Sunday, August 2, 2020

France Is Assembling The World's Largest Fusion Energy Project

From PhysOrg, July 28:

France's global nuclear fusion device a puzzle of huge parts
A hugely ambitious project to replicate the energy of the sun is entering a critical phase, as scientists and technicians in southern France begin assembling giant parts of a nuclear fusion device, an international experiment aimed to develop the ultimate clean energy source. 

World leaders involved in the project, or their representatives, on Tuesday appeared virtually at a ceremony for the start of the new stage of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, noting that work has proceeded despite the COVID-19 pandemic in many of the 35 contributing countries.

"Clearly, the pandemic impacted the initial schedule," said ITER's director-general, Bernard Bigot, who led the ceremony at Saint-Paul-les-Durance, northeast of Marseille. He said none of the on-the-ground staff has contracted COVID-19.

Scientists have long sought to mimic the process of nuclear fusion that occurs inside the sun, arguing that it could provide an almost limitless source of cheap, safe and clean electricity. Unlike in existing fission reactors, which split plutonium or uranium atoms, there's no risk of an uncontrolled chain reaction with fusion and it doesn't produce long-lived radioactive waste.

The project "seeks to create an artificial sun," said South Korean President Moon Jae-in. "An artificial sun is an energy source of dreams."

Among other elements, Korea is manufacturing four sectors of a vacuum vessel, a hermetically sealed chamber in which plasma particles, derived from heated hydrogen gas, spiral without touching walls. European countries are building five other sectors....