The path to fusion power
Euratom/UKAEA Fusion Association, Culham Science Centre, Abingdon, OX14 3DB, UK
Fusion, which powers the sun and stars, is potentially an environmentally responsible and intrinsically safe source of essentially limitless energy. The Joint European Torus (JET) has produced 16 MW of fusion power, and construction of a power station sized device called ITER (International Tokamak Experimental Reactor), which should produce at least 500 MW, is about to begin. Further work on fusion technologies is also needed, including construction of the proposed International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) which will test materials that will have to stand up to years of intense neutron bombardment in a fusion power station. Given i) its potential attractions (which include essentially limitless fuel, and the absence of green-house gas and of long-lived radio-active by-products), and that ii) it looks as if the economics of fusion power will be acceptable, the time has come to develop fusion as rapidly as reasonably possible. The status and potential advantages of fusion are being described, together with the outstanding challenges, the remaining steps and a timetable for developing fusion power.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2009