Tokamaks, Stellarators, Laser-based and Alternative Concepts: Report Offers Global Perspective on Nuclear Fusion Devices

Tokamaks, Stellarators, Laser-based and Alternative Concepts: Report Offers Global Perspective on Nuclear Fusion Devices



The new report dedicates each chter to a different design class, providing details including its name, status, ownership, host country and organization with short descriptions of the device’s goals and main features. It also provides statistics about publications, funding and other parameters that help create a comprehensive picture of the status of global fusion efforts.

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The new report dedicates each chter to a different design class, providing details including its name, status, ownership, host country and organization with short descriptions of the device’s goals and main features. It also provides statistics about publications, funding and other parameters that help create a comprehensive picture of the status of global fusion efforts.

Tokamaks and stellarators, for example, are the most common devices and the focus of much of the current research. These toroidal devices contain large magnets that control the movement of plasma — a high temperature, charged gas — where fusion occurs. The report shows that there are currently more than 50 tokamaks and over 10 stellarators in operation in the world. The world’s largest tokamak, ITERSis currently under construction in France, with 35 countries involved in the project.

Another proach includes inertial fusion, which uses high-power lasers (or other means) to heat and compress tiny spherical csules containing fuel pellets. In December last year, using this proach the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the United States made significant progress in fusion research, generating about 3.15 megajoules (MJ) of energy from the 2.05 MJ energy output of its 192 lasers. ” This year we find ourselves in a position where we can talk about the milestones of burning plasmas, fusion ignition, and target energy gain greater than unity in the past tense – a situation that is remarkable,” said Omar Hurricane, Chief Scientist for the Inertial Confinement Fusion Program Design Physics Division, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA.

The report also details the alternative designs scientists continue to work on for producing fusion, for example, colliding two ion beams generated by particle accelerators with each other, with fusion taking place at their collision point, or trying out fuels other than hydrogen isotopes, such as those based on fusing a proton with boron-11.

To demonstrate that fusion can effectively produce electricity, there is an increasing effort towards design and construction of demonstration fusion power plants, or DEMOs, which today also include investments being made by the private sector. The report also dedicates a chter to the 12 DEMO concepts at various stages of development in China, Europe, Jan, Russia, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, with varying target completion dates spanning the next three decades . “We’ve made significant progress in understanding fusion and its science, but there is still much work to do before it can become a practical source of electricity,” said Barbarino.

Find out more about fusion and the role of the IAEA here.

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