Future Fusion Power
The success of fusion research so far shows that it is possible to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion power with one further major experiment, ITER, which will form the link between scientific research on plasma physics and the first demonstration power plant (DEMO).
There have been three generations of experimental fusion devices so far. Two further generations of devices are planned in order to achieve the goal of commercial power generation by fusion.
A 4th generation experimental fusion device is the ITER experiment currently under construction in Cadarache in southern France. The ITER reactor will operate at a nominal thermal power of 500 megawatts and will be the foundation stone of a future fusion power station.
The construction of ITER began in 2008. The facility is designed to:
- produce thermal fusion power equivalent to 500 MW,
- produce a power amplification of 10 (the power produced will be 10 times the power put in),
- test long-duration burning plasma aiming at continuous operation,
- test technologies and components essential for a commercial fusion reactor.
A 5th generation experimental fusion device is the construction of DEMO, a demonstration fusion power plant. DEMO will share many of the components proven in ITER, while also taking stock of advanced fusion materials research developed in parallel research programmes.
DEMO will be designed to:
- produce thermal fusion power approaching levels relevant for commercial power production,
- produce net electricity,
- demonstrate tritium self-sufficiency,
- demonstrate high reliability and the performance of low-activation materials.
If DEMO is successful in terms of systems and performance, the DEMO reactor itself could be used as the commercial prototype creating a 'fast track' to fusion power.
The final step will be the construction of a first-of-a-series in commercial-sized fusion power reactors. To achieve double the electrical power output of DEMO (i.e. 1000 megawatts), only a slight increase in reactor size will be required.