U.K. takes steps toward setting up world’s first fusion power plant
Category: #energy-and-environment  By Saipriya Iyer  Date: 2020-12-04
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U.K. takes steps toward setting up world’s first fusion power plant

The UK government has reportedly invited local communities across the country to volunteer a site for its first ever prototype fusion reactor, designed to provide electricity into the grid. The project, namely STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), started in 2019 with an initial £222 million over 5 years for developing a design. The UKAEA, stated that the construction is slated to begin from 2032, and is targeted to begin operations by year 2040.

There is a competition around the globe to construct the very first fusion reactor which could generate additional energy. The sources of fuel are comparatively plentiful and concerns regarding radiation are minor in comparison to nuclear reactors driven by fission.

In practical terms, fusion has remained as a far-off dream. It needs temperatures of several hundred million degrees. To stop the hot plasma from melting as well as touching its containment vessel, engineers normally use powerful magnets surrounding tokamaks shaped like doughnuts. But no tokamak has been able to generate excess energy from fusion which is utilized to heat up plasma.

In fact, ITER tokamak in France, expected to be completed in 2025, would be the first ever to show energy gain. Though that might not happen after 2035 and even at that time, the fusion energy might not be able to produce electricity.

Spherical tokamaks have been developed at UKAEA’s CCFE (Culham Centre for Fusion Energy), with a device named the MAST Upgrade as well as in the US at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory with a device called NSTX Upgrade. The UK now wishes to capitalize on that experience with STEP, with an aim to generate nearly 50 MW of electrical power.

Ian Chapman, Director, CCFE, stated that the smaller size of spherical tokamaks would be a crucial advantage since the highest price in the $25 billion ITER is its immense magnets. Meanwhile, Tokamak Energy, a UK-based startup, is working towards building a compact spherical tokamak for energy generation by the year 2030 and Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a US-based startup, hopes to build a similar working reactor by the year 2025.

Source credit: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/uk-seeks-site-world-s-first-fusion-power-station

 

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Saipriya Iyer

Saipriya Iyer    

Saipriya Iyer currently works as a content developer for GroundAlerts. A computer engineer by profession, she ventured into the field of writing for the love of playing with words. Having had previous experience of 3 years under her belt, she has dabbled with website ...

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