Like this, but bigger. This 1:50 scale model of the future ITER reactor, produced in Korea, arrived at ITER headquarters in France on Monday where it will be put on display. Credit: ITER Organization

After ITER, Many Other Obstacles for Fusion Power

by Daniel Clery on 17 January 2013, 1:10 PM

The body responsible for fusion research in Europe has published a road map to get it from ITER—a giant international reactor under construction in France which will be the first to produce useful amounts of energy—to an industry-ready prototype fusion power plant by 2050. Although the successful operation of ITER, still more than 6 years away, will be considered a major breakthrough for fusion energy, the new road map from the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) includes a daunting list of the technical hurdles that fusion scientists and engineers still face over the next few decades.

Fusion reactors use the power source of the sun and stars—fusing together isotopes of hydrogen—to produce energy. To do this they must compress and heat a plasma of fusion fuel to prodigious temperatures, at least 150 million°C, using powerful magnets, radio waves, and particle beams. It takes so much energy to get a plasma up to a temperature at which fusion occurs that no reactor has yet produced net energy gain.

ITER is expected to break through that barrier and generate 500 megawatts from a 50 MW input for periods lasting a few minutes. But it will be only a scientific demonstration; ITER won’t generate any electricity. That job will be left for its successor, the prototype power plant DEMO. Fusion researchers are just starting to think about designs for DEMO but it is looking increasingly likely that it won’t be a global collaboration like ITER, whose members are China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

Read more: After ITER, Many Other Obstacles for Fusion Power – Science Insider.

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