Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A brief history of nuclear fusion

An Author Correction to this article was published on 18 June 2020

This article has been updated

Since the 1950s, international cooperation has been the driving force behind fusion research. Here, we discuss how the International Atomic Energy Agency has shaped the field and the events that have produced fusion’s global signature partnership.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Stellarator model.

UN Photo / Mark Garten

Fig. 2: First Fusion Energy Conference.

Photo Ellinger

Fig. 3: Henry Seligman opening the second Fusion Energy Conference.


Fig. 4: T-3 tokamak.


Change history


  1. Cockroft, J. D. Nature 182, 903–905 (1958).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Dolgovsaveliev, G. G., et al. In Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. Geneva 82–91 (1958).

  3. Spitzer, L. Phys. Fluids 1, 253–264 (1958).

    ADS  MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Interoffice memorandum from DDG Hubert de Laboulaye to DG Sterling Cole. IAEA Archives (IAEA, 1958).

  5. Spitzer, L., Jr. In Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. Culham 3–11 (IAEA, 1966).

  6. Artsimovich, L. A. In Proc. 3rd Int. Conf. Novosibirsk 11–17 (IAEA, 1969).

  7. Peacock, N. J. et al. Nature 224, 488–490 (1969).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Letter from Henry Seligman to Rendel Pease. IAEA Archives (IAEA, 1970).

  9. Graves, G. A. Final report of the IAEA Panel on international cooperation in controlled fusion research and its application. Nucl. Fusion 10, 413–421 (1970).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Flakus, F. N. At. Energy Rev. 13, 587–614 (1975).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Fusion Safety IAEA-TECDOC-277 (IAEA, 1983).

  12. Fusion Safety Status Report IAEA-TECDOC-388 (IAEA, 1986).

  13. Fusion Reactor Safety IAEA-TECDOC-440 (IAEA, 1987).

  14. Spano, A. H. & Belozerov, A. Nucl. Fusion 14, 281–283 (IAEA, 1974).

  15. Conn, R. W. et al. Nucl. Fusion 18, 985–1016 (1978).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. INTOR, Group Nucl. Fusion 20, 349–388 (1980).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Wagner, F. Phys. Rev. Lett. 49, 1408–1412 (1982).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Joint Soviet-United States Statement on the Summit Meeting in Geneva. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (1985).

  19. Letter from Hans Blix to IFRC members. IAEA Archives (IAEA, 1985).

  20. Establishment of ITER: Relevant Documents. ITER Documentation Series No.1 (IAEA, 1988).

  21. Letter from John F. Clarke to Hans Blix. IAEA Archives (IAEA, 1988).

  22. Team, J. E. T. Nucl. Fusion 32, 187–203 (1992).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Bell, M. G. et al. Overview of DT results from TFTR. Nuclear Fusion 35, 1429–1436 (1995).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Ishida, S. et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 79, 3917–3921 (1997).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Keilhacker, M. et al. Nucl. Fusion 39, 209–234 (1999).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Agreement on the Establishment of the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project INFCIRC/702 (IAEA, 2007);

  27. Ayrault, J.-M. Decree no. 2012–1248. Journal Officiel de la République Française (2012);

  28. Klinger, T. et al. Nucl. Fusion 59, 11204 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the IAEA Archives for providing source material and photos for this article.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matteo Barbarino.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Barbarino, M. A brief history of nuclear fusion. Nat. Phys. 16, 890–893 (2020).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing