By Hamish Johnston
In June 1959 the Scientific Advisory Committee of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommended that the agency publish a new journal on plasma physics and controlled nuclear fusion.
The next year, the journal Nuclear Fusion was launched. Now, 50 years after its debut, you can browse the entire archive of the journal and read any article you like free of charge – at least for the next 30 days.
I wasn’t around at the time, but I’m guessing that physicists – and even the public at large – were very keen on the idea of fusion-generated electricity.
I was therefore surprised at the cautious tone of Sterling Cole’s foreword to the first ever issue of the journal. Cole (right) was the first director general of the IAEA and in 1960 he wrote:
“We believe this new journal will contribute to the improvement of cooperation between nations in the difficult task of finding ways to extract energy from controlled nuclear fusion. Even if the earnest and concerted efforts devoted to this task do not lead immediately to practical energy sources, the endeavor will greatly expand the knowledge of plasma physics besides broadening basic scientific knowledge. The effort will also undoubtedly lead to the invention of new and important peacetime devices.”
Those are wise words indeed.
While the first paper in the journal has the rather dull title “Plasma oscillations”, its authors I B Bernstein and S K Trehan are identified as members of the intriguing Project Matterhorn at Princeton University.
True to the theme of international co-operation, two of the five articles in the first issue are from the US, two from the UK and one from France (the latter published in French). Abstracts for all papers are available in English, Spanish, French and Russian – those were the days!
You can access the archive here.
And don’t forget that physicsworld.com has produced a series of videos on fusion including an interview with Chris Llewellyn Smith about why ITER is a fusion facility worth building.