The World’s Largest Tokamak Is Being Decommissioned After 40 Years

The nuclear fusion laboratory known as Joint European Torus (JET) in Oxfordshire, UK, is being dismantled after 40 years of study. This historic choice was made in the wake of the facility’s last pulse, which took place on December 18, 2023, and during which a record quantity of fusion energy was produced.
A ray of hope for supplying the world’s energy needs while cutting carbon emissions is nuclear fusion. In contrast to nuclear fission, fusion produces enormous amounts of energy by fusing lighter atomic nuclei, with the only wastes being light elements like helium. This reduces the need for elaborate waste disposal infrastructure.

JET, which was founded in 1983, was a leader in the development of the tokamak technique, which involves heating heavy hydrogen plasma inside a donut-shaped, hollow vessel to 150 million degrees Celsius using magnets. JET supported fusion reactions for more than 40 years and served as an inspiration for many fusion experiments conducted all over the world.
JET’s dismantling signifies the end of its operational life, notwithstanding its potential. To maximize the reuse of its components, the facility will be demolished over the course of the next twelve years. But JET’s legacy will live on. Future fusion research will be influenced by its contributions, which include the testing of tungsten and beryllium for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The UK will not be taking part in ITER research after Brexit. Still, the UK government has committed £630 million (~US$800 million) to the development of a plant-scale fusion reactor called STEP, with the goal of having it operational by 2040. The design and operation of STEP will incorporate key takeaways from JET, guaranteeing that the UK stays at the forefront of fusion energy research.
While JET’s decommissioning signifies the end of one era, it also heralds the start of a new one in the search for clean, sustainable energy sources.

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