Saturday, 19 March 2011

Current status

Despite optimism dating back to the 1950s about the wide-scale harnessing of fusion power, there are still significant barriers standing between current scientific understanding and technological capabilities and the practical realization of fusion as an energy source. Research, while making steady progress, has also continually thrown up new difficulties. Therefore it remains unclear whether an economically viable fusion plant is possible.[25][26] A 2006 editorial in New Scientist magazine opined that "if commercial fusion is viable, it may well be a century away."[26] Interestingly, a pamphlet printed by General Atomics in 1970s stated that "By the year 2000, several commercial fusion reactors are expected to be on-line."

Several fusion D-T burning tokamak test devices have been built (TFTR, JET), but these were not built to produce more thermal energy than electrical energy consumed. The ITER project is currently leading the effort to commercialize fusion power.[citation needed]

A paper published in January 2009 and part of the IAEA Fusion Conference Proceedings at Geneva last October claims that small 50 MW Tokamak style reactors are feasible.[27]

On May 30, 2009, the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), primarily a weapons lab, announced the creation of a high-energy laser system, the National Ignition Facility, which can heat hydrogen atoms to temperatures only existing in nature in the cores of stars. The new laser is expected to have the ability to produce, for the first time, more energy from controlled, inertially confined nuclear fusion than was required to initiate the reaction.[28]

On January 28, 2010, the LLNL announced tests using all 192 laser beams, although with lower laser energies, smaller hohlraum targets, and substitutes for the fusion fuel capsules.[29][30] More than one megajoule of ultraviolet energy was fired into the hohlraum, besting the previous world record by a factor of more than 30. The results gave the scientists confidence that they will be able to achieve ignition in more realistic tests scheduled to begin in the summer of 2010.[31]

NIF researchers are currently conducting a series of "tuning" shots to determine the optimal target design and laser parameters for high-energy ignition experiments with fusion fuel in the coming months. Two firing tests have been performed on October 31 and November 2.[32]

No comments:

Post a Comment