The recently completed "European Fusion Power Plant Conceptual Study" investigates the technical feasibility, the expected safety and environmental properties, and the cost of a future fusion power plant. The latest results in plasma physics, technology, and materials research provided the basis for the development of four different power plant models illuminating a wide spectrum of physical and technical possibilities. Analysis of their ecological and economic properties has confirmed favourable results of previous investigations: Present know how indicates that accidents with severe impact on the environment in a fusion power plant are impossible and permanent disposal of waste is not necessary with recycling. The price of electricity will be equivalent to that of other environmentally benign energy technologies.
The aim of fusion research is to reproduce the generation of energy by the sun in a power plant on earth by deriving energy from fusion of atomic nuclei. The fuel is an ionised low density gas, a "plasma", composed of the two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium. This fuel is confined in a magnetic field and heated to ignite the fusion fire. Above a temperature of 100 million degrees the plasma starts to "burn": The hydrogen nuclei fuse to form helium, thereby releasing neutrons and large quantities of energy. The possibility of a fusion fire providing energy is to be shown by the international ITER (Latin for "the way") test device with a generated fusion power of 500 megawatts. ITER was planned on the basis of the materials and technologies available today, which are not yet fully optimised for fusion. This is the objective of a parallel physics and technology programme. All of this work is preparatory to a demonstration power plant; commercial plants could then supply the grid from the middle of the century.
Four models for a future power plant
Isabella Milch | alfa
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