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Technology for DEMO

To prepare for the eventual construction of a demonstration fusion power plant (DEMO), the development of fusion materials and a number of key technologies must be pursued. These new technologies include breeding blankets which will produce tritium fuel and also capture the energy released during fusion. The task of selecting and validating the best materials for constructing actual fusion power reactors is also a priority.

Preparation for DEMO will entail the vigorous development of fusion materials and key technologies for fusion. As a priority, a dedicated project team is being established to prepare for the construction of the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) as part of the Broader Approach. IFMIF's goal will be to qualify materials for DEMO through irradiation testing and modelling of materials. In addition, studies of the DEMO conceptual design, as well as work on the safety, environmental and socio-economic aspects of fusion energy, must be undertaken. DEMO is set to be larger in size than ITER, and to produce significantly larger fusion power over long periods.

Key programme aspects

Schematic figure of tokamak
fusion power plant
©EFDA

Key technologies and materials required for the licensing, construction and operation of the DEMO power plant are being jointly developed by the various EU Fusion Associations and industry partners in conjunction with the Fusion for Energy agency. The aim is to position European industry to respond to the opportunities regarding the construction of DEMO and to develop future fusion power plants. Some of these technologies and materials will be initially tested in ITER.

To prepare for DEMO, several activities are being implemented under Euratom FP7 including the establishment of a dedicated project team and implementation of the Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (EVEDA). This in turn will prepare for the construction of the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF).

Research will also focus on:

  • the development, irradiation testing and modelling of low activation and radiation resistant materials,
  • the development of key technologies required for fusion power plant operation such as tritium breeding blankets and high temperature superconducting magnets,
  • the conceptual design activities of DEMO, including safety and environmental aspects.

If DEMO is fully successful in terms of systems and performance, it may be possible to use it as a commercial prototype, going for the so-called 'fast track' to fusion which could significantly bring forward the availability of fusion as a truly sustainable energy option.

Beyond DEMO: Long-term research

Building on the activities aimed specifically at ITER and DEMO, the Euratom FP7 fusion programme also aims to develop competences and enlarge the knowledge base in areas which are strategically relevant to future fusion power stations. These research activities will lead to enhanced technical feasibility and economic viability for fusion power.

This long-term research includes developing improved concepts for magnetic confinement schemes which offer a high reactor potential. One focus here is the stellarator concept, currently concentrating on the completion of the W7-X Stellarator in Germany. It will be used to expand the experimental database and to appraise the future perspectives for these configurations.

The study of sociological aspects and the economics of fusion power generation will also be undertaken together with actions aimed at promoting public awareness and understanding fusion.