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Non-nuclear energy

Ongoing research

Fission and radiation protection
Fusion
   

Fusion has the potential to play a key role in providing baseload electricity production by the mid-21st century.

The European fusion programme occupies a leading position in world fusion research. The JET facility has demonstrated the scientific feasibility of producing fusion power at the multi-megawatt level for a period of several seconds. Further work is still required to guarantee the technical and economic viability of commercial fusion reactors; however, the potential of fusion as a baseload sustainable energy source, together with the significant progress achieved so far, have set the basis for the next step in fusion reactor development.

This next step requires that a machine is built that can achieve considerably higher fusion power and longer containment time than JET, in order to demonstrate the practicability of a full-scale fusion reactor design. Due to the high costs and global rewards involved, seven parties are participating in this truly global cooperation: the EU (represented by EURATOM), Japan, the People’s Republic of China, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA.

ITER: a global project

ITER: a global project

International cooperation is at the heart of ITER which will demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power. With a similar magnetic geometry as JET, ITER will be much bigger and have in addition a number of key technologies essential for a future power station. These include superconducting technology, first wall tritium breeding blanket modules, steady-state plasma-heating systems, tritium closed cycle, and full remote handling. ITER will also be able to operate for long periods (burning plasma pulses of over 15 minutes). More about the objectives and mission of ITER can be accessed here.

The Fusion programme in Euratom FP7

The long-term goal of the seventh Euratom Framework Programme (2007–11) remains “the creation of prototype reactors for power stations which are safe, sustainable, environmentally responsible, and economically viable”. The specific goals for FP7 are to develop the knowledge base for this long-term aim, and to realise ITER as the next major step towards it.

The proposed FP7 programme comprises:

  • the realisation of ITER
  • R&D in preparation of ITER operation
  • technology activities in preparation for DEMO
  • human resources, education and training
  • infrastructures
  • technology transfer processes.

The realisation of ITER involves site preparation, establishing the ITER Organisation and the European Joint Undertaking for ITER, management and staffing, general technical and administrative support, construction of equipment and installations, and support to the project during construction.

To prepare for ITER operation, a focused physics and technology programme will exploit the facilities and resources in the fusion programme, including JET. It will assess specific key ITER technologies, consolidate ITER project choices, and prepare for ITER operation through experimental and theoretical activities.

Preparation for DEMO will entail the vigorous development of fusion materials and key technologies for fusion. In addition, a dedicated project team will be established to prepare for the construction of the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) to qualify materials for DEMO. It will include irradiation testing and modelling of materials, studies of the DEMO conceptual design, and studies of the safety, environmental and socio-economic aspects of fusion energy.

Activities directed towards the longer-term needs include further development of improved concepts for magnetic confinement schemes with potential advantages for fusion power stations (focused on the completion of the construction of the W7-X stellarator device), theory and modelling aimed at a comprehensive understanding of the behaviour of fusion plasmas.

In view of the immediate and medium-term needs of ITER, and for the further development of fusion, other initiatives will aim at ensuring that adequate human resources will be available in the future, in terms of numbers, range of skills, and high-level training and experience.

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