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Yet again, hope for nuclear fusion pushed into the distant future

Fusion energy pushed back beyond 2050, BBC, 11 July 2017, We will have to wait until the second half of the century for fusion reactors to start generating electricity, experts have announced.
A new version of a European “road map” lays out the technological hurdles to be overcome if the processes powering the Sun are to be harnessed on Earth.

The road map has been drawn up by scientists and engineers at EUROfusion.

This is a consortium of European laboratories and universities that funds research on fusion energy.

The original version of the road map, published in 2012, forecast that a demonstration fusion power plant known as DEMO could be operating in the early 2040s, in order to supply electricity to the grid by 2050.

But in the updated version, yet to be released, DEMO would not start running until “early in the second half of the century”.

A related document that provides more detail on DEMO’s design says that operations would start after 2054.

The setback has been caused largely by delays to ITER, a 20bn-euro reactor that is currently being built in the south of France to prove that fusion energy is scientifically and technically feasible.

In fact, according to EUROfusion’s programme manager, nuclear physicist Tony Donné, DEMO’s schedule could slip further, depending on progress both with ITER and a facility to test materials for fusion power plants that has yet to be built.

“2054 is optimistic,” he says. “It is doable but we need to align political decision makers and get industry involved.”

Fusion involves heating nuclei of light atoms – usually isotopes of hydrogen – to temperatures many times higher than that at the centre of the Sun so that they can overcome their mutual repulsion and join together to form a heavier nucleus, giving off huge amounts of energy in the process……

the project has been beset by delays and cost overruns. Originally foreseen to switch on in 2016 and cost around 5bn euros, its price has since roughly quadrupled and its start-up pushed back to 2025. Full-scale experiments are now not foreseen until at least 2035.

As well as being technically very demanding, ITER is also complex politically…..http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40558758

 

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July 14, 2017 - Posted by | EUROPE, technology

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