Fusion research at EFDA-JET was featured on prime-time New Zealand TV this week in a breakfast TV item by Pat Pilcher, a Wellington based journalist broadcasting weekly items on technology. (technology.nzoom.com/).
Asked to do a piece on future energy possibilities in the light of New Zealand’s energy shortages this year (the country is 90% reliant on hydro-generated electricity and the lakes are currently very low) he emailed EFDA-JET Public Relations Group for information on fusion. He was couriered a video on JET and fusion basics, and brochures on JET and ITER and produced over three minutes of enthusiastic and knowledgeable support for fusion, ending with his recommended web-site of the day, which was – of course – www.jet.efda.org!
A Windows Media/Real Media streaming video of the coverage is online at www.nzoom.com.
For further information please contact
Mrs Jennifer Hay, Tel: 01235 466232
PR Department Fax: 01235 466706
EFDA-JET e-mail: public-relations(at)jet.efda.org
Culham Science Centre
NOTES FOR EDITORS
EFDA The European Fusion Development Agreement co-ordinates the European programme which aims to develop magnetic confinement fusion as a new, clean source of safe and environmentally friendly energy. The flagship of this programme is JET, the world's largest and most powerful nuclear fusion research facility and the only machine capable of operating with the fuel mixture that will be used in a commercial fusion power station. EFDA-JET is operated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority at its Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire on behalf of all the European fusion research laboratories under EFDA.
The programme’s objectives are to obtain and study conditions approaching those needed in a power plant. JET’s successor will be the internationally-funded machine, ITER, which should provide a full scientific demonstration of the feasibility of fusion in power plant-like conditions. It would then be followed by a demonstration fusion power station.
WHAT IS FUSION?
In a fusion reaction, energy is produced when light atoms are fused together to form heavier atoms. This process takes place in the Sun and stars.
To utilise fusion reactions as an energy source it is necessary to heat a gaseous fuel to temperatures in excess of 100 million degrees – several times hotter than the centre of the Sun. At these temperatures, the gas becomes a plasma.
Under these conditions, the plasma particles, deuterium and tritium, fuse together to form helium and high speed neutrons, releasing significant amounts of energy. A commercial power station will use the heat generated by the neutrons, slowed down by a blanket of denser material (lithium), to generate electricity.
The plasma must be kept away from material surfaces to avoid it being cooled and contaminated; magnetic fields are used for this purpose. The most promising magnetic confinement systems are toroidal (doughnut shaped) and the most advanced is called the Tokamak. JET is the largest Tokamak in the world.
The fuels used are virtually inexhaustible. Deuterium and tritium are both isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium is extracted from water and tritium is manufactured from a light metal, lithium, which is found all over the world.
One kilogram of fusion fuel produces the same amount of energy as 10,000,000 kilograms of fossil fuel.
WHY IS FUSION IMPORTANT?
Energy demands will increase even more dramatically over the next fifty years as the developing world comes to expect the same standard of living as the industrialised countries. Kyoto focused the world’s attention to the dangers of global warming from the unrestrained use of fossil fuels. Along with renewable sources nuclear fusion will be an important long-term energy source.
Fusion will provide safe and environmentally friendly energy with the advantages of:
• no atmospheric pollution: the fusion reaction produces helium which is an inert gas; no greenhouse gas is produced
• abundant fuels
• no long-lived radioactive waste
• an inherently safe system: even the worst conceivable accident would not require evacuation of the surrounding population