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Science & Technology

World's largest fusion project begins assembly

By T.K. Randall
July 29, 2020 · Comment icon 30 comments

The five-year assembly phase is now underway. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Oak Ridge National Laboratory
The ambitious $23.5 billion endeavour aims to harness nuclear fusion as a source of limitless clean energy.
Often seen as the Holy Grail of power generation, nuclear fusion is the same process that produces energy in the Sun and works by fusing hydrogen nuclei together to create helium.

Unlike nuclear fission which comes with the inherent risk of a meltdown, fusion is much cleaner and safer while the hydrogen fuel used by the process is so abundant that it is practically limitless.

Physicists have been attempting to build a working nuclear fusion reactor for the purpose of energy generation for over 60 years, however success has always remained tantalizing out of reach.

This latest experiment - which will be constructed over the next few years in France - will hopefully begin producing the first ultra-hot plasma needed for fusion by the year 2025.
"I believe disruptive innovation will play a key role in addressing global issues including climate change and realizing a sustainable carbon-free society," said Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Iter Project director Bernard Bigot called the harnessing of nuclear fusion a "miracle for our planet", but cautioned that "constructing the machine piece-by-piece will be like assembling a three-dimensional puzzle on an intricate timeline [and] with the precision of a Swiss watch."

If the project succeeds, it will be able to produce ten times as much heat as is put in - a far greater surplus than from any other fusion experiment that has come before.

Eventually, nuclear fusion could revolutionize the way we generate electricity while simultaneously solving the problems of pollution and dwindling fossil fuel resources.

In other words - it's something we want to get working as soon as humanly possible.

Source: BBC News | Comments (30)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #21 Posted by third_eye 3 years ago
I don't know why it has to be so complicated...  Why should there be a need to revamp everything, just make do with what works best where, the technology is there for everything to everywhere from solar, to wind, to sea, to rivers...  No need for reinventing mouse traps.  ~
Comment icon #22 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 3 years ago
As I see it we should aim to develop as many clean technologies as we can, that way we won't become dependent on a single technology. The dependence of fossil fuels is why we are in the situation we are in now. In my country we use wind power on a large scale and it works fine for us, but it may not be the case for everyone. Diversification is the key. To put the cost of ITER into context, its going to cost about the same as the Hinckley C nuclear power plant in the UK. A potentially revolutionary technology at the cost of two fission reactors. Investing in fusion power is an investment in the... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by TripGun 3 years ago
If they were not burning neutron-rich isotopes then there would be no radiation but they are (because its Earth and not the Sun) using tritium. 
Comment icon #24 Posted by third_eye 3 years ago
I guess it's a matter of timing for me, we've hardly exhausted all options or even nearly anywhere close to maximizing what technological advancements available currently.  All this just sounds a bit too much of coddling the big corps with big money fanciful fantasies at times like what we're going through now.  ~
Comment icon #25 Posted by Cookie Monster 3 years ago
I`m not aware of any nuclear plants using tritium as a fuel source, or plans to use it in the French ITER reactor. Looking on the internet it says the plan is to pump in seawater, extract deuterium from it, and then use that deuterium for the plasma. We are only talking about a few grams of deuterium needed per day to power the ITER reactor. That means should something catastrophic go wrong (like terrorists blow it up) there isn`t enough plasma in the system to cause a significant explosion. Likewise deuterium is itself not a dangerous isotope, it is naturally occurring and we all have some al... [More]
Comment icon #26 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 3 years ago
ITER will use tritium and they do state that on their website. Fusing deuterium with tritium is the only form of controlled fusion that is feasible with our current technology. 
Comment icon #27 Posted by jbondo 3 years ago
The only way to deal with nuclear waste that would be safest, is to move it off world. Launch it into space and let it drift forever in the void. If there were a way to do that without it being an issue, that would be a good option. LOL! Maybe then we'd get to meet ET's pretty fast. They likely wouldn't appreciate us dumping our radioactive garbage into the universe.
Comment icon #28 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 3 years ago
You can reprocesse some of it, particularly plutonium. Many countries reuse the reprocessed plutonium in their reactors, called MOX fuel. The US have not done it since 1976. Just like France will soon have the largest fusion reactor in the world, they also have the largest nuclear reprocessing plant in the world.  La Hague: In the future it is possible that we can use spend fuel in new types of reactors, but for now storing it underground in areas of geologic stability is probably the best idea. 
Comment icon #29 Posted by DieChecker 3 years ago
Was reading the Wikipedia site, and apparently is never going to produce electricity, just to prove that constant production of plasma and a net heat out, is possible.  
Comment icon #30 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 3 years ago
Thats true. ITER was never meant to be a true fusion powerplant, but its intended to test various systems that could be used in a future reactor. The intention is that ITER will be followed by DEMO, which is a prototype fusion powerplant. Fusion is a long term solution, which is why we should still invest in technologies we can implement now. In my opinion its an investment in the future and eventhough is no guanrantee that it will work, I think its worth the try. 

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