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Workshop: NeurIPS 2023 Workshop: Machine Learning and the Physical Sciences

Autoregressive Transformers for Disruption Prediction in Nuclear Fusion Plasmas

Lucas Spangher · William Arnold · Alexander Spangher · Andrew Maris · Cristina Rea


The physical sciences require models tailored to specific nuances of different dynamics. In this work, we study outcome predictions in nuclear fusion tokamaks, where a major challenge are disruptions, or the loss of plasma stability with damaging implications for the tokamak. Although disruptions are difficult to model using physical simulations, machine learning (ML) models have shown promise in predicting these phenomena. Here, we first study several variations on masked autoregressive transformers, achieving an average of 5\% increase in Area Under the Receiving Operating Characteristic metric above existing methods. We then compare transformer models to limited context neural networks in order to shed light on the ``memory'' of plasma effected by tokamaks controls. With these model comparisons, we argue for the persistence of a memory throughout the plasma in the context of tokamaks that our model exploits.

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