Science & Technology
World's largest fusion project begins assembly
By T.K. Randall
July 29, 2020 · 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
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