ZETA, the 'Zero Energy Thermonuclear Assembly', was a major experiment in the early history of fusion power research. It was much larger and more powerful than any fusion experiment in the world when it went into operation in 1957. Early results suggested fusion had been achieved; in hindsight, this was obviously not correct. However, before more measurements could be made, the early conclusions were released to the press; front-page articles in newspapers around the world announced the breakthrough as a major step on the road to unlimited power – a scientific advance for Britain comparable to the USSR's recently launched Sputnik satellite. While the claim had to be publicly withdrawn later, the device would go on to have a long experimental lifetime and produce numerous important advances in the field that have paved the ways for today's machines. For example, studies of the instabilities in ZETA led to several important theoretical advances that form the basis of modern plasma theory.
60-years on from ZETA, leaders from the UK nuclear fusion community meet to discuss its impact and the latest developments in nuclear fusion technologies.