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  • richardmitnick 2:40 pm on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alfvén eigenmodes, , DIII-D National Fusion Facility, Fusion technology, NOVA and ORBIT simulation codes, ,   

    From PPPL: “Physicists propose new way to stabilize next-generation fusion plasmas” 


    PPPL

    September 11, 2017
    Raphael Rosen

    1
    PPPL physicist Gerrit Kramer.(Photo by Elle Starkman)

    A key issue for next-generation fusion reactors is the possible impact of many unstable Alfvén eigenmodes, wave-like disturbances produced by the fusion reactions that ripple through the plasma in doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called “tokamaks.” Deuterium and tritium fuel react when heated to temperatures near 100 million degrees Celsius, producing high-energy helium ions called alpha particles that heat the plasma and sustain the fusion reactions.

    These alpha particles are even hotter than the fuel and have so much energy that they can drive Alfvén eigenmodes that allow the particles to escape from the reaction chamber before they can heat the plasma. Understanding these waves and how they help alpha particles escape is a key research topic in fusion science.

    If only one or two of these waves are excited in the reaction chamber, the effect on the alpha particles and their ability to heat the fuel is limited. However, theorists have predicted for some time that if many of these waves are excited, they can collectively throw out a lot of alpha particles, endangering the reactor chamber walls and the efficient heating of the fuel.

    Recent experiments conducted on the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, which General Atomics operates for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in San Diego, have revealed evidence that confirms these theoretical predictions.

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    DIII-D National Fusion Facility

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    https://lasttechage.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/fusion-seawater-and-stewart-pragers-oped/

    Losses of up to 40 percent of high-energy particles are observed in experiments when many Alfvén waves are excited by deuterium beam ions used to simulate alpha particles and higher-energy beam ions in a fusion reactor such as ITER, which is now under construction in the south of France.

    In the wake of this research, physicists at the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) produced a quantitatively accurate model of the impact of these Alfvén waves on high-energy deuterium beams in the DIII-D tokamak. They used simulation codes called NOVA and ORBIT to predict which Alfvén waves would be excited and their effect on the confinement of the high-energy particles.

    The researchers confirmed the NOVA modeling prediction that over 10 unstable Alfvén waves can be excited by the deuterium beams in the DIII-D experiment. Furthermore, in quantitative agreement with the experimental results, the modeling predicted that up to 40 percent of the energetic particles would be lost. The modeling demonstrated for the first time, in this type of high-performance plasma, that quantitatively accurate predictions can be made for the effect of multiple Alfvén waves on the confinement of energetic particles in the DIII-D tokamak.

    “Our team confirmed that we can quantitatively predict the conditions where the fusion alpha particles can be lost from the plasma based on the results obtained from the modeling of the DIII-D experiments” said Gerrit Kramer, a PPPL research physicist and lead author of a paper that describes the modeling results in the May issue of the journal Nuclear Fusion.

    The joint findings marked a potentially large advance in comprehension of the process. “These results show that we now have a strong understanding of the individual waves excited by the energetic particles and how these waves work together to expel energetic particles from the plasma,” said physicist Raffi Nazikian, head of the ITER and Tokamaks Department at PPPL and leader of the laboratory’s collaboration with DIII-D.

    The NOVA+ORBIT model further indicated that certain plasma conditions could dramatically reduce the number of Alfvén waves and hence lower the energetic-particle losses. Such waves and the losses they produce could be minimized if the electric current profile in the center of the plasma could be broadened, according to the analysis presented in the scientific article.

    Experiments to test these ideas for reducing energetic particle losses will be conducted in a following research campaign on DIII-D. “New upgrades to the DIII-D facility will allow for the exploration of improved plasma conditions,” Nazikian said. “New experiments are proposed to access conditions predicted by the theory to reduce energetic particle losses, with important implications for the optimal design of future reactors.”

    The DOE Office of Science supported this research. Members of the research team contributing to the published article included scientists from PPPL, General Atomics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine.

    See the full article here .

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    PPPL campus

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on September 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Fusion technology, , NSTX-U Tokamak at PPPL, PPPL Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory   

    From PPPL: “PPPL has a new interim director and is moving ahead with construction of prototype magnets” 


    PPPL

    September 8, 2017
    Jeanne Jackson DeVoe

    1
    Rich Hawryluk (Photo by Elle Starkman )

    Rich Hawryluk has been appointed interim director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) while an international search for a permanent director moves forward, Princeton University Vice President for PPPL David McComas announced recently. Hawryluk, who has been heading the NSTX-U Recovery Project, is an internationally-known physicist and a former deputy director of PPPL.

    PPPL NSTX-U

    “Rich has earned my highest respect and the respect of his colleagues and staff at PPPL and of researchers throughout the world for his work as a scientist, project manager, and leader. I am delighted he has agreed to head the Laboratory as we move into the next phase of the NSTX-U recovery,” McComas said.

    Hawryluk said that he was grateful for the opportunity to lead the Laboratory where he has worked for more than four decades. “I feel deeply about this place,” he said. “It has given me enormous opportunities to do research, as well as scientific and technical management. I feel it’s incumbent on me to do all I possibly can to give the scientists and the engineers and the staff here exciting and productive scientific opportunities both in the near future as well for the long term.”

    Terry Brog, who served as interim director since September 2016, will return to his previous position as deputy director for operations and chief operating officer that he assumed in June of 2016. Stacia Zelick, who served as interim deputy director for operations under Brog, will continue to serve in a leadership role. Michael Zarnstorff, the deputy director for research, will remain in his position. Physicists Jon Menard, head of NSTX-U research and Stefan Gerhardt, deputy engineering director for the project, will now lead the NSTX-U Recovery Project. Charles Neumeyer will remain as the NSTX-U Recovery Project engineering director and deputy head of engineering for NSTX-U.

    The leadership change comes as PPPL moves ahead with constructing prototype magnets in preparation for replacing the one that failed last year and five others that were built under similar conditions.

    Construction of the first prototype magnet follows a comprehensive review of each system of NSTX-U by a team of engineers and scientists from PPPL as well as nearly 50 external experts from the United States and around the world.

    “For the Laboratory to succeed, we must utilize the talents, creativity and skills of all of the staff,” Hawryluk said. “My job is to enable other people to address the issues facing the Laboratory and to set a firm foundation for the future director.”

    Hawryluk and McComas both thanked Brog and Zelick for their leadership during the past several months. “I’m extremely grateful for all the work that Terry and Stacia have done in their respective roles over the last year,” McComas said. Hawryluk also noted that it was his pleasure to work with the NSTX-U team and, in particular, Charlie Neumeyer, Stefan Gerhardt and Jon Menard who “are very dedicated to bringing NSTX-U back on line.”

    The new interim director has been at PPPL for most of his career. He came to PPPL in 1974 after receiving a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. He headed the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor, then the largest magnetic confinement fusion facility in the United States, from 1991 to 1997. Hawryluk oversaw all research and technical operations as deputy director of the Laboratory for 11 years from 1997 to 2008. He was then head of PPPL’s ITER and Tokamaks Department from 2009 to 2011. From 2011 to 2013, Hawryluk worked at ITER in France, serving as the deputy director-general for the Administration Department of ITER.

    ITER Tokamak in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, which is in southern France

    In 2013, Hawryluk returned to the Laboratory as head of the ITER and Tokamaks department. He remained in that position until he became head of the Recovery Project last year. Hawryluk has received numerous awards during his career including a Department of Energy Distinguished Associate Award, a Kaul Foundation Prize for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research and Technology, a Fusion Power Award, and an American Physical Society Prize for Excellence in Plasma Physicswith physicists Rob Goldston and James Strachan. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 2008 and of the American Physical Society since 1986, he also chairs the board of editors of Nuclear Fusion, a monthly journal devoted to controlled fusion energy.

    Hawryluk and his wife Mary Katherine Hawryluk, a school psychologist working with special needs children at the New Road School in Parlin, New Jersey, met as undergraduates and have been married for 41 years. They have two grown sons: Kevin, who lives in Chicago, and David, who lives in Los Angeles. In his spare time, Hawryluk is an avid reader.

    “I’m taking on this task because I really believe in PPPL and its critical role in furthering the field of plasma physics with the goal of developing fusion energy,” Hawryluk said. “I am committed to addressing issues that are central to the long-term success of the Laboratory.”

    See the full article here .

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    PPPL campus

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:31 pm on August 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, , ,   

    From PPPL: “PPPL physicists essential to new campaign on world’s most powerful stellarator” 


    PPPL

    August 28, 2017
    John Greenwald

    KIT Wendelstein 7-X, built in Greifswald, Germany

    1
    Fish-eye view of interior of W7-X showing graphite tiles that cover magnetic coils. (Photo courtesy of IPP.)

    Physicists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are providing critical expertise for the first full campaign of the world’s largest and most powerful stellarator, a magnetic confinement fusion experiment, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) in Germany. The fusion facility resumes operating on August 28, 2017, and will investigate the suitability of its optimized magnetic fields to create steady state plasmas and to serve as a model for a future power plant for the production of a “star in a jar,” a virtually limitless source of safe and clean energy for generating electricity.

    The W7-X started up in December, 2015, and concluded its initial run in March, 2016. The facility has since been upgraded to prepare for the high-power campaign that is set to begin.

    Deeply involved in the new 15-week run are PPPL physicists Sam Lazerson and Novimir Pablant, who are spending two years at the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany. Lazerson, who previously mapped the W7-X magnetic fields with barn-door sized magnetic coils built by PPPL, heads a task force that will plan and run a series of experiments on the stellarator. Pablant, who designed an x-ray crystal spectrometer to record the behavior of W7-X plasma, will operate the diagnostic together with a German spectrometer and will contribute to planning and executing research.

    First run in designed configuration

    “This will be the first run of the machine in its designed configuration,” said David Gates, who heads the stellarator physics division at PPPL and oversees the laboratory’s role as lead U.S. collaborator in the W7-X project. The new run will test a device called an “island divertor” for exhausting thermal energy and impurities. The campaign will also increase the heating power of the stellarator to eight megawatts to enable operation at a higher beta — the ratio of plasma pressure to the magnetic field pressure, a key factor for plasma confinement.

    Such progress marks steps toward lengthening the confinement time of the hot, charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions within the optimized machine. “The goal is to increase plasma confinement compared with traditional stellarators,” said Gates.

    Going forward, Max Planck engineers plan to install a U.S.-built “scraper element” on the W7-X after completion of the initial 15-week campaign. The following phase will study the ability of the unit, originally designed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and completed at PPPL, to intercept heat flowing toward the divertor and improve its performance. Plans call next for installation of a water-cooled divertor in 2019 to further increase the allowable pulse length of the stellarator.

    See the full article here .

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    PPPL campus

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:05 am on August 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alcator C-Mod tokamak at MIT, Fusion technology, , UK’s Joint European Torus (JET) Europe’s largest fusion device,   

    From MIT: “Fusion heating gets a boost” 

    MIT News

    MIT Widget

    MIT News

    August 21, 2017
    Paul Rivenberg | Plasma Science and Fusion Center

    1
    The interior of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, where experiments were conducted that have helped create a new scenario for heating plasma and achieving fusion. Photo: Bob Mumgaard/Plasma Science and Fusion Center

    In the quest for fusion energy, scientists have spent decades experimenting with ways to make plasma fuel hot and dense enough to generate significant fusion power. At MIT, researchers have focused their attention on using radio-frequency (RF) heating in magnetic confinement fusion experiments like the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, which completed its final run in September 2016.

    Now, using data from C-Mod experiments, fusion researchers at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), along with colleagues in Belgium and the UK, have created a new method of heating fusion plasmas in tokamaks. The new method has resulted in raising trace amounts of ions to megaelectronvolt (MeV) energies — an order of magnitude greater than previously achieved.

    “These higher energy ranges are in the same range as activated fusion products,” PSFC research scientist John C. Wright explains. “To be able to create such energetic ions in a non-activated device — not doing a huge amount of fusion — is beneficial, because we can study how ions with energies comparable to fusion reaction products behave, how well they would be confined.”

    The new approach, recently detailed in the journal Nature Physics, uses a fuel composed of three ion species hydrogen, deuterium, and trace amounts (less than 1 percent) of helium-3. Typically, plasma used for fusion research in the laboratory would be composed of two ion species, deuterium and hydrogen or deuterium and He-3, with deuterium dominating the mixture by up to 95 percent. Researchers focus energy on the minority species, which heats up to much higher energies owing to its smaller fraction of the total density. In the new three-species scheme, all the RF energy is absorbed by just a trace amount of He-3 and the ion energy is boosted even more — to the range of activated fusion products.

    Wright was inspired to pursue this research after attending a lecture in 2015 on this scenario by Yevgen Kasakov, a researcher at the Laboratory for Plasma Physics in Brussels, Belgium, and the lead author of the Nature Physics article. Wright suggested that MIT test these ideas using Alcator C-Mod, with Kasakov and his colleague Jef Ongena collaborating from Brussels.

    At MIT, PSFC research scientist Stephen Wukitch helped developed the scenario and run the experiment, while Professor Miklos Porkolab contributed his expertise on RF heating. Research scientist Yijun Lin was able to measure the complex wave structure in the plasma with the PSFC’s unique phase contrast imaging (PCI) diagnostic, which was developed over the last two decades by Porkolab and his graduate students. Research scientist Ted Golfinopoulos supported the experiment by tracking the effect of MeV-range ions on measurements of plasma fluctuations.

    The successful results on C-Mod provided proof of principle, enough to get scientists at the UK’s Joint European Torus (JET), Europe’s largest fusion device, interested in reproducing the results.

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    UK’s Joint European Torus (JET), Europe’s largest fusion device

    “The JET folks had really good energetic particle diagnostics, so they could directly measure these high energy ions and verify that they were indeed there,” he says. “The fact that we had a basic theory realized on two different devices on two continents came together to produce a strong paper.”

    Porkolab suggests that the new approach could be helpful for MIT’s collaboration with the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany, where research is ongoing on one of the fundamental physics questions: How well fusion-relevant energetic ions are confined.

    KIT Wendelstein 7-X, built in Greifswald, Germany

    The Nature Physics article also notes that the experiments could provide insight into the abundant flux of He-3 ions observed in solar flares.

    Like JET, C-Mod operated at magnetic field strength and plasma pressure comparable to what would be needed in a future fusion-capable device. The two tokamaks also had complementary diagnostic capabilities, making it possible for C-Mod to measure the waves involved in the complex wave-particle interaction, while JET was able to directly measure the MeV-range particles.

    See the full article here .

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 2:18 pm on May 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, , MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), Zach Hartwig   

    From M.I.T.- “Zach Hartwig: Applying diverse skills in pursuit of a fusion breakthrough” 

    MIT News

    MIT Widget

    MIT News

    May 22, 2017
    Peter Dunn
    Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering

    1
    Assistant Professor Zach Hartwig joined the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering faculty this year after almost a decade of doctoral and postdoc work at MIT. Photo: Lillie Paquette/MIT School of Engineering.

    Newly-appointed Assistant Professor Zach Hartwig’s mission is to use nuclear technology to benefit society and the environment.

    Making nuclear fusion a practical energy source is a complex challenge that will require diverse capabilities — like the scientific, engineering, communication, and leadership skills that Zach Hartwig has applied during almost a decade of doctoral and postdoc work at MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE).

    Hartwig, who was recently named an NSE assistant professor, has helped develop a groundbreaking materials diagnostic system for the Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor and led the establishment of a new ion accelerator lab. He has also advocated for scientific research before a variety of audiences, and, with a team of other postdocs, has proposed a promising new strategy for fusion energy development.

    All these efforts align with NSE’s ongoing mission of using nuclear technology to benefit society and the environment, he says.

    “There’s a rising energy in the department today,” says Hartwig, who also holds a co-appointment at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) and an affiliation with the Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy. “A sense that, yes, we need to do research and train students, but also that it’s our responsibility to get beyond our walls and have a positive impact in the world.”

    Hartwig’s current focus is the compelling prospect of applying new-generation, high-temperature superconducting magnet technology in fusion reactors while developing innovative technology and funding frameworks that can accelerate fusion’s deployment onto the electric grid. The strategy centers on a faster-better-cheaper approach to technology development and an aggressive pursuit of net energy gain from controlled fusion, and it is at the heart of new directions in fusion energy research at NSE and PSFC. It was developed by the PSFC team of Hartwig, Dan Brunner, Bob Mumgaard, and Brandon Sorbom.

    Newly-available superconducting materials like REBCO (a single-crystal material composed of yttrium, barium, copper, oxygen and other elements) allow the creation of unprecedentedly-high-field magnets. They may enable smaller and less-expensive versions of venerable tokamak-type fusion reactors (like the Alcator C-Mod, which was shuttered last year), in part because a doubling of magnetic field strength produces a 16-fold increase in fusion power density. Hartwig says a fast-track high-field magnet development program, followed by the possible building of a compact, net-energy-gain tokamak in the next 5-10 years, would be a watershed in dispelling fusion’s reputation as being always in the future.

    “If and when we do that, fusion will ramp exponentially, just as fission did,” Hartwig says. “But we need to hit it in, say, 2025 or 2030, not 2080, if fusion is going to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. We believe high-field REBCO magnets enable us to do just that.”

    Private funding, driven by the huge commercial opportunities of a safe, carbon-free, always-on energy source, could complement government support of fusion energy sciences. Hartwig points to comparable efforts in space exploration, cancer and brain research, oceanography, and other fields. He adds that the high-field magnet approach to fusion is a good fit — a transformational breakthrough that’s well-matched to investors seeking high-impact solutions to global climate change.

    “Much smaller reactors are cheaper and require less of an organization — they can be built by a university, and let us move faster and try more things,” he says. “And if it really doesn’t pan out, it’s better to find out quickly.”

    In any event, competencies in superconducting magnets have broad applicability in sectors like energy storage, magnetic resonance imaging, and maglev transportation. Niobium-titanium low-temperature superconducting magnets are being used in the recently-commissioned Ionetix Superconducting Proton Cyclotron, the centerpiece of the ion accelerator lab that Hartwig created with NSE and PSFC graduate students Sorbom, Leigh Ann Kesler, and Steve Jepeal. Hartwig says he formed the seeds of his new lab even as a student and postdoc: “We did have a vision; there was an underutilized space and some pre-existing grants, and we poured in elbow grease.”

    “It’s the first new cyclotron on campus in decades,” Hartwig says. “Accelerators are good scientific tools. They’re usually associated with high-energy physics, but they’re primarily an industrial tool for measuring and modifying materials properties.”

    The new accelerator, which sits alongside three older systems, provides higher-energy particles, allowing investigation of previously inaccessible reactions and phenomena. Top priorities are nuclear security and development of systems that can quickly and safely detect nuclear materials in freight containers, but the lab is also making new connections between NSE faculty, students and staff.

    “It’s centrally located, and brings together people from many different groups in the department,” Hartwig says. “There’s so much expertise, the accelerators have lots of possible applications, and we’re all tinkerers. I predicted four years ago that it would have visitors every day, and I was right — we should sell tickets.”

    That outlook reflects Hartwig’s appreciation of collegial teamwork, and of the research community in and around NSE, which includes facilities like the PSFC, the fission-oriented Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, and laboratories for materials, corrosion, magnets, and quantum technology.

    “That’s a lot of big facilities, and most don’t exist anywhere else,” he says. “Having all those capabilities at a university is probably unique in the world, and it creates a lot of opportunities, in fusion and other areas, for MIT to do what only MIT can do — put things together and be the fabric where innovation occurs.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:50 pm on May 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China EAST, Fusion technology, , KIT Wendelstein 7-X, , Tokamak energy a Brisish endeavor,   

    From Universe Today: “How Far Away is Fusion? Unlocking the Power of the Sun’ 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    27 May , 2017
    Fraser Cain


    I’d like to think we’re smarter than the Sun.

    Let’s compare and contrast. Humans, on the one hand, have made enormous advances in science and technology, built cities, cars, computers, and phones. We have split the atom for war and for energy.

    What has the Sun done? It’s a massive ball of plasma, made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. It just, kind of, sits there. Every now and then it burps up hydrogen gas into a coronal mass ejection. It’s not a stretch to say that the Sun, and all inanimate material in the Universe, isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    And yet, the Sun has mastered a form of energy that we just can’t seem to wrap our minds around: fusion. It’s really infuriating, seeing the Sun, just sitting there, effortlessly doing something our finest minds have struggled with for half a century.

    Why can’t we make fusion work? How long until we can finally catch up technologically with a sphere of ionized gas?

    The trick to the Sun’s ability to generate power through nuclear fusion, of course, comes from its enormous mass. The Sun contains 1.989 x 10^30 kilograms of mostly hydrogen and helium, and this mass pushes inward, creating a core heated to 15 million degrees C, with 150 times the density of water.

    It’s at this core that the Sun does its work, mashing atoms of hydrogen into helium. This process of fusion is an exothermic reaction, which means that every time a new atom of helium is created, photons in the form of gamma radiation are also released.

    The only thing the Sun uses this energy for is light pressure, to counteract the gravity pulling everything inward. Its photons slowly make their way up through the Sun and then they’re released into space. So wasteful.

    How can we replicate this on Earth?

    1
    Inside a Tokamak. Image credit: Lawrence Berkeley Labs

    The main technology developed to do this is called a tokamak reactor; it’s a based on a Russian acronym for: “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”, and the first prototypes were created in the 1960s. There are many different reactors in development, but the method is essentially the same.

    A vacuum chamber is filled with hydrogen fuel. Then an enormous amount of electricity is run through the chamber, heating up the hydrogen into a plasma state. They might also use lasers and other methods to get the plasma up to 150 to 300 million degrees Celsius (10 to 20 times hotter than the Sun’s core).

    Superconducting magnets surround the fusion chamber, containing the plasma and keeping it away from the chamber walls, which would melt otherwise.

    Once the temperatures and pressures are high enough, atoms of hydrogen are crushed together into helium just like in the Sun. This releases photons which heat up the plasma, keeping the reaction going without any addition energy input.

    Excess heat reaches the chamber walls, and can be extracted to do work.

    2
    The spherical tokamak MAST at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (UK). Photo: CCFE

    The challenge has always been that heating up the chamber and constraining the plasma uses up more energy than gets produced in the reactor. We can make fusion work, we just haven’t been able to extract surplus energy from the system… yet.

    Compared to other forms of energy production, fusion should be clean and safe. The fuel source is water, and the byproduct is helium (which the world is actually starting to run out of). If there’s a problem with the reactor, it would cool down and the fusion reaction would stop.

    The high energy photons released in the fusion reaction will be a problem, however. They’ll stream into the surrounding fusion reactor and make the whole thing radioactive. The fusion chamber will be deadly for about 50 years, but its rapid half-life will make it as radioactive as coal ash after 500 years.

    PPPL NSTX -U at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, Princeton, NJ,USA

    Fusion experiments are measured by the amount of energy they produce compared to the amount of energy you put into them. For example, if a fusion plant required 100MW of electrical energy to produce 10 MW of output, it would have an energy ratio of 0.1. You want at least a ratio of 1. That means energy in equals energy out, and so far, no experiment has ever reached that ratio. But we’re close.

    3
    The Chinese EAST facility’s tokamak reactor, part of the Institute of Physical Science in Hefei. Credit: ipp.cas.cn

    Wendelstgein 7-X stellarator, built in Greifswald, Germany

    ITER Tokamak ITER Tokamak in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, which is in southern France

    ITER is enormous, measuring 30 meters across and high. And its fusion chamber is so large that it should be able to create a self-sustaining fusion reaction. The energy released by the fusing hydrogen keeps the fuel hot enough to keep reacting. There will still be energy required to run the electric magnets that contain the plasma, but not to keep the plasma hot.

    And if all goes well, ITER will have a ratio of 10. In other words, for every 10 MW of energy pumped in, it’ll generate 100 MW of usable power.

    ITER is still under construction, and as of June 2015, the total construction costs had reached $14 billion. The facility is expected to be complete by 2021, and the first fusion tests will begin in 2025.

    So, if ITER works as planned, we are now about 8 years away from positive energy output from fusion. Of course, ITER will just be an experiment, not an actual powerplant, so if it even works, an actual fusion-based energy grid will be decades after that.

    At this point, I’d say we’re about a decade away from someone demonstrating that a self-sustaining fusion reaction that generates more power than it consumes is feasible. And then probably another 2 decades away from them supplying electricity to the power grid. By that point, our smug Sun will need to find a new job.

    [The old saying, thirty years old, is that fusion is 30 years away. PPPL is down for two years down to error and malfuntion. LLNL/NIF has gieven up is laser trials and is not even mentioned her. Iter is so far behind and so over budget it faces constant fears of financial support disappearing. Tokamak Energy, a British attempt, is having some success. it should have been included in this article.]

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:27 pm on May 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Fusion technology, , Tokamak Energy's ST40 fusion reactor   

    From Science Alert: “The UK Just Switched on an Ambitious Fusion Reactor – and It Works” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    1 MAY 2017
    FIONA MACDONALD

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    Tokamak Energy

    First plasma has been achieved.

    The UK’s newest fusion reactor, ST40, was switched on last week, and has already managed to achieve ‘first plasma’ – successfully generating a scorching blob of electrically-charged gas (or plasma) within its core.

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    Tokamak Energy

    The aim is for the tokamak reactor to heat plasma up to 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018 – seven times hotter than the centre of the Sun. That’s the ‘fusion’ threshold, at which hydrogen atoms can begin to fuse into helium, unleashing limitless, clean energy in the process.

    “Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world,” said David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, the company behind ST40.

    “We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.”

    Nuclear fusion is the process that fuels our Sun, and if we can figure out a way to achieve the same thing here on Earth, it would allow us to tap into an unlimited supply of clean energy that produces next to no carbon emissions.

    Unlike nuclear fission, which is achieved in today’s nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together, not splitting them apart, and it requires little more than salt and water, and primarily produces helium as a waste product.

    But as promising as nuclear fusion is, it’s something scientists have struggled to achieve.

    The process involves using high-powered magnets to control plasma at ridiculous temperatures for long enough to generate useful amounts of electricity, which, as you can imagine, is far from simple.

    Over the past year there have been some big wins. Scientists from MIT broke the record for plasma pressure back in October, and in December, South Korean researchers became the first to sustain ‘high performance’ plasma of up to 300 million degrees Celsius (540 million degrees Fahrenheit) for 70 seconds.

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    MIT Bob Mumgaard/Plasma Science and Fusion Centre

    4
    Michel Maccagnan/Wikimedia Commons

    In Germany, a new type of fusion reactor called the Wendelstein 7-X stellerator has been able to successfully control plasma.

    Wendelstein 7-AS built in built in Greifswald, Germany

    But we’re still a long way off being able to put all those pieces together – finding an affordable way to generate plasma at the temperatures required for fusion to occur, and then being able to harness it for long enough to generate energy.

    ST40 is what’s known as a tokamak reactor, which uses high-powered magnetic coils to control a core of scorching plasma in a toroidal shape.

    The next step is for a full set of those magnetic coils to be installed and tested within ST40, and later this year, Tokamak Energy will use them to aim to generate plasma at temperatures of 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit).

    In 2018, the team hopes to achieve the fusion threshold of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), and the ultimate goal is to provide clean fusion power to the UK grid by 2030.

    Whether or not they’ll be able to pull off the feat remains to be seen.

    But the company is now one step closer, and as they’re not the only ones with a tokamak reactor in development, it will hopefully only speed up the race to get a commercial fusion reactor online.

    Watch this space.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:44 am on April 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, The future of energy isn’t fossil fuels or renewables it’s nuclear fusion   

    From Ethan Siegel: “The future of energy isn’t fossil fuels or renewables, it’s nuclear fusion” 

    Ethan Siegel
    4.19.17

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    The plasma in the center of this fusion reactor is so hot it doesn’t emit light; it’s only the cooler plasma located at the walls that can be seen. Hints of magnetic interplay between the hot and cold plasmas can be seen. Image credit: National Fusion Research Institute, Korea.

    When we think about a long-term solution to our energy needs, none of today’s options are this good.

    “I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.” -Stephen Hawking

    Let’s pretend, for a moment, that the climate doesn’t matter. That we’re completely ignoring the connection between carbon dioxide, the Earth’s atmosphere, the greenhouse effect, global temperatures, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise. From a long-term point of view, we’d still need to plan for our energy future. Fossil fuels, which make up by far the majority of world-wide power today, are an abundant but fundamentally limited resource. Renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power have different limitations: they’re inconsistent. There is a long-term solution, though, that overcomes all of these problems: nuclear fusion.

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    Even the most advanced chemical reactions, like combusting thermite, shown here, generate about a million times less energy per unit mass compared to a nuclear reaction. Image credit: Nikthestunned of Wikipedia.

    It might seem that the fossil fuel problem is obvious: we cannot simply generate more coal, oil, or natural gas when our present supplies run out. We’ve been burning pretty much every drop we can get our hands on for going on three centuries now, and this problem is going to get worse. Even though we have hundreds of years more before we’re all out, the amount isn’t limitless. There are legitimate, non-warming-related environmental concerns, too.

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    Even if we ignored the CO2-global climate change problem, fossil fuels are limited in the amount Earth contains, and also extracting, transporting, refining and burning them causes large amounts of pollution. Image credit: Greg Goebel.

    The burning of fossil fuels generates pollution, since these carbon-based fuel sources contain a lot more than just carbon and hydrogen in their chemical makeup, and burning them (to generate energy) also burns all the impurities, releasing them into the air. In addition, the refining and/or extraction process is dirty, dangerous and can pollute the water table and entire bodies of water, like rivers and lakes.

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    Wind farms, like many other sources of renewable energy, are dependent on the environment in an inconsistent, uncontrollable way. Image credit: Winchell Joshua, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    On the other hand, renewable energy sources are inconsistent, even at their best. Try powering your grid during dry, overcast (or overnight), and drought-riddled times, and you’re doomed to failure. The sheer magnitude of the battery storage capabilities required to power even a single city during insufficient energy-generation conditions is daunting. Simultaneously, the pollution effects associated with creating solar panels, manufacturing wind or hydroelectric turbines, and (especially) with creating the materials needed to store large amounts of energy are tremendous as well. Even what’s touted as “green energy” isn’t devoid of drawbacks.

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    Reactor nuclear experimental RA-6 (Republica Argentina 6), en marcha. The blue glow is known as Cherenkov radiation, from the faster-than-light-in-water particles emitted. Image credit: Centro Atomico Bariloche, via Pieck Darío.

    But there is always the nuclear option. That word itself is enough to elicit strong reactions from many people: nuclear. The idea of nuclear bombs, of radioactive fallout, of meltdowns, and of disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima — not to mention residual fear from the Cold War — make “NIMBY” the default position for a large number of people. And that’s a fear that’s not wholly without foundation, when it comes to nuclear fission. But fission isn’t the only game in town.

    In 1952, the United States detonated Ivy Mike, the first demonstrated nuclear fusion reaction to occur on Earth. Whereas nuclear fission involves taking heavy, unstable (and already radioactive) elements like Thorium, Uranium or Plutonium, initiating a reaction that causes them to split apart into smaller, also radioactive components that release energy, nothing involved in fusion is radioactive at all. The reactants are light, stable elements like isotopes of hydrogen, helium or lithium; the products are also light and stable, like helium, lithium, beryllium or boron.

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    The proton-proton chain responsible for producing the vast majority of the Sun’s power is an example of nuclear fusion. Image credit: Borb / Wikimedia Commons.

    So far, fission has taken place in either a runaway or controlled environment, rushing past the breakeven point (where the energy output is greater than the input) with ease, while fusion has never reached the breakeven point in a controlled setting. But four main possibilities have emerged.

    Inertial Confinement Fusion. We take a pellet of hydrogen — the fuel for this fusion reaction — and compress it using many lasers that surround the pellet. The compression causes the hydrogen nuclei to fuse into heavier elements like helium, and releases a burst of energy.
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    The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. NIF recently achieved a 500 terawatt shot — 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time. Image credit: Damien Jemison/LLNL.


    LLNL/NIF


    Magnetic Confinement Fusion. Instead of using mechanical compression, why not let the electromagnetic force do the confining work? Magnetic fields confine a superheated plasma of fusible material, and nuclear fusion reactions occur inside a Tokamak-style reactor.

    Iter experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor that is being built next to the Cadarache facility in Saint Paul les-Durance south of France

    PPPL/NSTX


    Magnetized Target Fusion. In MTF, a superheated plasma is created and confined magnetically, but pistons surrounding it compress the fuel inside, creating a burst of nuclear fusion in the interior.
    8
    http://www.21stcentech.com/general-fusion-takes-step-developing-magnetized-target-fusion-technology/
    Subcritical Fusion. Instead of trying to trigger fusion with heat or inertia, subcritical fusion uses a subcritical fission reaction — with zero chance of a meltdown — to power a fusion reaction.

    The first two have been researched for decades now, and are the closest to the coveted breakeven point. But the latter two are new, with the last one gaining many new investors and start-ups this decade.

    Even if you reject climate science, the problem of powering the world, and doing so in a sustainable, pollution-free way, is one of the most daunting long-term ones facing humanity. Nuclear fusion as a power source has never been given the necessary funding to develop it to fruition, but it’s the one physically possible solution to our energy needs with no obvious downsides. If we can get the idea that “nuclear” means “potential for disaster” out of our heads, people from all across the political spectrum just might be able to come together and solve our energy and environmental needs in one single blow. If you think the government should be investing in science with national and global payoffs, you can’t do better than the ROI that would come from successful fusion research. The physics works out beautifully; we now just need the investment and the engineering breakthroughs.

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

     
  • richardmitnick 7:19 am on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Fusion technology, , ,   

    From NYT: “A Dream of Clean Energy at a Very High Price”, a Now Too Old Subject 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    MARCH 27, 2017
    HENRY FOUNTAIN

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    Source: ITER Organization Mika Gröndahl/The New York Times

    SAINT-PAUL-LEZ-DURANCE, France — At a dusty construction site here amid the limestone ridges of Provence, workers scurry around immense slabs of concrete arranged in a ring like a modern-day Stonehenge.

    It looks like the beginnings of a large commercial power plant, but it is not. The project, called ITER, is an enormous, and enormously complex and costly, physics experiment. But if it succeeds, it could determine the power plants of the future and make an invaluable contribution to reducing planet-warming emissions.

    ITER, short for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (and pronounced EAT-er), is being built to test a long-held dream: that nuclear fusion, the atomic reaction that takes place in the sun and in hydrogen bombs, can be controlled to generate power.

    First discussed in 1985 at a United States-Soviet Union summit, the multinational effort, in which the European Union has a 45 percent stake and the United States, Russia, China and three other partners 9 percent each, has long been cited as a crucial step toward a future of near-limitless electric power.

    ITER will produce heat, not electricity. But if it works — if it produces more energy than it consumes, which smaller fusion experiments so far have not been able to do — it could lead to plants that generate electricity without the climate-affecting carbon emissions of fossil-fuel plants or most of the hazards of existing nuclear reactors that split atoms rather than join them.

    Success, however, has always seemed just a few decades away for ITER. The project has progressed in fits and starts for years, plagued by design and management problems that have led to long delays and ballooning costs.

    ITER is moving ahead now, with a director-general, Bernard Bigot, who took over two years ago after an independent analysis that was highly critical of the project. Dr. Bigot, who previously ran France’s atomic energy agency, has earned high marks for resolving management problems and developing a realistic schedule based more on physics and engineering and less on politics.

    “I do believe we are moving at full speed and maybe accelerating,” Dr. Bigot said in an interview.

    The site here is now studded with tower cranes as crews work on the concrete structures that will support and surround the heart of the experiment, a doughnut-shaped chamber called a tokamak. This is where the fusion reactions will take place, within a plasma, a roiling cloud of ionized atoms so hot that it can be contained only by extremely strong magnetic fields.

    2
    By The New York Times

    Pieces of the tokamak and other components, including giant superconducting electromagnets and a structure that at approximately 100 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall will be the largest stainless-steel vacuum vessel ever made, are being fabricated in the participating countries. Assembly is set to begin next year in a giant hall erected next to the tokamak site.

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    At the ITER construction site, immense slabs of concrete lie in a ring like a modern-day Stonehenge. Credit ITER Organization

    There are major technical hurdles in a project where the manufacturing and construction are on the scale of shipbuilding but the parts need to fit with the precision of a fine watch.

    “It’s a challenge,” said Dr. Bigot, who devotes much of his time to issues related to integrating parts from various countries. “We need to be very sensitive about quality.”

    Even if the project proceeds smoothly, the goal of “first plasma,” using pure hydrogen that does not undergo fusion, would not be reached for another eight years. A so-called burning plasma, which contains a fraction of an ounce of fusible fuel in the form of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, and can be sustained for perhaps six or seven minutes and release large amounts of energy, would not be achieved until 2035 at the earliest.

    That is a half century after the subject of cooperating on a fusion project came up at a meeting in Geneva between President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. A functional commercial fusion power plant would be even further down the road.

    “Fusion is very hard,” said Riccardo Betti, a researcher at the University of Rochester who has followed the ITER project for years. “Plasma is not your friend. It tries to do everything it can to really displease you.”

    Fusion is also very expensive. ITER estimates the cost of design and construction at about 20 billion euros (currently about $22 billion). But the actual cost of components may be higher in some of the participating countries, like the United States, because of high labor costs. The eventual total United States contribution, which includes an enormous central electromagnet capable, it is said, of lifting an aircraft carrier, has been estimated at about $4 billion.

    Despite the recent progress there are still plenty of doubts about ITER, especially in the United States, which left the project for five years at the turn of the century and where funding through the Energy Department has long been a political football.

    The department confirmed its support for ITER in a report last year and Congress approved $115 million for it. It is unclear, though, how the project will fare in the Trump administration, which has proposed a cut of roughly 20 percent to the department’s Office of Science, which funds basic research including ITER. (The department also funds another long-troubled fusion project, which uses lasers, at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.)

    Dr. Bigot met with the new energy secretary, Rick Perry, last week in Washington, and said he found Mr. Perry “very open to listening” about ITER and its long-term goals. “But he has to make some short-term choices” with his budget, Dr. Bigot said.

    Energy Department press aides did not respond to requests for comment.

    Some in Congress, including Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, while lauding Dr. Bigot’s efforts, argue that the project already consumes too much of the Energy Department’s basic research budget of about $5 billion.

    “I remain concerned that continuing to support the ITER project would come at the expense of other Office of Science priorities that the Department of Energy has said are more important — and that I consider more important,” Mr. Alexander said in a statement.

    While it is not clear what would happen to the project if the United States withdrew, Dr. Bigot argues that it is in every participating country’s interest to see it through. “You have a chance to know if fusion works or not,” he said. “If you miss this chance, maybe it will never come again.”

    But even scientists who support ITER are concerned about the impact it has on other research.

    “People around the country who work on projects that are the scientific basis for fusion are worried that they’re in a no-win situation,” said William Dorland, a physicist at the University of Maryland who is chairman of the plasma science committee of the National Academy of Sciences. “If ITER goes forward, it might eat up all the money. If it doesn’t expand and the U.S. pulls out, it may pull down a lot of good science in the downdraft.”

    In the ITER tokamak, deuterium and tritium nuclei will fuse to form helium, losing a small amount of mass that is converted into a huge amount of energy. Most of the energy will be carried away by neutrons, which will escape the plasma and strike the walls of the tokamak, producing heat.

    In a fusion power plant, that heat would be used to make steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity, much as existing power plants do using other sources of heat, like burning coal. ITER’s heat will be dissipated through cooling towers.

    There is no risk of a runaway reaction and meltdown as with nuclear fission and, while radioactive waste is produced, it is not nearly as long-lived as the spent fuel rods and irradiated components of a fission reactor.

    To fuse, atomic nuclei must move very fast — they must be extremely hot — to overcome natural repulsive forces and collide. In the sun, the extreme gravitational field does much of the work. Nuclei need to be at a temperature of about 15 million degrees Celsius.

    In a tokamak, without such a strong gravitational pull, the atoms need to be about 10 times hotter. So enormous amounts of energy are required to heat the plasma, using pulsating magnetic fields and other sources like microwaves. Just a few feet away, on the other hand, the windings of the superconducting electromagnets need to be cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero. Needless to say, the material and technical challenges are extreme.

    Although all fusion reactors to date have produced less energy than they use, physicists are expecting that ITER will benefit from its larger size, and will produce about 10 times more power than it consumes. But they will face many challenges, chief among them developing the ability to prevent instabilities in the edges of the plasma that can damage the experiment.

    Even in its early stages of construction, the project seems overwhelmingly complex. Embedded in the concrete surfaces are thousands of steel plates. They seem to be scattered at random throughout the structure, but actually are precisely located. ITER is being built to French nuclear plant standards, which prohibit drilling into concrete. So the plates — eventually about 80,000 of them — are where other components of the structure will be attached as construction progresses.

    A mistake or two now could wreak havoc a few years down the road, but Dr. Bigot said that in this and other work on ITER, the key to avoiding errors was taking time.

    “People consider that it’s long,” he said, referring to critics of the project timetable. “But if you want full control of quality, you need time.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:40 pm on December 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, ,   

    From Science Alert: “Another nuclear fusion record just got broken in South Korea” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    16 DEC 2016
    DAVID NIELD

    Scientists working to make nuclear fusion a viable reality have smashed another record, after the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor in South Korea maintained ‘high performance’ plasma in a stable state for 70 seconds this week– the longest ever recorded for this type of reaction.

    1
    http://www.nfri.re.kr/kor/post/photo?clsf=photo02

    Scientists working to make nuclear fusion a viable reality have smashed another record, after the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor in South Korea maintained ‘high performance’ plasma in a stable state for 70 seconds this week– the longest ever recorded for this type of reaction.

    Containing this ultra-hot type of matter is key to unlocking nuclear fusion, so it’s a big step forward in our attempts to make this clean, safe, and virtually limitless source of energy something we can rely on.

    Unlike nuclear fission, which our existing nuclear power plants achieve by splitting atoms, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together at incredibly high temperatures – the same reaction that powers our Sun.

    If we can manage to control the reaction safely and sustainably it would be huge, because nuclear fusion can generate power for thousands of years using little more than salt water, and without putting out nuclear waste. And the Korean reactor just took us a step closer to that.

    The KSTAR reactor is housed at the National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) and is a tokamak-type reactor, where plasma blobs reaching temperatures of up to 300 million degrees Celsius (about 540 million degrees Fahrenheit) are held in place by super-powerful magnetic fields.

    If the blobs can be contained for long enough, hydrogen atoms can fuse together to create heavier helium atoms, releasing energy – a similar process is happening on the Sun, which is why reactors are sometimes described as trying to put “a star in a jar”.

    And while the reactors of today take up much more energy than they produce, each time a record like this is broken, scientists get closer to their ultimate goal.

    “This is a huge step forward for [the] realisation of the fusion reactor,” the NFRI said in a statement, World Nuclear News reports.

    There are plenty of variables scientists can alter to tweak nuclear fusion reactions and different ways they can be measured: from pressure to temperature to time.

    Usually, there’s a trade-off between these three variables, and indeed other reactors have managed to sustain plasma for longer periods of time – but with the KSTAR we’re talking about a “high performance” plasma, which is better suited for nuclear fusion.

    At the same time, the researchers at the NFRI have also developed a new plasma “operation mode” that they hope will enable reactions to handle greater pressures at lower temperatures in the future.

    And getting the whole process more efficient is important if we’re to get nuclear fusion working at the right scale.

    If scientists can crack the “star in a jar” problem, we’d have a nuclear energy source that’s far safer than the nuclear fission plants we rely on now, because no radioactive waste is produced and there’s no chance of a plant meltdown.

    We should note that the results haven’t been published in a journal or independently verified yet, so we’ll have to wait for confirmation that 70 seconds really is the new benchmark to hit for this high-performance plasma.

    But as the KSTAR reactor continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible, it should help bring scientists closer and closer to figuring out how to harness the potential of nuclear fusion.

    As NFRI president Keeman Kim puts it: “We will exert efforts for KSTAR to continuously produce world-class results, and to promote international joint research among nuclear fusion researchers.”

    See the full article here .

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