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Nuclear fusion

Nuclear fusion is one of the most promising options for
generating large amounts of carbon-free energy in the
future Fusion is the process that heats the Sun and all
other stars where atomic nuclei collide together
and release energy (in the form of neutrons, see
diagram below). Fusion scientists and engineers
are developing the technology to use this process
in tomorrow's power stations.
Nuclei are kept apart by coulomb repulsion
Only when they get close enough to feel the nuclear force do they attract, and
Why are we interested
The world needs new, cleaner ways to supply our increasing energy demand, as
concerns grow over climate change and declining supplies of fossil fuels. Power
stations using fusion would have a number of advantages:

No carbon emissions

Abundant fuels

Energy efficiency

No long-lived radioactive waste


Reliable power
For fusion to occur, reactor temperatures would have to
be on the order of 200 million degrees Celsius

No material on earth can withstand 200 million degrees

without melting

Two basic strategies:

1) Magnetic Confinement: Confine the plasma

with magnetic fields so that the plasma will not

touch the containment walls
2) Inertial Confinement: Supply large amounts of
energy very quickly (i.e. shoot with lasers) so
Next steps
ITER a multinational project that is being built in the south of France. ITER will be
a 500 megawatt tokamak (equivalent to a small power plant) and aims to confirm
that fusion power will be possible on a commercial scale;

IFMIF (International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility) a device that will

test the materials needed in a fusion power station, planned to operate in parallel
with ITER;

DEMO a demonstration
Power plant supplying fusion
electricity to the grid. This is
being designed now and
would be constructed during
ITER and IFMIF operation.
If successful, it will be followed
by the first generation of
The Goal
Currently more energy has to be supplied to get
the fusion reactions going than is output by fusion.
A big leap for fusion: more energy produced than
spent igniting fuel

Approach break-even point. Breakeven is the point

in which the energy supplied equals or exceeds the
energy output.

Achieve ignition. Ignition is the point in which the

energy from fusion supplies the heat necessary to
sustain the reaction without external sources.
Are there any negative safety or
environmental implications of a
fusion reactor?

How much fuel would a fusion

power plant consume in a day?

How is electrical energy created

from the reactors (heat)?
1. It is an intrinsic property of fusion that enables power plants to be
designed that are inherently safe with low environmental impact.
Extensive studies over the last decade have shown that no internally-
generated accident could result in the need to evacuate public from
outside the site, and that the waste products from fusion power will not
be a burden for future generations.

2. A large power station generating 1,500 megawatts of electricity would

consume approximately 600 grammes of tritium and 400 grammes of
deuterium each day.

3. In a future power plant, it is envisaged that the heat from a fusion

power plant would generate electricity in just the same way as existing
power plants, in which the heat is used to raise steam, driving turbines.
The possibility of using the plasma energy more directly has been
considered but does not seem practical.