Finnish Fusion Research
The volume and impact of Finland’s fusion programme are now dozens times higher than before becoming part of the European programme.
I had the pleasure to participate in the Horizon EUROfusion event in Brussels this July. The event was the first in a planned annual series where the EUROfusion consortium shares an update on European progress in fusion research and looks at what is ahead. In 2022, EUROfusion celebrated key results like the recently achieved fusion energy record in the JET tokamak in UK and progress towards a heat exhaust for future fusion power plants.
The event also paved the path ahead at EUROfusion’s new seven-year research programme and present collaborations to grow Europe’s fusion industry and spin-off new technologies. Two key topics are now critical:
- research plans that will give the global fusion experiment ITER a flying start
- start of the conceptual design for the European demonstration fusion power plant DEMO. This first-of-a-kind fusion device is due to come into operation around the middle of this century and demonstrate the net production of 300 to 500 megawatts of clean and safe fusion energy to the grid.
I also had the honour to give a talk in the event, a story about the importance of Euratom in enhancing the quality and quantity of fusion research in a small European country. And indeed, Finland is a very good example of a country where Euratom funding has made a remarkable impact on fusion research! In 1970s and also 1980s, before the EU and Euratom era, fusion research in Finland was a small-scale activity with only a few researchers and organizations involved. I called this time period as “Jurassic Period” in my talk, entertaining the audience – as in most other European countries Euratom fusion research was quite blooming already in 1980s. Therefore, many of those senior scientists and politicians sitting in the audience in the event and probably they did not feel 1980s all that “Jurassic”.
The recording of the event is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-fC2Wm0FiI, and my presentation starts at 55 minutes.
In my talk, I concentrated on the historical material between 1970s and 2022, demonstrating that Euratom and EUROfusion have given the form for the present FinnFusion Programme over the years. The most distinct landmark in Finnish fusion research by all metrics is Finland joining Euratom in 1995, right after having joined the EU. In recent years, the birth of EUROfusion gave another boost for FinnFusion − new opportunities for technology transfer especially to DEMO design. Comparing the “FinnFusion metrics” between 1970s or 1980s with present time is indeed convincing – the fusion research budget has increased from about 100 000 € to 6 million €, the number of fusion researchers from about 4 to 120, and the number of organizations involved from 1 to about 15!
Now the task also in Finland will be to exploit all the worldwide positive news on new fusion energy records in JET published earlier this year, the increased funding particularly by several private fusion enterprises and the new fusion device constructions, both by public and private efforts. The increased public awareness of carbon neutral energy solutions has also improved the public awareness of fusion research and will enhance the route to harnessing fusion energy.