Feature: Power Technology – Will the world’s biggest fusion project change the future of energy ?

International nuclear fusion collaboration ITER is moving forward with its project to build the world’s largest tokamak after newly appointing MOMENTUM to manage its assembly. Work will commence in August and will include the assembly of more than one million components. What are the challenges of the project and how pivotal is its success to the future commercialisation of carbon-free fusion energy?

Fusion power, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun and stars, is the ultimate carbon-free energy source: clean, safe and with abundant fuel.

Although there is no question of fusion’s scientific feasibility, getting net energy out the system is not yet practically viable as it currently takes more energy to initiate and contain a fusion reaction than the amount produced.

But, the gap is slowly but surely closing and ITER, a massive international coalition to build the world’s most advanced Tokamak – the world’s leading fusion technology – is the leading contender for a breakthrough.

ITER hopes to build the world’s most advanced Tokamak. Photo: courtesy of ITER.

ITER, which means the ‘the way’ in Latin, is a collaboration between 35 nations, including the UK, US, Russia, China and Korea, to build a tokomak designed to produce 500MW of power from 50MW of input.

Currently, the record held for power produced vs input is by the European tokamak JET which produced 16MW of fusion power from a total input power of 24MW in 1997.

Fusion power happens when two or more atomic nuclei come close enough to react and form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. The difference in mass between the products and reactants leads to the release of large amounts of energy.

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