Comparison of Plasma Breakdown with a Carbon and ITER-Like Wall

The recent installation of a full metal, ITER-like, first wall provided the opportunity to study the impact of the plasma-facing materials on plasma initiation or breakdown. This study will present for the first time a full experimental characterisation of tokamak breakdown at JET, using all discharges since 2008, covering both operations with a main chamber carbon and beryllium ITER-like wall. It was found that the avalanche phase was unaffected by the change in wall material. However, the large reduction in carbon levels resulted in significant lower radiation during the burn-through phase of the breakdown process. Breakdown failures, that usually developed with a carbon wall during the burn-through phase (especially after disruptions) were absent with the ITER-like wall. These observations match with the results obtained with a new model of plasma burn-through that includes plasma-surface interactions. The simulations show that chemical sputtering of carbon is the determining factor for the impurity content, and hence the radiation, during the burn-through phase for operations with a carbon wall. For a beryllium wall, the plasma surface effects do not raise the radiation levels much above those obtained with pure deuterium plasmas, similar as seen in the experimental study. With the ITER-like wall, operation with higher pre-fill pressures, and thus higher breakdown densities, was possible, which helped maintaining sufficient density after breakdown.
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