Nuclear Energy: Fusion Power A Step Closer

The UK’s newest fusion reactor, ST40, was switched on last week, and has already managed to achieve ‘first plasma‘ – successfully generating a scorching blob of electrically-charged gas (or plasma) within its core.

The aim is for the tokamak reactor to heat plasma up to 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018 – seven times hotter than the centre of the Sun. That’s the ‘fusion’ threshold, at which hydrogen atoms can begin to fuse into helium, unleashing limitless, clean energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion is the process that fuels our Sun, and if we can figure out a way to achieve the same thing here on Earth, it would allow us to tap into an unlimited supply of clean energy that produces next to no carbon emissions.Unlike nuclear fission, which is achieved in today’s nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together, not splitting them apart, and it requires little more than salt and water, and primarily produces helium as a waste product.

 

Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world,” said David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, the company behind ST40. “We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.

The next step is for a full set of those magnetic coils to be installed and tested within ST40, and later this year, Tokamak Energy will use them to aim to generate plasma at temperatures of 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit).

In 2018, the team hopes to achieve the fusion threshold of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), and the ultimate goal is to provide clean fusion power to the UK grid by 2030.

Source: http://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/

Fusion Power Is Close

Fusion power is the Holy Grail of energy production – seen by some as a silver bullet for a carbon-neutral future. The failure of the multi-billion dollar ITER project to produce reactor relevant fusion has disappointed scientists and environmentalists. But a batch of small firms like Tokamak Energy believes they’re close to cracking the mystery. The UK firm says its reactor‘s spherical shape and magnets made using high-temperature superconductors means it could be two years from reaching 100 million degrees Celsius. That’s seven times hotter than the sun’s core and the temperature necessary to achieve fusion.

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We’ve got a slightly different shape from traditional fusion and this allows us to get a higher plasma pressure for a given magnetic field. It’s a measure of efficiency called beta“, says Dr  Bill Huang, Senior engineer for Tokamak Energy.
Fusion is how stars produce energy. Investors are spending millions on small-scale fusion projects. Vast potential return makes them attractive, as does the fact that multiple methods of achieving fusion could all be profitable.  “First of all they can be constructed in a factory, so you’re talking about economies of scale; and the second key thing is the way in which the grid itself, the future grid, is likely to be more dispersed” , says Mark White, of  Rainbow Seeds, and investor.
Tokamak Energy is constructing its third reactor and hopes the fifth generation can transfer energy to the grid by 2030.  Dr David Kinghan, CEO of Tokamak Energy. adds: “If it could be harnessed, could be scaled up rapidly to be deployed world-wide by 2050 and could make a very big difference from 2050 onwards.”
With world leaders meeting in Paris to hammer out a deal to limit global emissions, fusion power may help them meet those promises.

Source: http://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/
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http://uk.reuters.com/