Skip to main content

Use of reconstructed 3D equilibria to determine onset conditions of helical cores in tokamaks for extrapolation to ITER...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Nuclear Fusion
Publication Date
Page Number

Large, spontaneous m/n  =  1/1 helical cores are shown to be expected in tokamaks such as ITER with extended regions of low- or reversed- magnetic shear profiles and q near 1 in the core. The threshold for this spontaneous symmetry breaking is determined using VMEC scans, beginning with reconstructed 3D equilibria from DIII-D and Alcator C-Mod based on observed internal 3D deformations. The helical core is a saturated internal kink mode (Wesson 1986 Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 28 243); its onset threshold is shown to be proportional to $({\rm d}p/{\rm d}\rho)/B_t^2$ around q  =  1. Below the threshold, applied 3D fields can drive a helical core to finite size, as in DIII-D. The helical core size thereby depends on the magnitude of the applied perturbation. Above it, a small, random 3D kick causes a bifurcation from axisymmetry and excites a spontaneous helical core, which is independent of the kick size. Systematic scans of the q-profile show that the onset threshold is very sensitive to the q-shear in the core. Helical cores occur frequently in Alcator C-Mod during ramp-up when slow current penetration results in a reversed shear q-profile, which is favorable for helical core formation. Finally, a comparison of the helical core onset threshold for discharges from DIII-D, Alcator C-Mod and ITER confirms that while DIII-D is marginally stable, Alcator C-Mod and especially ITER are highly susceptible to helical core formation without being driven by an externally applied 3D magnetic field.