UK moves towards the world's first nuclear fusion power plant

wallpapers Industry 2020-07-20

the UK Spherical Tokamak aims to generate 50 MW of fusion energy when it is launched in 2040. Photo source: British Atomic Energy Authority

on December 2 the British government invited communities across the country to voluntarily site a prototype nuclear fusion reactor which will be the first reactor to put electricity into the grid. The project called "energy production Spherical Tokamak" (step) was launched last year with 222 million pounds spent on design development in the first five years. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) which oversees the work said that step could be built as early as 2032 operational in 2040. "Any new device is welcome because it brings new insights" according to science Said Tony donn é head of the EU fusion program. He suspects that step is unlikely to be seen as a generator. "My impression is that it will be more like a component testing facility." The competition between

to build the first nuclear fusion reactor capable of generating excess energy is unfolding around the world. Compared with the nuclear reactor driven by nuclear fission the fuel source of nuclear fusion is relatively abundant the radiation is less. However as a kind of practical energy nuclear fusion is still a distant dream. It needs hundreds of millions of degrees centigrade temperature. To prevent hot plasma from contacting melting the vessel engineers usually use powerful magnets around toroidal tokamaks. But no Tokamak can produce more energy from fusion than it can heat plasma. France's ITER which is due to be completed in 2025 will be the first device to show energy gains - not until after 2035. Even then fusion energy will not be used to generate electricity.

the spherical step looks more like an apple with a core than a doughnut. This makes the plasma more stable so operators can get higher temperatures in smaller devices. The Spherical Tokamak was first launched by the Kalam nuclear fusion energy center (CCFE) affiliated to UKAEA a device called the megaampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST). Now 50 MW is the goal of developing step power in the UK. "Step is a reasonable step after the upgrade of master." Said donn é. Ian Chapman director of the CCFE for


" said small size is a key advantage of the Spherical Tokamak because the biggest cost of the $25 billion ITER is its huge magnets. Chapman said that since the cost of investment is as low as billions of dollars if fusion power plants compete with fossil or renewable energy plants the cost of step will be much lower than that of ITER.

but don é points out that spherical tokamaks also have disadvantages. In smaller devices the hot dense plasma has higher requirements on materials so the components may need to be replaced more frequently. In addition step is unlikely to produce tritium one of the two hydrogen isotopes used as reactor fuel. Tritium is radioactive with a half-life of 12 years there is little global supply. A working reactor has to produce tritium by adding lithium blocks around the vessel - tritium is produced by bombarding lithium with neutrons from nuclear fusion reactions. ITER will be the first attempt to demonstrate tritium production. "Step cannot generate tritium in such a short period of time" donn é said.

don é also suspects that there are political factors driving this step. CCFE is also home to the European combined ring reactor (jet) now the world's largest Tokamak jet's operational life is coming to an end. If the UK does not sign a trade agreement with the EU its future as an ITER project partner is in doubt. In addition CCFE has competitors who are keeping an eye on it. UK start-up Tokamak energy is trying to build a compact Spherical Tokamak for energy production by 2030. Us start-up Commonwealth fusion systems plans to start building a similar operational reactor by 2025.

however this is not important for communities that want to be the site of the step they will see it as a way to attract money work for their area. They will have to apply by March 2021 need to provide 100 hectares of l which will be reviewed for geological suitability access other criteria. UKAEA plans to select a site by the end of 2022.

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