Infoscience

Thesis

Modeling and control of the current density profile in tokamaks and its relation to electron transport

The current density in tokamak plasmas strongly affects transport phenomena, therefore its understanding and control represent a crucial challenge for controlled thermonuclear fusion. Within the vast framework of tokamak studies, three topics have been tackled in the course of the present thesis: first, the modelling of the current density evolution in electron Internal Transport Barrier (eITB) discharges in the Tokamak à Configuration Variable (TCV); second, the study of current diffusion and inversion of electron transport properties observed during Swing Electron Cyclotron Current Drive (Swing ECCD) discharges in TCV; third, the analysis of the current density tailoring obtained by local ECCD driven by the improved EC system for sawtooth control and reverse shear scenarios in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The work dedicated to the study of eITBs in TCV has been undertaken to identify which of the main parameters, directly related to the current density, played a relevant role in the confinement improvement created during these advanced scenarios. In this context, the current density has to be modeled, there being no measurement currently available on TCV. Since the Rebut-Lallia-Watkins (RLW) model has been validated on TCV ohmic heated plasmas, the corresponding scaling factor has often been used as a measure of improved confinement on TCV. The many interpretative simulations carried on different TCV discharges have shown that the thermal confinement improvement factor, HRLW, linearly increases with the absolute value of the minimum shear outside ρ > 0.3, ρ indicating a normalized radial coordinate. These investigations, performed with the transport code ASTRA, therefore confirmed a general observation, formulated through previous studies, that the formation of the transport barrier is correlated with the magnetic shear reversal. This was, indeed, found to be true in all cases studied, regardless of the different heating and current drive schemes employed. The increase of confinement with the negative magnetic shear was observed to be gradual, but constant, and did not depend on specific values of the safety factor. Therefore, the transition from standard to improved confinement appeared to be smooth, although it can be very fast. The flexible EC system in TCV allowed us to attain strong global confinement improvement to produce eITB regimes. It also permitted us to perform transport studies on plasmas characterized by low confinement, in which we modified the magnetic shear profile, locally, around the deposition location. For instance, alternate and periodic injection of co- and counter-ECCD within the same plasma discharge has been realized on TCV, while maintaining the same amount of total input EC power. Such a heating scheme has been the basis of Swing ECCD experiments, which were initially carried out using nearly on-axis EC deposition locations in the plasma, in order to maximize the EC power absorption, and therefore the magnetic shear variation. ASTRA, interfaced with the experimental data and the CQL3D code for the computation of the EC heating and current drive sources, has again been used as a reliable tool for transport analysis and planning of new experiments. The simulations have pointed out the effects of Swing ECCD on the magnetic shear and on the electron temperature profile around the radius at which the EC waves are absorbed. Both profiles turned out to be modulated at the same frequency as the frequency of the Swing ECCD. Moreover, the maximum magnetic shear variation has been observed to be independent of the transport models used for the simulations, therefore underlying the robustness of the modeling. Additionally, the numerical results have motivated further experiments with more off-axis EC deposition, which were found roughly in agreement with recent gyrokinetic predictions, according to which, at higher positive values of the magnetic shear, an inversion of the transport properties should occur. The aim of the study regarding the ITER project has been to analyse the capabilities of a possible variant of the EC system, recently proposed with the intent to optimize the combined action of the Upper and Equatorial EC Launchers and, therefore, to allow a broader operational domain for ITER. This variant will maintain the main goals for which the ITER EC system has originally been designed, namely the stabilization of Neoclassical Tearing Modes (NTMs) and of the sawtooth instability. This is a necessary feature that has been carefully analyzed in the present study. Besides allowing excellent performance in controlling NTMs and the sawtooth period, the suggested variant paves a way for further exploitation of EC waves for ITER. The present ITER base-line design has all EC launchers providing only co-ECCD. The performed numerical modeling has shown that the possibility to drive counter-ECCD with one of the three rows of equatorial mirrors offers greater control of the plasma current density. The counter-ECCD may also be balanced with co-ECCD to provide pure EC heating, with no net driven current. This would be an additional asset if EC waves were found to be needed to assist the L-H transition during plasma ramp-up. The overall decrease in co-ECCD, by turning one row to counter-ECCD, is estimated to be negligible, because the difference between full off-axis co-ECCD using all 20 MW from the Equatorial Launcher or co-ECCD driven by 2/3 from the Equatorial Launcher and 1/3 from the Upper Launcher is small. Therefore the latter analysis provides, in our opinion, a strong evidence of the substantial gain in flexibility if the suggested variant of the ITER EC system were accepted as the base-line design.

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