Non-linear modelling of fast particle interactions with MHD and disruptions in spherical tokamaks (plasma strand project)

Supervisors: Marco Cecconello (Durham University), Alexandre Fil & Christopher Ham (UKAEA)

The path to high performance fusion power plants requires an understanding of the interaction between fast particles in the plasma generated either from plasma heating systems, fusion reactions or as a result of a disruption and large scale MHD modes and disruptions. The fast particles need to be adequately confined to keep the plasma hot or prevent damage to the first wall of the machine. This understanding will contribute to the design of STEP and other power plant class machines.

The project will start by analysing data from MAST-U high-performance experiments to identify important instabilities (such as neoclassical tearing modes) that can interact with fast particles. Non-linear 3D MHD modelling using JOREK will then be performed and compared to experiments using synthetic diagnostics. 3D MHD fields modelled during such instabilities will also be used to trace fast particle trajectories or in disruptions the generation of runaway electrons. Next steps of the project may explore strategies to avoid or mitigate fast particle losses or runaway electron beams, which will inform both future MAST-U operation and help the design of STEP.

The project aligns well with the Fusion Science & Technology research performed at Durham University.

The student will be mainly based at UKAEA, but it would be desirable to also include long stays at Durham throughout the project, possibly twice 6-months. The student will attend relevant induction and research training at the university. There will be regular contact between the student, UKAEA supervisors and the university supervisor, through emails and Teams/Zoom calls (generally weekly), visits of the university supervisor to UKAEA and the student to Durham. Additional collaboration with the NSTX-U team would be highly desirable, and training on MHD codes will be given by UKAEA experts and through participation in the code annual general meeting.

This project is offered by Durham University. For further information please contact: Marco Cecconello (

This project may be compatible with part time study, please contact the project supervisors if you are interested in exploring this.