Saturday, 19 March 2011

Fusion power

Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion reactions. In this kind of reaction, two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus and in doing so, release a large amount of energy. In a more general sense, the term can also refer to the production of net usable power from a fusion source, similar to the usage of the term "steam power." Most design studies for fusion power plants involve using the fusion reactions to create heat, which is then used to operate a steam turbine, which drives generators to produce electricity. Except for the use of a thermonuclear heat source, this is similar to most coal, oil, and gas-fired power stations as well as fission-driven nuclear power stations.

As of July 2010[update], the largest experiment by means of Magnetic confinement fusion has been the Joint European Torus (JET). In 1997, JET produced a peak of 16.1 megawatts (21,600 hp) of fusion power (65% of input power), with fusion power of over 10 MW (13,000 hp) sustained for over 0.5 sec. In June 2005, the construction of a new experimental reactor, ITER, was announced by the seven parties involved in the project. These include the U.S., China, the European Union (EU), India, Japan, the Russian Federation, and South Korea.[1] ITER is designed to produce ten times more fusion power than the power put into the plasma over many minutes; for example 50 MW of input power to produce 500 MW of output power. ITER is currently under construction in Cadarache, France. Additionally, the US National Ignition Facility as well as the planned European Union High Power laser Energy Research facility (HiPER) are promising experimental sites in generating power by the different method of Inertial confinement fusion.

The first fusion reactor to generate electrical power is planned for DEMO, the next-generation facility to follow ITER. It has been proposed to begin construction in 2024.

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