Fusion energy has a key advantage over conventional nuclear energy: it doesn’t create radioactive waste that’s expensive and difficult to dispose of.
A team of scientists at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in the UK claim to have achieved first plasma on an upgraded Mega AMP Spherical Tokamak (MAST)—experimental fusion reactor.
Conventionally, tokamaks have been built in the shape of a donut, formally called a torus. The new design is spherical in shape and the team is hoping that it will allow for much smaller and considerably cheaper fusion energy plant designs in the future.
The team at CCFE noted that the plasma test has come after seven years of work upgrading the original MAST which has cost approximately £55m.
Generating electricity using fusion, which means harnessing the power of atoms fusing together rather than breaking them up, is still many years — if not decades — out.
The team is hoping their new design could solve a big problem: hot plasma, with temperatures of over 15 million degrees Celsius, which typically deals great damage to the reactor itself. They came up with a “divertor” that acts as an exhaust system for their reactor.
This “Super-X divertor” was designed from the ground up to “reduce heat and power loads from particles leaving the plasma, which should mean divertor components will last much longer,” according to a press release.
They hope to have an actual working plant in place by 2040.
Reference- Phys.Org website, Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) PR, Futurism