A European consortium, EuroFusion has just announced the start of a five-year “conceptual design” phase for its DEMOnstration power plant (DEMO), a press statement reveals.
This means nuclear fusion scientists are starting design work on a European demonstration power station that they hope will finally enable net nuclear fusion energy.
Till today, scientists have largely experimented with circular nuclear fusion reactors, called tokamaks, that use powerful magnets to contain the burning plasma required for the reaction to take place.
EuroFusion’s DEMO power plant is planned to be a 300-to-500-megawatt tokamak, which the consortium described in its statement as “a first-of-its-kind facility that represents the next technological step after the global ITER fusion experiment.”
The consortium explained in its statement that DEMO’s conceptual design phase “charts a route of scientific and engineering research from the basic science at current devices, all the way to designing the demonstration fusion power plant DEMO, capable of net electricity production shortly after the middle of the century.” The organization has set 2054 as its goal for delivering commercial fusion energy.
DEMO will also show remote maintenance and tritium breeding. Tritium breeding will enable operators to produce tritium fusion fuel on-site and will be a signficant component for commercial fusion operations in the future.
In EuroFusion’s statement, Gianfranco Federici, Head of the Fusion Technology Department at EUROfusion, and Tony Donné, EUROfusion Programme Manager, wrote “the DEMO design and R&D activities in Europe are benefitting largely from the experience gained from the design, licensing, and construction of ITER.” However, they warn that work on facilities such as DEMO must start soon after ITER reveals its key findings so as to avoid a “brain drain” away from nuclear fusion to other industries.
ITER is the largest nuclear fusion experiment in the world. It is under construction in southern France and is part of a collaboration between 35 partner countries, including all of the EU, China, India, Japan, Russia, and the U.S. Its main aim is to show that nuclear fusion is safe and commercially viable.