£18 Billion Tokamak Fusion Project Could Be Biggest Global Science Project In History

A “Tokamak” is a doughnut-shaped fusion reactor—often as much as hundreds of miles in circumference—that can control the plasma-scale temperatures of fusion energy by channeling thermal streams around a super-powered magnetic racetrack.

After decades of research on prototype Tokamak designs, the Iter project has recieved a final go-ahead from 34 international governments. That’s really satisfying to me, because fusion power is one of the few “sure bets” for sustainable power generation in the future. Not quite as important as that, I should note that the last time I presented a technical pitch on fusion technology at an international science conference, the topic was the Iter project. Not saying I made the Iter project happen, just that—like thousands of other people—I gave it a nudge.

Posted by StrangeAppar8us on 04/26/13 at 09:07 PM • Permalink

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Sorry, no Tokamak “hundreds of miles in circumference” could ever work. The plasma has to be incredibly compressed for any chance of fusion to occur, and the laws of physics and strength of materials means that any Tokamak is limited in size.

Maybe hundreds of inches in circumference?

I forget who said it, but I remember the gist of the quote: Workable fusion power is always thirty years in the future.

@stickler: Baby-scale fusion reactors are certainly possible, and many of the planned prototypes have diameters you can measure in meters rather than miles. However, because I was working with the R&D scientists at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, we tended to daydream at scales that were rendered practical in comparison to the size of the sun. (It behooves technical dreamers to dream at the extremities of mundane metrics.)

Workable fusion power would truly change everything, which I gues sis why it is always 30 years in the future.  And why Dubya killed US funding for that kind of research when he was in power (keeping us safe, in this case from horrific oil market disruptions).

Well - Nobody thought we’d see a black president in our lifetime.  The odds of fusion just got better. If the next president is a democratic woman, I’ll meet you at the dedication ceremony.

@Deborah Sale Butler: Good gravy, Deborah! You, your Dad and the whole Sale Clan have been the recurring golden thread in my late-life dreams. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for visiting the greatest internet blog ever. (oh, by the way, keep coming back. In a week or two, Mrs. Polly will be introducing all of us to the First and Only Ever Flying Rumproast silkscreened pullover shirt. Little by little, Rumproast is becoming the home of membership flare for breathlessly determined ‘Roasters from all over the world.)

There was some news regarding a smaller fusion project earlier this month.  Hope they get that one working too.

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