ELM control strategies and tools: status and potential for ITER
Operating ITER in the reference inductive scenario at the design values of Ip = 15 MA and QDT = 10 requires the achievement of good H-mode confinement that relies on the presence of an edge transport barrier whose pedestal pressure height is key to plasma performance. Strong gradients occur at the edge in such conditions that can drive magnetohydrodynamic instabilities resulting in edge localized modes (ELMs), which produce a rapid energy loss from the pedestal region to the plasma facing components (PFC). Without appropriate control, the heat loads on PFCs during ELMs in ITER are expected to become significant for operation in H-mode at Ip = 6–9 MA; operation at higher plasma currents would result in a very reduced life time of the PFCs. Currently, several options are being considered for the achievement of the required level of ELM control in ITER; this includes operation in plasma regimes which naturally have no or very small ELMs, decreasing the ELM energy loss by increasing their frequency by a factor of up to 30 and avoidance of ELMs by actively controlling the edge with magnetic perturbations. Small/no ELM regimes obtained by influencing the edge stability (by plasma shaping, rotational shear control, etc) have shown in present experiments a significant reduction of the ELM heat fluxes compared to type-I ELMs. However, so far they have only been observed under a limited range of pedestal conditions depending on each specific device and their extrapolation to ITER remains uncertain. ELM control by increasing their frequency relies on the controlled triggering of the edge instability leading to the ELM. This has been presently demonstrated with the injection of pellets and with plasma vertical movements; pellets having provided the results more promising for application in ITER conditions. ELM avoidance/suppression takes advantage of the fact that relatively small changes in the pedestal plasma and magnetic field parameters seem to have a large stabilizing effect on large ELMs. Application of edge magnetic field perturbation with non-axisymmetric fields is found to affect transport at the plasma edge and thus prevent the uncontrolled rise of the plasma pressure gradients and the occurrence of type-I ELMs. This paper compiles a brief overview of various ELM control approaches, summarizes their present achievements and briefly discusses the open issues regarding their application in ITER.