Momentum builds on world’s biggest fusion reactor October 5, 2016

Future Power Magazine (Net Resources International [NRI]) reports on the latest progress in nuclear fusion. The report notes that fusion power is the ultimate carbon-free energy source, but getting net energy out of the process is not yet practically viable. It currently takes more energy to initiate and contain a fusion reaction than the amount of energy produced.

The ITER project is currently under construction on a 180 hectare site in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, in southern France. View of the Diagnostic and Tritium buildings (left and right) frame the central ITER Tokamak area. (Photo: © ITER Organization,

The gap is slowly but surely closing, says the report, and ITER, a massive international coalition to build the world’s most advanced tokamak–the world’s leading controlled thermonuclear fusion power technology–is the leading contender for a breakthrough. ITER, which means “the way” in Latin, is a collaboration between 35 nations, including the UK, US, Russia, China and South Korea, to build a tokamak designed to produce 500 MW of power from 50 MW of input.

ITER’s schedule of main construction milestones for the new Tokamak project. (Data: ITER)

The current record held for power produced vs. input is by the European tokamak JET, which produced 16 MW of fusion power from a total input power of 24 MW in 1997.

Last June, ITER appointed MOMENTUM, a joint venture between Amec Foster Wheeler, Assystem and KEPCO–in a €174 million, 10-year contract to start the initial preparation period.

“Technically, ITER is a first of a kind so in many areas we are pushing technical boundaries, we are building things we have never built before, ” says Ian Chapman, a senior fusion scientists who was recently appointed CEO of Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), the UK’s laboratory for fusion research. The system will use magnetically confined fusion compared with inertial confined fusion, which is used at the U.S Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

To access the NRI report on nuclear fusion progress, click here.