Scientists overcome another obstacle to fusion

The UK Atomic Energy Authority has developed technology that could cool the exhaust heat generated by a fusion power plant to levels similar to a car engine

Big Zero Report 2022

British scientists might have found a solution to solve one of the biggest challenges when it comes to fusion power.

Using a machine called a tokamak, fusion power stations aim to heat a gas or plasma, fusing hydrogen and releasing massive amounts of energy.

Until now, a major challenge created by this process has been the removal of excess heat produced during fusion reactions, which can damage the machines used in the process.

Without an exhaust system that could cope with this heat, there would be a greater need for the materials of a tokamak to be replaced frequently, affecting the time that a fusion power plant could operate.

Scientists at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) have developed an exhaust technology that allows components in tokamaks to last for much longer, potentially reducing the cost of fusion electricity in the future.

Dr Andrew Kirk, UKAEA’s Lead Scientist at MAST Upgrade, said: “We built MAST Upgrade to solve the exhaust problem for compact fusion power plants, and the signs are that we’ve succeeded.

“Super-X reduces the heat on the exhaust system from a blowtorch level down to more like you’d find in a car engine. This could mean it would only have to be replaced once during the lifetime of a power plant.

“It’s a pivotal development for the UK’s plan to put a fusion power plant on the grid by the early 2040s and for bringing low carbon energy from fusion to the world.”

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