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Outlook: Fusion in 2018

di, 16/01/2018 - 12:01

ITER: halfway to first plasma

We are expecting to hear more good news from ITER next year. In December 2017, the largest fusion experiment to come had announced the completion of an important milestone: 50 percent of the total construction work through First Plasma is done! The passing of this milestone reflects “the collective contribution and commitment of ITER’s seven Members,” writes Director-General Bernard Bigot in a letter to all participating nations.

  COMPASS upgrade

You know these days that small tweets can contain big news: EUROfusion’s Czech Research Unit receives 31.5 million Euros funding from their Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in order to upgrade their tokamak Compass. Once the work is completed, the European fusion consortium is considering to test a new way of plasma exhaust, namely the concept of a liquid divertors, in Prague.

  Chinese-European Cooperation developing

The cooperation between European fusion research and its counterparts in China is developing further. In August, representatives from China visited the EUROfusion offices in Garching. They were eager to learn about the setup of EUROfusion’s programme. Some days earlier they had already visited Fusion for Energy’s headquarter in Barcelona. Those meetings in Europe are a direct result from the Technology Management Plan which has been signed at the Fusion Energy Conference 2016 in Kyoto, Japan. The European team is eagerly looking forward to returning the visit. In January, a 24 person large delegation from EUROfusion delegates will be welcomed at the he Chinese Center for Fusion Science of the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in Chengdu. Picture:EUROfusion

The post Outlook: Fusion in 2018 appeared first on EUROfusion.

JET as a pictorial record

di, 16/01/2018 - 12:00

Painter Sarah Moncrieff has painted a portrait of the world’s largest tokamak. In this interview, she shares her thoughts on “fusing line, colour, mark and texture” with Fusion in Europe.

Why did you choose to paint JET?

I am primarily interested in two things: firstly, what constitutes a person’s daily visual experience. We often become immune to our work environment. We no longer see it with fresh eyes. This feels particularly pertinent in Culham where the structures and colours are extraordinary. My paintings remind us of our everyday surroundings. They also capture a specific moment in the history of our working lives as these environments will undergo change. Secondly, bold shapes, colours and lines appeal to me and I like to derive a sense of order from a visually complex scene.

The choice of colours appears to differ from your usual industry related work.

The bold colours within the work environment of Culham were so strong that I simply could not ignore them. They are a fabulous riot of cadmium yellows, cobalt blues and vermillion reds. It was the combination of the colours and structures that really appealed to me. Had I confined myself to a limited colour palette, I would have lost something fundamental. Instead, the challenge was one of taking the scene and extracting the significant structures and shapes from it in order to achieve a sense of the whole without needing to paint in every element.

UK based Sarah Moncrieff is a painter and concentrates on depicting modern urban life through her Urban Landscape paintings. For more info check out her homepage”: www.sarahmoncrieffpaintings.co.uk
Pictures: Ray Francis

What was painting the machine like?

I started the process by drawing the machine over and over again to make sure I understood the structure. There is nothing more frustrating than realising half way through that you have got a crucial element all wrong. Whilst drawing it, I really engaged with the powerful curves, the intricate details of the structures and the different parts all of which connect to create one amazing machine.

The act of painting is the creation of something, but instead of fusing nuclei to create energy, I am fusing line, colour, mark and texture to create my final piece.

I then had to think about what parts of the machine itself I should paint and what parts I should leave out. This is a constant struggle for me as an artist. I need to retain enough to convey the essence of the machine itself, but I don’t want to paint every tiny detail, otherwise I might just as well take a photograph. Painting is a process of saying as much as you can but as concisely as possible.

EUROfusion buys experimental time on an overall of six different fusion machines in Europe. Would you be interested in painting any more?

I am very interested. Presenting a series of paintings of machines and environments at the forefront of technology would be an exciting and stimulating challenge. Scientists will record the progress and results of this journey, but as an artist I can make a pictorial, historical record.

The post JET as a pictorial record appeared first on EUROfusion.

Impressions by EUROfusion

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:59

Young hands operating a tokamak with the help of EUROfusion’s free game “Operation Tokamak”. Picture: EUROfusion

Fusion writers in the house: Davide Silvagni, Sara Riccio and Bianca Giacomelli have authored articles in Fusion in Europe. They all helped out at the EUROfusion booth in Garching during Open Door Day. Picture: EUROfusion

Gianfranco Federici (3PT) and Kenji Tobita (from the fusion department of the Rokkasho Fusion Institute) are coordinating the design and R&D activities for a demonstrational fusion power plant (DEMO) in Europe and Japan. Both are pointing towards a reservation sign for a booked table in a traditional Japanese restaurant. Picture: private

Parts of ITER’s vacuum vessel before assembly. Picture: Fusion for Energy

Culham’s David Homfray at a careers fair for the Institute of Physics in Belfast, Northern Ireland. David has been appointed a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and, during the event, gave an inspirational talk about his life in science. Copyright protected by UKAEA

ITER workers smashing a coconut. This is no sign of madness, but instead the start of welding on the steel cylinder that will house the ITER machine. Since the facility is officially Indian territory located on French soil, the staff held a traditional “coconut ceremony” held to remove hurdles from the challenging path ahead. Picture: Fusion for Energy

Ion Optical System of the ion source of the TCV neutral beam. Picture: Swiss Plasma Center

Big in Japan: Curt Gliss and Fabio Cismondi from EUROfusion’s Power Plant Physics and Technology Department (3 PT) posing with a Geisha. The engineers participated in this year’s International Symposium on Fusion Nuclear Technology in Kyoto. Picture: private

Optical fibres of the Thomson scattering system at the Swiss “Tokamak à configuration variable”. Picture: Swiss Plasma Center

En marche: Sabina Griffith, from ITER’s communication team, and French President Emmanuel Macron pose for a picture during COP23. Picture: ITER

An apple a day keeps turbulence away: EUROfusion serving fresh fruits. Picture: EUROfusion

Pascal Conti (L) handing the TCV key to Stefano Barberis (R). Picture: Swiss Plasma Center

How to master challenging environments? One way is by training staff with the help of virtual reality. The RACE facility on the CCFE site is further developing this method. Picture: © Copyright protected by UKAEA

Literally holding the banner: Tonći Tadić, Head of the Croatian Research Unit, and Xavier Litaudon preparing the EUROfusion banner during the 25th European Fusion Workshop in Dubrovnik.
Picture: EUROfusion

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Alternative Fusion Concepts: Helion Energy

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:58

Fusion research benefits from its variety of labs and approaches. Not all of the ideas and concepts belong to EUROfusion or publicly funded research. Private companies, even far beyond European borders, are also trying to bring fusion energy to life. In this series, Fusion in Europe introduces different approaches and provides an outline indicating what is hidden behind catchyclaims designed to attract the attention of investors. This time, we introduce Helion Energy.

1. Facts

2. Idea

click to enlarge!

Helion Inc. is a spin-off of MSNW LLC, a company that is developing space propulsion technologies, including fusion plasma thrusters based on the Helion concepts. Helion uses Magnetised Target Fusion. Their “Fusion Engine” is similar to a diesel engine with electromagnets replacing the pistons. It is based on Field Reversed Configuration (FRC), created by an initial axial magnetic field rapidly reversed by a purely toroidal Theta Pinch current, diamagnetically balancing the plasma pressure gradient. Twin plasma guns fire opposing FRCs to coalesce in a central burn chamber. Here the deuterium-helium3 plasmoid is rapidly magnetically compressed. It fuses and the expanding particle energy is directly converted to electricity by reacting on the magnetic field, pulsing at up to 10Hz.3. Opinion

Tom Todd joined the Culham Science Center in 1975 prior to a one-year secondment to the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics. He has also served on many design reviews for European devices, including ITER, and beyond. In 2004, he became Chief Engineer at Culham and was appointed Chief Technologist in 2011. After retiring in 2014 he became a fusion consultant and an MSc course lecturer for several universities. Picture: private

FRCs have been under investigation since the 1960s but they did not achieve high performance plasmas. They have some asymmetric instabilities and the full effects of the fusion products are unknown. The plasma confinement time is about 50% of the ~1ms pulse length. Reactor efficiency thus requires an unusually high plasma density and temperature.Directly converting the energy of all the fast ions is problematical, especially since electromagnetic radiation and fast ion losses will decrease the useful power output by approximately 30%.The fuel is also a challenge: a 70MWth reactor burns approximately three kilograms of 3He pa. Helion would need about 25kg of tritium stock (equal to the world’s civil stock today) to create just half its 3He fuel by decay. Helion’s plans to demonstrate a 50 MWe power plant in about three years from now must also cover developing the Direct Energy Conversion and

Name Helion Energy Inc. Tagline The future of energy Management Dr. David Kirtley (Chief Executive Officer)
Dr. John Slough (Chief Science Officer)
Chris Pihl (Chief Technology Officer)
Dr. George Votroubek (Principal Scientist) Funding Mithril, Y combinator, Capricon investment group Headquarters Redmond, WA, US: The University of Washington hosts the basic scientific research Established 2013

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Fusion en Marche!

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:58

French-Lebanese physicist Farah Hariri and French President Emmanuel Macron have something in common: they are young, enthusiastic and willing to change the world. Just one year ago, Farah joined Macron’s movement En Marche! Now, while candidate Joachim Son-Forget has become the deputy representative for French residents in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, his team member Farah has been nominated coordinator for developing the energy agenda in Switzerland and ITER is part of the plan.

“Being interested in our collective future is simply in my genes, in my family”, Farah admits. Macron’s revolutionary approach to gathering experts from different political parties and professions seemed just made for her. “With Emmanuel Macron, we will make a difference, we will make our planet great again!”, she states with a smile.

Implementing energy theory

One of her top priorities is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while providing a reliable and safe energy supply. Born in Lebanon, energy issues used to be part of her daily life. “Daily power outages were a norm”, she explains. Being also very keen on maths, she decided to study plasma physics at the American University of Beirut. After graduating, she went to do a doctoral scholarship to CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives). Her fusion career seemed unstoppable. She authored a thesis on the Flux-Coordinate Independent (FCI) approach, which opened the way for the numerical simulation of plasma turbulence in a tokamak, a necessary code to address the transition from the low (L) to the high (H) mode of energy confinement, a yet still unexplained phenomenon. ITER, as it happens, needs to operate in the H mode to achieve the expected fusion performance.
In 2013, her thesis work won the 9th Itoh prize in Plasma Turbulence and the PhD prize of Aix-Marseille University. Farah continued on her career path with a post doc position at the Swiss Research Unit SPC (Swiss Plasma Center), but then CERN called.

Farah during the Climate Finance Day in Paris where she attended round table discussions with French Energy Minister Nicolas Hulot. Picture: private

All available combinations to avoid fossils

She joined the famous lab in 2016 and was assigned to focus on theoretical modelling: “The idea of predicting what happens in the world’s largest particle accelerator was simply thrilling, a noble opportunity which I could not let go”, she says. So much for the theory…
In her spare time, she has actively participated in the campaign of Emmanuel Macron. Today, she is coordinating the energy transition agenda for En Marche in Switzerland where multi-national projects all have different milestones, including future energy scenarios. “The timescale to fight climate change is short. We should zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 so that the two-degree threshold is not crossed. At the moment, we are in a transitional phase which does not yet have a sustainable solution. We need to use all available combinations to move away from a carbon-based energy economy”, Farah says.

Fusion is the leading option in the future energy mix

She is aware that commercial fusion energy will not be part of combating climate change during the first half of the century: “But when it comes to long term sustainability, ITER and fusion energy is one of the leading, most interesting options for a sustainable energy mix”, she says. According to her, the question is not IF but WHEN fusion will be rolled out. “On a global-scale, replacing fossil fuel while guaranteeing a constant baseload for our electricity supply means we need to incorporate all advanced nuclear solutions, including fusion.”

ITER – a matter of urgency

For Farah it is a matter of urgency that fusion appears on the energy transition agenda. To her, a successful demonstration of ITER’s burning fusion plasma is needed as soon as possible: “We’d like to see the successful operation of ITER as soon as possible, this is an emergency. Any further delays to this are very damaging. The turning point will be the demonstration of a significant energy amplification in ITER. After this phase, private companies will undoubtedly consider developing what we need: smaller and cheaper fusion power plants”, Farah states.
She also believes that the success of a numerical virtual tokamak is essential during this phase. “The successful operation of the ITER machine is important. But I believe that the success of a Numerical Virtual Tokamak is equally important. Being able to model and simulate the full machine is as important as the operation of the machine itself.

In the wake of Macron and Hulot

During the One Planet Summit organised by the French President on December 12 in Paris, two years after the historic Paris Agreement was concluded, Farah had the chance to discuss ITER’s future impacts with Emmanuel Macron and Nicolas Hulot, French Minister of Ecology.

Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. Picture: French Government

The desire to end the Cold War led to the launch of ITER. ITER being the largest international project worldwide that enables involved workers, whether originating from science or industry, to better understand the cultural diversity of the participating countries. […] France thanks the Commission for its resolute action in support of the ITER project and also hopes that {…} the European Parliament will continue supporting the project. In conclusion, I would like to emphasise how ITER, to me, is a unique human, scientific, technological and industrial adventure requiring a perfect cooperation on all these plans. You can count on the support of France”, Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in a speech on 4th December 2017 within the framework of the ITER Industry Days

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Along comes a SPIDER

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:57

Did you actually think that all ITER parts are located at Cadarache, France? Well, no. PRIMA (Padova Research on ITER Megavolt Accelerator) is located in Italy. It will test the neutral beam heating for the world’s largest tokamak to come. All of PRIMA’s components, one of which goes by the name SPIDER, belong to the ITER Organization. Why does it need another complex multinational experiment to finally turn the big tokamak into a success? It is a matter of dimensions.

Representatives of F4E, Thales and RFX standing in front of the SPIDER beam source. Picture: F4E

“The heating injectors need a performance which is magnitudes above current applications”, says Tullio Bonicelli, responsible Project Manager at Fusion for Energy (F4E). Hence, it seems quite appropriate to test them before they will be finalised in the world’s largest fusion experiment.

Negative ion beams

Powerful beams of neutral particles heat the fusion plasma. Usually, positive ions are accelerated and then neutralised before injection. [see also the article about the helicon plasma source on page XX of this issue].
The ITER Neutral Beam system will use negative ion beams, because the efficiency of neutralising positive ions declines heavily as the beam power increases. Such beams have unprecedented energies of one mega-electron volt (MeV) and they are on for a much longer time (up to one hour) than today’s systems. Each of the two injectors that are currently planned for ITER will transmit 16.5 Megawatt of power to the plasma.

See also the model of Neutral Beam Injection here: https://www.euro-fusion.org/?p=267239

To tackle the challenge of unknown heating dimensions, PRIMA comprises two independent test rigs: The negative ion source SPIDER (Source for Production of Ion of Deuterium Extracted from radio frequency plasma) produces hydrogen and deuterium ions and accelerates them up to 100 kilo-electron volt. MITICA (Megavolt ITER Injector Concept and Advancement), a first full-size and full performance ITER injector, accelerates these ions up to 1 MeV.

Teaming up in Europe, India and Japan

Of course, such efforts can’t be done by one country alone. Tullio Bonicelli describes the team work: “F4E provides important funds to activities under the Neutral Beam Test Facility Agreement. EUROfusion member Consorzio RFX and Italy have provided the buildings and some infrastructure as well as contributing, in a substantial way, to the technical and scientific manpower. The Indian and Japanese agencies from F4E, responsible for ITER, are also making their contributions by delivering important components.

ELISE pioneered for ITER

Research carried out at third parties has also played a major role: the German Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics has been investigating negative ion sources for years. In fact, their heating source in the ELISE (Extraction from a Large Ion Source Experiment) test rig became the prototype for the ITER system. The device in Garching was half the size of the the one planned for ITER. ELISE produces a particle beam with a cross-sectional area of about one square metre.
SPIDER will start spinning during the first half of next year. MITICA is scheduled to follow in 2022. The experiments that will be carried out after the successful launch are needed to fine-tune the present injector design for ITER.

PRIMA is immense and features many mysterious names. ITER‘s Neutral Beam Test Facility in Padova will switch on the light in the first half of 2018. Take a tour through MITICA and SPIDER before they get busy.

Interview with Tullio Bonicelli, Project Manager for Neutral Beam and Electron Cyclotron Power Supplies and Sources at Fusion For Energy

What is the economic impact on the PRIMA facility for European companies?

Many companies have been involved in our contribution to the PRIMA facility, such as OCEM ET, COELME, Thales, Zanon, CECOM, Galvano-T, Siemens, DILO, De Pretto, NIDEC, Angelantoni, Delta-T and many important sub-contractors such as Himmelwerk, HSP or Andreas Karl. The cumulative value of the contracts that we have signed is in the range of 120 million Euros.

What does it mean to build this large device while cooperating with Consorzio RFX and Domestic Agencies in India and Japan?

In a nutshell, the Neutral Beam Test Facility in Padova is very similar to ITER, from an organisational point of view. Some root issues are therefore also common, like the separation between design authority and financial or contractual responsibilities. The decision-making process may become cumbersome and long, introducing in itself risks of additional delays and costs. The successful execution therefore needs collaboration, a certain degree of flexibility, a lot of pragmatism, and, crucially, the common drive of all partners towards the final objective.

Is there anything F4E has learned for the project management at ITER?

There is one main conclusion to be drawn and that applies to all parties – the principle of collaboration. It pays off in spite the additional interfaces that unfold in the process. We learn to listen to one another, manage the project together because we are responsible for its different components, and last but not least, we get to capitalise on a wide set of skills.

Will ITER, in the end, be flexible enough to adjust to the results found at PRIMA?

Yes. There is full confidence that the present lay-out of ITER’s heating source, will be able to accommodate the modifications coming from the PRIMA test beds.

The entry points of the ITER Neutral Beam Injectors at the second floor of the Bioshield, Tokamak Complex. The picture was taken in December 2016. Picture: F4E

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F4E: we need to act as one!

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:57

Fusion for Energy’s (F4E) Director Johannes Schwemmer settles down at the end of a busy week. Just a few days ago he was attending the ITER Industry Day at the European Commission’s headquarters, the Berlaymont building, in Brussels. The event held by the European Commission was just one of two major events to celebrate the 10th anniversary of F4E. The organisation manages the European industrial involvement in the world’s largest tokamak to come. Ten years of ups and downs in the history of ITER have resulted in numerous lessons learned.

Mr Schwemmer, F4E is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. To what extend has the industrial engagement for ITER changed throughout that period?

“We have been collaborating with at least 400 European companies and 60 research entities in more than 20 countries at a cost in excess of four billion Euros. It surely is a successful development for the European industry, although we also need to restore our reputation due to ITER’s management crisis in 2013. At the ITER Industry Day, we heard many industrial partners saying that they are proud to undertake this endeavour with us. They feel they are a part of delivering this new energy.”

You became F4E Director in 2016. How have you improved efficiency and business optimisation since then?

“Of course, the public tendering processes are still considered ‘an adventure’ for some of the smaller industrial partners, as one speaker at the ITER Industry Day has put it. F4E began as a start-up dealing with contracts worth billions. We clearly needed to improve the speed and efficiency of processes, for example, recruitment and procurement. You cannot define projects by only following the rules without even tracking the time it takes until you deliver the result. We applied a new methodology thanks to which we have managed to become faster and more efficient.”

Many critics argue that it is hard for a small or mid-sized company to overcome the barriers in order to bid on a complex international project like ITER. What does F4E do to support applications?

“We are indeed relying on small and highly specialised companies to contribute to ITER’s components. It is therefore important to cut down the large subsystems into smaller contracts to encourage the participation of all business partners.”

To what extend are you taking advantage of experiences made in other multinational projects, such as the European Space Agency?

“We have staff members from the Joint European Torus (JET), CERN or the European Space Agency and we are, without a doubt, making good use if their expertise. This year, in fact, we have also held an international engineering best practice workshop in which we focused on benchmarking of processes and the results of those projects.”

What separates ITER from those projects?

“There is one very important and very special condition for ITER and that is the fact that ITER is a nuclear facility. Design, assembly, commissioning, construction, operation and decommissioning must comply with French laws and regulations for licensing. Every part, every design and any change must be authorised by France’s Nuclear Safety Authority.”

How would you define EUROfusion’s future role in realising fusion projects?

“European fusion science is very attractive to partners outside Europe, be it China or Japan. They would like to cooperate. But with whom could they possibly talk when they want to talk to Europe?
It is crucial that F4E, EUROfusion and the respective departments in the European Commission act as one towards those future partners, otherwise we won’t be able to take full advantage of our rich expertise. We are taking steps, with EUROfusion, to develop a closer cooperation. We have played a vital part in developing the European Fusion Roadmap and we have also succeeded in discussing diagnostic aspects. I am really looking forward to realising the joint project on the Test Blanket Modules.”

How would you define the special tasks for EUROfusion and F4E?

“To me, this is relatively clear. F4E is building the machines, we are neither responsible for operation nor research. EUROfusion is carrying out the research and engaging in the preliminary design studies; subsequently it joins the commissioning of the machines in order to take the lead in running them to conduct research. As a result, we need a close collaboration between both organisations.”

You say that EUROfusion does research and inital design studies in order to develop machines. What is it that science can learn from industry?

“I believe it is important that a professional engineering process should be also respected throughout the period of design. We are developing a complete and highly complex machine and the manufacturing process needs to be taken into account from the outset. In the end, this will save time and money.”

How do you sell the ITER project to a company?

Innovation, reputation and motivation: first of all, the company has the opportunity to learn new techniques in new dimensions and to apply those skills to upcoming projects. The reputation gained from working on a project like ITER and the motivation for the staff members are also benefits. Project management has been one of the main challenges of the project. Due to constant changes in design, we had difficulties in launching the necessary calls for tender. Since Bernard Bigot took office and remarkably changed the project management culture at ITER, we are much better at realising the contracts and we can continuously report on our progress in a positive way.”

ITER is not the only project F4E is building with the help of European companies. What is a project that you are really looking forward to in terms of realisation?

“We are really happy that the Japan Torus 60 Super Advanced (JT-60SA) is scheduled to deliver its first plasma in 2020. It is the most modern JET-sized tokamak. It is located in Japan and we are eagerly looking forward to hand it over to Japanese and EUROfusion scientists.”

Johannes Schwemmer, Director of Fusion for Energy, since 2016. Picture: F4E

Johannes Schwemmer has been working in the fields of information, telecommunications and business technology for more than 25 years. He has a proven track record in international collaboration, project management and business strategy. In 2016, he took duties as Director of Fusion for Energy, the EU organisation managing Europe’s contribution to ITER. Prior to his appointment, he was a partner at Antevorte, a German consultancy specialising in performance management. Previously he worked for eight years at Unify GmbH & Co. KG, a global market leader in unified communication solutions present in 100 countries, where he held different positions as Vice-President for Global Project Management and Service Optimisation, and Vice-President for Global Training. Earlier in his career he worked at Siemens Business Services, as Vice-President for Risk Management and Strategic Alliances Management. He holds a European Joint Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Karlsruhe (KIT), Germany, in collaboration with the University of Essex, UK and ESIEE Paris, France.

The post F4E: we need to act as one! appeared first on EUROfusion.

What do fusion and food-packaging have in common?

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:56

“You know, you have this good idea on paper, but it needs practical proof”, says Philippe Guittienne. The physicist has founded his own company “Helyssen” as a spin-off from the Swiss Plasma Center in 2003. A medical application inspired him to re-think plasma sources. Today, his antenna might not only revolutionise food-packaging but also fusion plasmas.

Philippe says it was a matter of luck. By the time he was about to finish his PhD thesis in 2002 he met someone, by chance, who was looking for entrepreneurial ideas. “While searching information on different plasma sources I found a theoretical study about helicon waves. The pattern reminded me of the field generated by the ‘birdcage’ antenna which is commonly used in Nuclear Resonance Imaging.”

All about plasma

Philippe signed a research project with the French company Alcatel. Since he, back then, had no experience with plasma research he collaborated with the Swiss Plasma Center (SPC, at the time called Center for Research in Plasma Physics). The lab enabled him to test his ‘birdcage’ antenna for producing helicon plasmas; plasmas that are highly desired in various fields. It is not only the food-packaging industry that is interested (see information box) fusion research was also eager to investigate Philippe’s new plasma source.

One of the most common ways to heat plasma is via Neutral Beam Injection (NBI). The trouble with this is the small wall-plug efficiency of this method, which will have to be maximised in a future fusion reactor.

NBI involves four stages (see illustration above). Stage three of the process is the neutralisation of the charged ions. The usual way is to accelerate positive ions. Recombining the ions with electrons neutralizes them in stage three. This neutralisation may cause the loss of ions.
For ITER, the neutral beam injection will use negative ions. One of the proposed solutions in order to avoid ion loss is photo-neutralization, in which photo-detachment is used to strip the electrons from the ions, thus neutralising them. But, this method requires a very special type of plasma in the ion source, in the shape of a long and thin column.
In fact, the required precise plasma shape is difficult to realise. And this is where Philippe’s birdcage antenna comes in. Its induced waves generate the required negative ion-rich plasma column. “The helicon source proved very efficient for high-density plasmas with moderate injection power”, says Ivo Furno from SPC who has worked with Philippe for some years now.

New dimensions in France

Both now aim to take this approach to new dimensions. In conjunction with EUROfusion’s French Research Unit CEA in Cadarache, they are currently developing a 10 kW helicon plasma generator for neutral beams (NB) for the next generation of fusion devices. The larger helicon source will be installed in the Cybele device at CEA which tests the photo-neutralisation of negative ion beams.

A marketing boost

It remains to be seen if Philippe’s idea will improve heating scenarios for future fusion devices. His example further shows how scientific requirements can be converted into industrial reality. “Industry is able to supply research with practical know-how, tools and manpower”, says Ivo. But it is considerably hard for small and middle-sized enterprises participate in such complicated research areas and also, get their foot into the door of multinational and complex projects such as ITER or DEMO. “I think, first of all, you really need the knowledge to understand what the researcher needs from you”, says Philippe. “Once you have you get it done in practice you have a great selling point. Your application has been included in a Big Science Project which is a huge marketing boost when engaging with future clients”, says Philippe.

Helyssen and Tetra Pak: How to un-spill the milk

Helyssen is also collaborating with the Tetra Pak Processing GmbH. This is the company that puts milk into small cardboard boxes. The packaging material is made of paper but must also be water-proof and a barrier for oxygen. Hence, it needs to be coated with a special layer. The aluminium foil currently applied onto the surface of the packages means that the package is non-disposable. Therefore, Tetra Pak is looking at environmentally friendly solutions which need different application techniques. Here is where Philippe’s plasma application comes in. It is able to precisely deposit the very thin, about 10 nm, barrier coatings on the plastic foils. This technique could finally help to improve the environmental disposal of such boxes.

The post What do fusion and food-packaging have in common? appeared first on EUROfusion.

A lot of good neutron science

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:56

Scientists at the Joint European Torus (JET) have been working feverishly to prepare experiments which allow the improved measurements of neutrons for the planned tritium (T) and deuterium-tritium (DT) campaigns. Those experiments are scheduled in 2019 – 2020 but the preparations have been ongoing for years now. The fusion experts have developed new detectors which are already in place to study the neutron streaming through penetrations in the biological shield and to investigate the activation and damage they induce in the material. Such observations are of extraordinary importance for ITER because they can prove that the tools used in the ITER design are valid and appropriate.

We will be ready!

“I was excited to see the results achieved this year, we produced a lot of good neutron science. Also, after a considerable preparatory effort, we will be ready for the T and DT campaign” says Project Leader Paola Batistoni. One of the most important achievement is the calibration of JET neutron yield monitors at 14 MeV neutron energy. She admits that it has been quite challenging to insert a neutron generator inside the JET tokamak with the help of the remote handling system, to calibrate the neutron detectors. This came with the complex equipment of active detectors, power supply units, and electronics. However, the measurement accuracy in the calibration is better than the target value of ten percent.

Gaining experience for ITER

Additionally, neutron detectors have been installed around the tokamak. They have already provided time dependent measurements of dose rates during operation and in the following shutdown. The preliminary results of the first simulations show that the calculated shutdown dose rate is in remarkable agreement with measurements. More than sixty scientists have discussed those notable results during the Annual General Meeting of the JET DT Technology Project at the end of this year. Among those experts were representatives of fusion organisations worldwide such as Mike Loughlin (Nuclear Integration coordinator in ITER), Dieter Leichtle and Marco Fabbri (Nuclear Integration coordinators in F4E) as well as Robert Grove and Scott Mosher from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Tim Bohm from the University of Wisconsin Maddison.

Team excitement was palable

At times during the meeting the team excitement was palpable because we finally see that the initial effort is producing a good harvest”, concludes Paola.

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Win-win: real-time collaboration between ITER and JET

di, 16/01/2018 - 11:56

Our motivation was to set up a better infrastructure in order to focus on turning fusion energy into reality”, says Adam Stephen from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE). He teamed up with partners from ITER and Fusion for Energy to modernise parts of JET’s central nervous system with the help of ITER’s software.

Adam is part of the team which delivers CODAS. This COntrol and Data Acquisition System uses a real-time network which interconnects more than 100 systems receiving data from and feeding data into the Joint European Torus (JET). The device’s communication system was due for an upgrade so that it would accept current state of the art communication.

Some of the CODAS+IT team involved in the work: (Back row, from left to right) Derek Sandiford (Visualisation Expert), Alex Goodyear (real-time Expert), John Waterhouse (Head of Control and Data Acquisitions Group). In the front (left to right) Danny Sortino (Student), David Grist (Visualisation team), Adam Stephen (ITER systems I&C coordinator for JET). Pictures: A. Stephen

Real-time visualisation

The question was: is there already a facility that has the proper software toolkit to enhance world’s largest operational tokamak? The answer came as a surprise: ITER, the tokamak of the future. An important part of the modernisation comprised improved visualisation tools for the scientists in JET’s control room. In practice, JET data are piped into a new real-time visualisation system integrated by Derek Sandiford and colleagues. As a result, the team in the control room now benefits from an improved view of the tokamak processes displayed on their screens.

“I would say one of the nicest part of our ITER software is the real-time communication, a combination of networks and software”, says Anders Wallander, Head of ITER’s Control System Division. Imagine you need to run a unique fusion machine which needs to manage the input of 170 different plant systems and, moreover, make this data available to the world’s scientific community as quickly as possible. You don’t start developing it just two weeks before going online.

Increasing ITER’s user community since 2011

On the contrary, the ITER CODAC software development was launched in 2011 and made available to the whole fusion community. Over 65 organisations such as plant system suppliers, fusion labs, domestic agencies and contractors are currently using the software in order to develop plant control systems, test and evaluate them and give feedback. Just like any other software, on your smartphone for instance, the software is updated every so often. “It is stable now. This year, we switched from two updates per year to only one”, says Anders.

Only three days to go

For this, ITER provides digital customer support along with the infrastructure. As the ITER plant systems are currently in the manufacturing phase it is difficult to comprehend how well they will work in an integrated machine.
The situation at JET, which has been up and running since 1983, was different. “We were able to test in reality to see the ITER software was mature enough and we could focus on the real challenge”, says Adam Stephen.
Adam and his counterparts Bertrand Bauvir (ITER) and Andre Neto( Fusion for Energy) were literally able to go into a closed meeting for three days and integrate the entire system until the late evening: “We had all preparations done and then went into a workshop where we fixed every tiny issue. The goal was to get the system going within three days and we succeeded in a fairly short time!”

Communication matters

“This only works if you have the right people, the right timing and the right solution for the problem”, says Anders Wallander. He and his CCFE colleague Adam agree on defining the most important thing for a fruitful collaboration: communication. “Usually, you have technical experts but they are not so good in communication. Or you have good communicators but they lack technical expertise. You hardly ever get both”, says Anders.

In this case, the project team obviously managed to obtain all the necessary skills. The group is eagerly looking forward to continuing with the successful integration of ITER’s software on JET’s system. This co-operative work is a win-win for both the experienced tokamak in England and the one to come in France. By choosing to work together, it also makes it possible for future ITER prototypes to be seamlessly tested on JET.

Bertrand Bauvir from ITER (on the left) and his F4E counterpart Andre Neto focussing on the implementation. Pictures: A. Stephen

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Protected: EUROfusion fellows 2018

do, 11/01/2018 - 09:16

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Six postdocs connect tokamak and stellarator

wo, 03/01/2018 - 09:00
The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Germany offers unique possibilities. It features not one, but two of the most advanced fusion experiments available. The Greifswald branch hosts the stellarator Wendelstein 7-X and the Garching institute operates the tokamak ASDEX Upgrade. Why not make use of the best of both worlds? For the first time in history, the institute has offered six postdoc positions with the intention to create synergies between tokamak and stellarator research.


The announcement from the Scientific Board of IPP arrived just in time for tokamak expert Rachael McDermott and her stellarator colleague Oliver Ford. Rachael in Garching and Oliver in Greifswald were about to purchase new cameras to observe the plasma inside both experiments. Those cameras came with software which was not ideal for the needs of the two research teams.

Darren McDonald from
EUROfusion’s ITER Physics Department: “EUROfusion’s roadmap brings together tokamaks and stellarators. Sharing of ideas and people between the two areas benefits both. A good example of this is the work being done on the
Wendelstein 7-X stellarator in support of ITER. The new postdoc programme is a great
way to encourage even more collaboration.”

Rachael McDermott. Picture: private

Joining the paths

Developing proper software is not the only thing that researcher Rachael is interested in. “What will be really exciting to see, is how the two different groups of researchers tackle the same problem”, she says. “We usually have the same objectives, but we reach them via different paths. Exchanging and interacting here might create the best solution.”

Two teams, one goal

“We were kicking around ideas regarding how to develop the systems to better meet the goals of our spectroscopy groups”, says Rachael. “If we had the dedicated manpower we would be able to create something specific in a more efficient way and would not have to rely on commercial products that are designed for a more general audience.”
Rachael and Oliver used the newly created research opportunity to launch a call for a postdoc. He or she would become one of the six ambassadors who, from next spring onwards, will travel and work in both the tokamak and stellarator worlds. The person will receive equal training at ASDEX Upgrade as well as Wendelstein 7-X between 2018 and 2020 and will help to create resources that benefit both groups.

Creating extra space

“By allocating postdoc resources to such collaborative projects, we have created space for special projects to flourish. We were very impressed by the quality of the proposals that we received in response to this call”, says Thomas Sunn Pedersen, Director of the Stellarator Edge and Divertor Physics Division in Greifswald.

It is not only the creational aspect that looks promising: “The new postdoc will be in an optimum position to benefit from ASDEX expertise, and transfer this knowledge to the Wendelstein 7-X team. We in Garching have years of practice in running, for example, visible spectroscopy diagnostics and in interpreting the measurements. This will be very useful when the stellarator systems come online”, says Rachael.

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Tony Donné summing up 2017

di, 26/12/2017 - 09:45

Tony Donné, EUROfusion Programme Manager

I am increasingly convinced that we, in Europe, benefit from the most coherent and best coordinated research programme in the world. As Programme Manager, I have the unique ability to compare fusion research worldwide.

I have heard many scientists from other countries say that they envy us for being able to follow a competitive outline which focuses on very clear priorities. Our plan enables scientists and engineers, from 30 national research laboratories and well over 150 universities, to work together towards the same common goal.

The basis for this is the European Fusion Roadmap which defines the main challenges that will need to be tackled in the coming years. It also describes a detailed research plan. Since its publication in 2013, we have made very good progress on many topics. The change from carbon to metal walls has led to a considerable reduction in hydrogen retention and dust production – very good news for ITER because this implies fewer openings for cleaning.
Moreover, our scientists have developed new operational recipes in order to reach high performance with metal walls, and they have discovered that fast ions have a stabilising effect on turbulence – again good news.
The initial campaigns of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator exceeded expectations. The new systems engineering approach adopted in the predesign phase for the first demonstrational fusion power plant DEMO is a major step forward and has given the fusion community many new insights. All of these efforts and successes would not have been possible without the dedicated staff of EUROfusion and its beneficiaries.

We are now in the process of updating the fusion roadmap. The revision will be an evolution of the old one but with even more coherence between the missions. Important is the enhanced consistency between ITER and DEMO activities: In 2017, EUROfusion, Fusion for Energy (F4E) and several research institutes undertook a major effort to align the European ITER Test Blanket Module (TBM) and the DEMO Breeder Blanket (BB) programmes. This has led to much stronger synergies between F4E and the EUROfusion activities, a direct outcome of our well organised fusion programme.

Apart from the above alignment of the TBM and BB programmes, we are also collaborating closely with F4E, for instance, in the Broader Approach (Japanese Torus 60 Super Advanced, DEMO, the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility and various ITER-related topics). Additionally, in 2017, F4E has joined EUROfusion in EIROforum. F4E is now a member of the consortium which comprises the eight largest European research institutes. Indeed, I am pleased to announce that this edition features an interview with F4E Director Johannes Schwemmer on the occasion of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the organisation.

Realising fusion electricity is by far one of the biggest challenges on the path of mankind. We will best be able to reach the final goal if we all cooperate. My wish for 2018 is that we continue the good work and achieve many positive results.

Tony Donné,
EUROfusion Programme Manager

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What is DEMO?

di, 19/12/2017 - 17:46

DEMO, the demonstration power plant, will be the successor of ITER and the next step on the way to realise fusion energy. Its purpose is to develop and test technologies, physics regimes and control routines for operating a fusion reactor not as a scientific experiment, but as a power plant. One of the key criteria for DEMO is the production of electricity (albeit not at the price and the quantities of commercial power plants).
ITER is the key facility of the EUROfusion roadmap, and EUROfusion allocates considerable resources to ITER and its accompanying experiments. The second phase of the roadmap is focussed on maximising ITER exploitation and on preparing the construction of DEMO. Building and operating DEMO, which will hook fusion electricity to the grid, is the subject of the last roadmap phase.

Additional information:
What will DEMO look like?

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What is the triple product?

di, 19/12/2017 - 15:20

Read more:
Fusion conditions

The triple product is a figure of merit used for fusion plasmas, closely related to the Lawson Criteria. It specifies that successful fusion will be achieved when the product of the three quantities – n, the particle density of a plasma, the confinement time,τ and the temperature, T – reaches a certain value. Above this value of the triple product, the fusion energy released exceeds the energy required to produce and confine the plasma. For deuterium-tritium fusion this value is about : nτT ≥ 5×1021 m-3 s KeV. JET has reached values of nτT of over 1021 m-3 s KeV.

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Hijacking a jet: how Culham was chosen

do, 14/12/2017 - 14:47

(Picture: Another plane named Stuttgart landed at Cologne Bonn Airport, on 18 October 1977, with the German special forces GSG 9 team (seen) and hostages from the hijacked ‘Landshut’ plane. Picture: DPA Bundesarchiv)

Exactly 40 years ago, the German plane ‘Landshut’ was hijacked by terrorists. With the help of many international partners, the West-German Government managed to free all 86 passengers at Mogadishu airport. Since then, rumour has it that the final decision regarding the location of the Joint European Torus (JET) was directly linked to these events. In fact, the incident in Somalia had strengthened the consensus but did, after all, not actually tip the scale towards Culham.  

On 25th October, France, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands and the UK had spoken out in favour of the UK site. Germany and Luxemburg had supported Garching as the host and Belgium and Italy had abstained. Coming to this agreement had been a major debate between England and Germany for years and had almost led to the end of JET, even before its construction had begun.

The hijacking of the ‘Landshut’

To this date, rumours abound that Germany gave up their ambitions to host JET in order to thank the British government for their support during the terrorist attack. On 13th October 1977, four members of the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” hijacked the Lufthansa Boeing ‘Landshut’, a Lufthansa Boeing. The British government did, in fact, supply a specific type of grenade which was used successfully by the German Special Forces team when they stormed the plane.

But was that the price that was paid in order to host the future most developed fusion experiment in the world?

A successful joint rescue

If you study the official, publicly available, German documents carefully, you start to doubt it. In fact, British Prime Minister James Callaghan and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt had met on 18th October 1977, a previously arranged meeting, when the news broke that the ‘Landshut’ passengers had been freed safely. Both country leaders now came together with revived spirits in the light of the successful joint rescue operation. On the agenda were highly sensitive topics, most of them discussing European-related topics, such as issues in the Middle East.

Interestingly enough, the location of the Joint European Torus was on that list too. The whole project was already facing the dawn of a closing-down phase. Since the beginning of the year, discussions about its location had remained in deadlock with the Council of Ministers in Brussels. The contracts of international scientists already on the existing JET Management Committee were about to end.

Landshut is the name of a Lufthansa-aircraft hijacked in Mogadishu on 13th October 1977. Later the machine was stormed and all passengers freed. Due to the 40th anniversary Fusion in Europe took a look at the story which had led to JET’s final destination, in a way.

UK to host JET for the common European idea

According to the German minutes of the meeting, the atmosphere between Schmidt and Callaghan seemed friendly and respectful. Schmidt expressed his gratitude for the English support during the ‘Landshut’ attack; Callaghan responded that Germany was actually fighting against terrorists attacking the democratic freedom worldwide. The talks then continued and arrived at the topic of the JET site. In fact, the British Prime Minister stated that one should not overrate the dividing elements in their relationship. Anyhow, the British government eagerly wanted to host a joint European device in order to demonstrate their strong commitment to the common idea of Europe. Either way, should the Council in Brussels decide on Garching, England will not veto it.

Consensus achieved

The German chancellor also acted in an accommodating manner towards this friendly opening. He admitted that the JET site had become much too prestigious and should rather be discussed on a professional than a political level. Schmidt would therefore also agree on a consensus.
What had been a matter of debate for over two years was then resolved by the final decision of the Council of Research Ministers, just a few days after the Callaghan-Schmidt meeting in Bonn. The Management Committee at JET was relieved and started to implement the urgent tasks which then finally lead to JET’s first plasma in 1983.

(Source: Akten zur auswaertigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1977 (1. Januar bis 30. Juni), S.1410ff)

The Joint European Torus in Culham, England, is still the most developed fusion experiment in the world. It is the only fusion device able to operate with Deuterium-Tritium. In 2016, the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union and with it to exit the Euratom treaty. The British Government has just signalled major support for the Culham facilities. It will invest 86 million pounds in the nuclear fusion research programme. With this major backing, CCFE’s CEO Ian Chapman is willing to take up JET’s historical heritage and to continue it into the future: “Fusion is entering the delivery era. In the longer term, it means the UK will be at the forefront of developing fusion and bringing cleaner energy to the world.”



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Do we actually need fusion energy at all?

wo, 08/11/2017 - 12:16

Will it be possible to use just renewable energies to reduce the world‘s fossil fuel consumption? Could fusion power help to reduce the world’s CO2 emissions? Sometimes the simplest questions are the most important – and the most difficult – to answer. A small excursion into recent energy problems and cutting-edge energy predictions may help to put these questions into the right focus and to provide proper answers.


My grandparents generation will probably be remembered as the one that experienced the most incredible changes during their lives: they were born in a society where phone boxes were the only way to make calls, where travelling was a luxury reserved for the rich, where clothes were washed only by hand. Now, their generation uses mobile phones, travels by plane and owns washing machines. The changes that my grandparents have experienced during their lifetime are not without consequences for our society. The world energy consumption has grown enormously in the past 90 years, increasing to seven times that of 1930. This dramatic jump is not only related to the population growth. The world’s per capita energy-consumption has doubled the value from 1930: hence, our life-style has become much more energy-consuming in a very short period of time.


To satisfy this thirst for energy, fossil fuel consumption was increased dramatically. Coal, oil and natural gas rapidly began to dominate the energy market. Now everyone is familiar with the effects of this “energy revolution”: the increased emission of greenhouse gases is affecting the natural environmental balance that has ruled on Earth for more than 100,000 years. A relentless global warming process is causing the ice to melt and the climate to change and has resulted in disastrous impacts on our lives. At the same time, the concentration of fossil fuels in few regions (Middle East, Russia etc.) is seriously undermining geopolitical stability. Hence, a society with low fossil fuel consumption has become a fundamental goal that must be achieved in order to restore the world‘s natural and geopolitical stability. The Paris agreement of 2016 is pushing towards this aim, even if it has some limitations.


The 2016 Paris Agreement is a major international accord on tackling climate change, supported by almost 200 countries. It aims to restrict the global average temperature to less than 2° C above pre-industrial levels, mainly by way of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. 2° C is seen to be a tipping point, beyond which irreversible climate changes will occur, leading to a devastating rise in sea levels, extreme droughts and wildfires. Fusion could provide an essential source of zero emission energy needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.


In this context, renewable energies play a crucial role. Wind farms, solar panels, biomass, geothermal and hydro power plants represent valid energy sources that can help to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Nevertheless, a socio-economic study of EUROfusion published in 2016 estimates that by 2100 renewable energies will cover 68 % of the total electricity production, while 21 % will still be provided by fossil fuels and 11 % by nuclear fission. This scenario sets low CO2 emission targets, a condition that is helping the penetration in the market of renewable energies and does not consider fusion energy to be an option at all. Hence, it seems clear that renewable energies alone will not be able to completely conquer this energy transition.


The same EUROfusion socio-economic study also analyses a different scenario, one which considers a drastic reduction of the world per capita energy consumption, a low CO2 emission target and the first fusion power plant connected to the grid to be in operation by 2070. Considering that we are talking about developments that may be implemented in 50 years’ time, we should always be cautious with such timelines. Nonetheless, this study has interesting results: it predicts that, in 2100, 75 % of the total electricity production will be generated by renewable energies, 14 % by fusion power plants, 6 % by nuclear fission and only 5 % using fossil fuels. These estimations are telling us something quite intuitive: if we will bring about a drastic reduction of our per capita energy consumption, if we aid the development of renewable energies and if fusion power plants are able to start operating soon enough, the energy transition could be achieved fully by 2100. Fusion energy, then, would not be a childish tantrum of stubborn scientists that do not want to throw in the towel, but it seems it will be necessary in order for our society to restore the world‘s natural and geopolitical stability.

I am a former student of the European Master of Science in Nuclear Fusion and Engineering Physics and I recently started a PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching. As an energy engineer, I believe that engineers should develop “appropriate technologies” for mankind. Fusion is one of these, since it may help to reduce CO2 emissions and the high fossil fuel dependency of our society, as I explain in my article.

Davide Silvagni (24) from Italy is currently based at: Garching, Germany. (Picture: private)

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Putting planet earth first?

wo, 08/11/2017 - 12:15
Revisiting the debate about the future of Germany’s energy supply

The future scenario in Germany appears obvious: Renewable energies are to be expanded and conventional power stations are to be closed down. Simply add on a few storage systems and power grids and the German energy transition is complete – but is it really that simple?


For decades, the German population has feared nothing more than a nuclear disaster. After the Fukushima accident Chancellor Merkel and her government finally decided to close down all of the remaining nuclear power plants within eleven years. But climatologists have been warning us about climate change since the early 70s. As a result, the government has also been forced to develop a plan designed to help decrease CO2-emissions until 2050. As a consequence of this, and in order to reduce greenhouse gases, Germany has also decided to shut down its fossil fuel power plants.


Germany’s energy mix before Fukushima and now. The red component represents the climate impact of each source. (Based on www.energy-charts.de and VDI 2007)

Now the country has to fight a battle on two fronts. Renewable energies primarily replace another CO2-free one, viz. nuclear, while the use of fossil fuels decreased slightly (see Graphic). This is one of the reasons why it is very probable that the next climate change goal in 2020 will not be met. Additionally, in order to compensate for the remaining nuclear power plants, Germany must theoretically double its wind power capabilities. To achieve these aims, the rate of expansion of renewable energy had to be about one order of magnitude larger (see www.energy-charts.de).


Is it possible for Germany to be fully powered by renewable energies by the end of this century? There are a few optimistic, yet non-reviewed studies, like Greenpeace’s “Plan B” or “Kombikraftwerk2” produced by the Agency of Renewable Energies. They predict that it can be achieved by way of relatively small efforts, by installing plants, storage and backup systems. Anyhow, most of these studies have critical issues: they ignore, for example, changing weather conditions or assume an unrealistic decrease in the amount of energy consumed. I propose to consider the calculations made by Fritz Wagner, retired German plasma physicist and former director at the IPP. He has generated simulations for a fully renewable supply that also takes into consideration sector-coupling or an international power grid. Even in the best case scenario it is more likely that Germany will need to multiply the level of power generated from renewable sources by ten or twenty times the current rate. Wagner also warns about the underestimation of dimensions of storage systems and their operational limitations.


The famous banner of the anti-nuclear movement at a protest-camp against coal mining near Cologne, Germany in 2017. Is it in times of climate change still legitimate to reject nuclear fission and fusion?

About 71 % of Germany’s population (according to an Emnid study from 2017) agrees that climate change is one of the biggest threats to today’s society. But in 2016, 70 % of Germans also wanted to avoid nuclear fission according to a study from YouGov. Fusion seems fascinating but does not play a major role: for example, when Wendelstein 7-X created its first hydrogen plasma in 2016, fusion was a trending topic in the German news for about a week. However, in the government’s declaration on the energy policy, fusion is not even mentioned.
So, nuclear power of any kind appears to remain something of a hot potato in this country. In most cases, it is only associated with potential risks and nuclear leftovers. The contradiction between phasing out nuclear power and attaining climate goals is often downplayed by politicians, independently of their party membership (see both the government‘s declarations and the party programmes of CDU, SPD, Alliance 90/The Greens, The Left). Meanwhile, the European Union is keeping its nose out of this struggle. The Parliament in Brussels has declared that each country is free to choose the method of supply it prefers, just as long as the EU member states accomplish the international climate goals.


Given the problems explained above, I think, we need to embark upon a renewed debate of Germany’s energy future. In an unbiased discussion, we need to figure out an energy mix that will minimise the risks for both humans and the environment. I personally have come to the conclusion that we initially should focus on phasing out the use of fossil fuels for power. Nuclear power will be necessary as long as the problems of pollution are as present as they are today. I know that continuing to use nuclear as a source of power will be a tough decision. The full argumentation would explode beyond the scope of this article. In the long run, nuclear fusion should, together with renewable power, play a crucial role. It may be able to supply the growing energy demand world-wide much more adequately than a complex system based ONLY on renewable sources. Anyway, we must accept that fusion will not help us to reduce the CO2 emissions before 2070 or even later. Though emissions have to be rapidly decreased already in the coming years, if we want to succeed in stopping climate change. Fusion can help in the longer run to meliorate the two major disadvantages of wind energy and Photovoltaics, which is low power density and intermittency.


On the other hand, we might also stick to the current strategy, which means: we continue to hope that sometime within this century renewable energy will be sufficient for our needs. However, if we are to fail, the result would be a simple one: the power supply, even that of 2100 will be a dirty and noxious one, if sufficient at all. That would be putting “Planet Earth last”.

I am a student of Physics and I will be initiating my master’s thesis in fusion research by the end of this year. I intend entering into the theoretical fields, because he mathematical description of nature has always been an interesting challenge. For me, convincing society of visions of a sustainable future is more exciting than maths itself. That’s why I have enjoyed debating this topic even since my days at school.

Fabian Wieschollek (23) from Germany is currently based at: Garching near Munich, Germany, fb.me/Fabian.Wieschollek. (Picture: private)

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Proliferation: preparing early

wo, 08/11/2017 - 12:14

The prospect of a fusion power plant is edging closer to reality. Work is underway to ensure that these plants will be designed to mitigate low-level proliferation risks.


The breakout scenario has long been a concern for the international community but it’s never been a major concern when it comes to fusion research. There simply haven’t been significant levels of fertile material in fusion. However, with fusion power plants looming on the horizon, the risk calculus will change. Research and development is now underway to mitigate these low-level risks.


As the largest fusion experiment on Earth, ITER will test breeding blankets for the production of tritium. One future breakout scenario involves a state that introduces fertile material to the breeding blankets. However, not only would doing this have implications for the tritium breeding ratios – every cubic centimetre counts – but it would alter the power consumption of the plant and the detectable signatures of the tritium. Both of these changes can be tracked by satellites using current technology and the presence of fertile material would quickly be discovered.

Another breakout scenario is the introduction of fertile material into the coolant flow. Again, this scenario can be mitigated by monitoring changes in background radiation. While further research and development is required to confidently mitigate this risk, there is plenty of time left to do so and ITER will provide the perfect opportunity.

There is an awareness of the risks, they’re managable and the international community is taking steps to anticipate them.

Dr Richard Kamendje from EUROfusion, who previously dealt with proliferation issues at the IAEA, anticipates that over the coming decades the international community will need to incorporate some safeguards to mitigate the low-level risks in fusion.

Dr Richard Kamendje, Responsible Officer of the EUROfusion ITER Physics Department, Picture: EUROfusion


New designs for nuclear power plants are sent to the IAEA for approval and must incorporate safeguards in the designs. While there are no current designs for fusion power plants, there is little doubt they will go through a similar process. The next 20 – 30 years will see the research, development and design of such reactors. At each step along the way, the long-term low-level risks will be known and planned for. ITER has enabled international scientific collaboration on a scale that has rarely been seen before. This stands in marked contrast to competitive nuclear weapons research and the construction of their supporting facilities. Careful and considered research over the coming decades will ensure that fusion remains the low-level proliferation concern it always has been.

I am interested in communicating how emerging technologies reshape the world and challenge the status quo. Fusion power will do away with the limits of energy supply and fundamentally rewrite our understanding of power generation. Though this is not without risk, the risks are minimal and need to be communicated before they are misunderstood.

Thom Dixon (28) from Australia is currently based at: Macquarie University, Sydney, @thomdixon. (Picture: private)


Fusion boosted bombs fuse deuterium and tritium as a trigger to spark lots of early neutrons, which chain-react to make the primary fission explosion more efficient and about twice as powerful. This is a relatively simple weapons technology, and it is suspected that North Korea currently have this type of bomb. A pure fusion bomb is a hypothetical weapon. In comparison with fission fueled bombs, weapons using 100% deuterium-tritium fuel could more easily evade current non-proliferation measures.

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ITER: the great fusion endeavour

wo, 08/11/2017 - 12:13

It has been said that the nuclear fusion conundrum will be solved within 30 years … but they have been saying that for the last 50 years already. Now, we humbly expect the first feasible fusion power plant prototype to start operations sometime in the 2060s. Producing electricity from fusion is the greatest engineering and scientific challenge of our century. A scientific journey that is greater than achievements such as the building of the Great Pyramids or the Great Wall of China, or landing on the Moon … and this time, humankind depends on it.


Mark Henderson

Our use of fossil fuels has an accelerating countdown timer. Either we completely deplete our available reserves or we damage the environment just enough to prevent human society from continuing as we know it. We have to find alternative sources of clean energy, whatever they may be. As the head of the Electron Cyclotron Section of ITER and advocate of fusion energy, Dr. Mark Henderson, puts it: ”We are addicted to carbon. We have to prove, as a species, that we are collectively intelligent enough to prevent our own extinction.” Fusion looks like a promising answer.

We are addicted to carbon. We have to prove, as a species, that we are collectively intelligent enough to prevent our own extinction.

Dr. Mark Henderson


Fusion power plants will create artificial stars and become the clean energy source that will power our way of life in the future. But we are not quite there yet. At the moment, it takes a lot of energy to confine the plasma and a lot more to heat it up to the temperature required for fusion to occur. At this time, we are building ITER to prove that we will be able to obtain a net gain of energy output from a fusion reaction, sometime in the next 20 years. Then, DEMO, a prototype power plant, will be built in order to transform the excess output fusion energy into usable electricity, based on everything we learn from ITER.

As fusion scientists we have the chance to impact the future of the hundreds or thousands of generations to come.

Dr. Mark Henderson


The tokamak pit of ITER some years ago. Pictures: Eyesteelfilm

Generations of scientists have dedicated their whole careers to fusion research, but there is still a long way to go. The end goal is so far into the future that those who finally make fusion happen may not have even been born yet. The tens of thousands of scientists and individuals working towards fusion today are well aware that they might not be remembered in thirty or forty years, and that is okay. Believing in fusion is looking beyond the importance and the lifetime of our generation. Mark presumes that “as fusion scientists we have the chance to impact the future of the hundreds or thousands of generations to come.”


Nuclear fusion is the epic scientific quest of our time. “We have to face the fact that fusion is extremely complicated”, warns Mark. “We need to orient the scientific community and the opulation towards it. Otherwise, look at the consequences”. Fusion is one of our best hopes, as a species, to have a sustainable and reliable near-limitless source of clean energy within the 21st century. “I believe we will have multiple clean sources of energy in the future: solar, wind – but fusion will be the basis”, says the ITER expert.

I am an electronics engineer currently doing a PhD in the Advanced Plasma Science and Engineering programme. I develop microwave reflectometry diagnostics that aid other physicists understanding plasma behavior in nuclear fusion research. I advocate for Open Science and thank EUROfusion for the support in publishing Open Access.

Diogo Elói Aguiam (27) from Portugal is currently based at: Lisbon, Portugal, @diogoaguiam, https://daguiam.github.io, https://www.linkedin.com/in/diogoaguiam/. (Picture: private)

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