The first term on the righthand side of Equation (11.149) is the linear tearing stability index, [11]. A classical (i.e., nonneoclassical) tearing mode is unstable when , and stable otherwise [30]. The free energy that drives a classical tearing mode is derived from equilibrium current gradients within the plasma. (See Chapter 3.)
The second term on the righthand side of Equation (11.149) is a stabilizing (i.e., negative) saturation term that prevents an unstable classical tearing mode from growing indefinitely [13].
The third term on the righthand side of Equation (11.149) is a destabilizing (i.e., positive) term that is due to the loss of the bootstrap current within the magnetic separatrix of the island chain consequent on the flattening of the plasma pressure profile in this region [3].
The fourth term on the righthand side of Equation (11.149) is a stabilizing term due to magnetic fieldline curvature [14,20]. Note that this term also depends crucially on the flattening of the pressure profile within the magnetic separatrix.
The final term on the righthand side of Equation (11.149) represents the stabilizing effect of the ion polarization current induced in the vicinity of the rational surface when the ion fluid is diverted around the island chain's magnetic separatrix [6,33,34,35]. Note that the polarization term is stabilizing because it is generally the case that
(12.19) 
Given that the the plasma pressure profile is only flattened within the separatrix of the magnetic island chain when , and that the bootstrap, curvature, and polarization terms depend crucially on this flattening, it is conventional to modify Equation (12.15) as follows [7,21,24]:
where , and is defined in Equation (8.84). The fact that the bootstrap term scales as at small island width, whereas the curvature term scales as , can be established analytically [7,24]. The smallislandwidth behavior of the polarization term is a guess (that is irrelevant because the term turns out to be negligible). Other modifications are possible. For instance, if the island width falls below the ion banana width then we would expect the ion contribution to the destabilizing bootstrap term to disappear (because the trapped ions would average over the flattening of the pressure profile within the separatrix, so there would be no reduction in the ion contribution to the bootstrap current in this region) [26].
We can write the generalized Rutherford equation in the form
where and , , Here, is the plasma minor radius.

Table 12.1 shows estimates for the various dimensionless parameters that characterize the righthand side of the generalized Rutherford equation, (12.22), for the case of a lowfield and a highfield tokamak fusion reactor. (See Chapter 1.) These estimates are made using the following assumptions: (lowfield) or (highfield), , , (where and are the deuteron and triton masses, respectively), , , , , , and . The plasma equilibrium is assumed to be of the Wesson type with , , and . (See Section 9.4.) It can be seen, from the table, that the parameters in the generalized Rutherford equation all take the same values for a lowfield and a highfield reactor, apart from the critical normalized island width above which the plasma pressure is flattened within the island chain's magnetic separatrix, , which is smaller in the former reactor type.
Figure 12.2 shows the various terms in the righthand side of the generalized Rutherford equation, (12.22), plotted as functions of the normalized island width, , for a lowfield and a highfield tokamak fusion reactor (using the parameters given in Table 12.1). It can be seen that the destabilizing bootstrap term is the dominant term. Moreover, the stabilizing curvature term is much smaller than the bootstrap term, but is important at small island widths. Furthermore, the stabilizing saturation term is only important at large island widths. Finally, the stabilizing polarization term is completely negligible (because there is no neoclassical enhancement of inertia). It is clear that a highfield tokamak fusion reactor is slightly less susceptible to a neoclassical tearing mode than a lowfield reactor (because the destabilizing bootstrap term is smaller in the former case).

Figure 12.3 shows the function calculated for an / tearing mode ( is the poloidal mode number, whereas is the toroidal mode number) in a lowfield tokamak fusion reactor (using the parameters given in the lefthand column of Table 12.1) on the assumption that the linear tearing stability index takes the value . The fact that implies that the classical 2/1 tearing mode is stable. On the other hand, as is clear from the figure, the neoclassical 2/1 tearing mode is potentially unstable because there exists a range of island width for which . Now, according to Equation (12.21), the roots of correspond to possible steadystate island widths. There are two such roots shown in the figure, marked with and X and an O. The smaller root (marked with an X) corresponds to a dynamically unstable equilibrium (because ), whereas the larger root (marked with an O) corresponds to a dynamically stable equilibrium (because ). In fact, the smaller root specifies a “seed” island width that must be exceeded in order to trigger the neoclassical tearing mode, whereas the larger root corresponds to the mode's final saturated island width [21]. It can be seen that, in the example shown in the figure, the seed island width is about 0.2% of the plasma minor radius, whereas the final saturated island width is about 11% of the minor radius.