Fusion – a carbon-free source of power in 30 years
ITER involves KTH along with over half the world’s population
In 30 years the way is open for a carbon-free source of power. Together with over half of the world’s population KTH researchers are involved in the ITER project to make fusion a primary baseline energy source.
Professor James Drake, director of the Alfvén Laboratory Centre for Space and Fusion Plasma Physics, was granted 14 millions in the Swedish Research Council’s 2009 call for grant applications within the natural and engineering sciences to advance fusion research and development for ITER and future fusion reactors. Drake is the principle investigator in Sweden for the international collaboration project ITER involving the EU, and China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US on a mission to build an experimental fusion reactor in Cadarache in Southern France.
“This means over half the world’s population is involved in developing fusion as a carbon-free source of power for sustainable future development in these countries.” says James Drake who has dedicated most part of his career to research and development on fusion energy.
Sustainable development for emerging countries
The participating countries contribute “in kind” in the form of equipment which must then be installed in the facility at Cadarache. The “in kind” delivery feature of the international ITER agreement will support the development of fusion science and technology in the partners’ countries, which includes the emerging countries, China and India.
“It is important that emerging countries are putting a major emphasis on the development of fusion because it is precisely these countries that need to have a carbon-free source of power for their future development,” says James Drake.
Copying the stars and the sun requires high level of cooperation
ITER is an experimental reactor which will reproduce the physical reaction - fusion - that occurs in the sun and stars. Existing experiments have already shown that it is possible to replicate this process on Earth. To produce fusion energy ITER copies the process in the sun and the starts. The nuclei of light atoms come together at very high temperatures, they fuse, which produces enormous amounts of energy.
“Fusion energy has very little global impact on the environment since it doesn’t discharge any CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, Drake says”
But to make this project happen requires a high level of cooperation.
“Europe is the host and therefore has a very large responsibility. But this of course requires a very high level of international cooperation. In Sweden we have five special areas at three universities working on this, he says” .
How will the researchers at KTH contribute to this international collaboration project?
“Fusion research in Europe is a tightly coordinated programme. The work programme for the KTH group is fully integrated into the work programme of all the European research groups under what is called the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA).
How will ITER open for a carbon-free energy source?
“ITER is the next step. First, it is a physics proof-of-principle experiment. It will also be a test bed for technological development. After ITER there will be a good scientific and technology base to build a demonstration reactor, called “DEMO”. Then the way is open for development of fusion reactors as a carbon-free energy source.”
When can fusion be used as a primary baseline energy source?
“ITER is the next-step experiment in the development of fusion as primary baseline energy source. The time schedule for ITER starts with a 10-year construction period, (which started in 2008) followed by a 20-year operation period. So you see the time schedule requires long term preparation.”
“During the present construction period there is a need for both R&D to support the design and construction and also a need for preparation of scenarios for operation of the experiment. So it is important to bring new, young researchers into the programme and it is also a very good time to do this.”
Partners in Sweden included in the Swedish Research Council (VR) grant:
- KTH Fusion Plasma Physics – Per Brunsell, James Drake, Torbjörn Hellsten and, Marek Rubel)
- KTH Materials and Applied Physics (MAP) – Mamoun Muhammed
- Uppsala University, Development of neutron diagnostics – Göran Ericsson