JET Laboratory tokamak

UK scientist sets a new record for generating energy from Fusion reaction.

  • Landmark results from EUROfusion scientists and engineers at world-leading UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Oxford
  • Record-breaking 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy demonstrates powerplant potential and strengthens case for ITER
  • Fusion energy is crucial in addressing climate change through a safe, sustainable, efficient and low-carbon energy supply

The world’s clearest evidence of fusion energy’s promise to generate safe and sustainable low-carbon energy was announced today.

The EUROfusion consortium, which includes 4,800 experts, students, and staff from across Europe and is co-funded by the European Commission, more than doubled previous records set in 1997 at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) site in Oxford, using the same fuel mixture as commercial fusion energy powerplants.

Scientists and engineers working on the Joint European Torus (JET), the world’s largest and most powerful operating tokamak machine, showed 59 megajoules of continuous fusion energy.

ITER, the larger and more advanced version of JET, will benefit greatly from the record and scientific data from these vital studies. ITER is a fusion research mega-project based in the south of France that is backed by seven countries: China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States. Its goal is to further show the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.

This breakthrough is a big step forward on fusion’s roadmap as a safe, efficient, low-carbon means of addressing the global energy crisis as pressures rise to address the effects of climate change through decarbonizing energy production.

UKAEA-Fusion-Energy-scaled.Fusion reaction
UKAEA-Fusion-Energy. Image from UK Atomic Energy Authority

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said:

“These milestone results are testament to the UK’s role as a global leader in fusion energy research. They are evidence that the ground-breaking research and innovation being done here in the UK, and via collaboration with our partners across Europe, is making fusion power a reality.

“Our Industrial Strategy for Fusion is intended to ensure the UK continues to lead the world on the commercial roll-out of this transformational technology, with the potential to deliver clean energy for generations to come.”

Ian Chapman, UKAEA’s CEO, said:

“These landmark results have taken us a huge step closer to conquering one of the biggest scientific and engineering challenges of them all. It is a reward for over 20 years of research and experiments with our partners from across Europe. “It’s clear we must make significant changes to address the effects of climate change, and fusion offers so much potential. We’re building the knowledge and developing the new technology required to deliver low carbon, sustainable source of baseload energy that helps protect the planet for future generations. Our world needs fusion energy.”

Tony Donné, EUROfusion Programme Manager, said:

“This achievement is the result of years-long preparation by the EUROfusion team of researchers across Europe. The record, and more importantly the things we’ve learned about fusion under these conditions and how it fully confirms our predictions, show that we are on the right path to a future world of fusion energy. If we can maintain fusion for five seconds, we can do it for five minutes and then five hours as we scale up our operations in future machines.

“This is a big moment for every one of us and the entire fusion community. Crucially, the operational experience we’ve gained under realistic conditions gives us great confidence for the next stage of experiments at ITER and Europe’s demonstration power plant EU DEMO, which is being designed to put electricity on the grid.”

Dr. Bernard Bigot, Director General of ITER, said:

“A sustained pulse of deuterium-tritium fusion at this power level – nearly industrial-scale – delivers a resounding confirmation to all of those involved in the global fusion quest. For the ITER Project, the JET results are a strong confidence builder that we are on the right track as we move forward toward demonstrating full fusion power.”

Fusion energy’s potential

Fusion, the mechanism that drives stars like our sun, promises a near-infinite supply of green electricity in the long run, using modest amounts of fuel that can be supplied globally from low-cost minerals. Fusion is a process in which atoms of light elements such as hydrogen are fused together at high temperatures to generate helium and release enormous amounts of energy as heat. Fusion is fundamentally safe since it cannot initiate a chain reaction.

JET, which reaches temperatures ten times higher than the sun’s core, is a critical testbed for ITER, one of the world’s largest joint science projects. The larger French project and future power plants will use the same deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel mix and operate under identical conditions as the previous record-breaking EUROfusion experiments at Culham Science Centre in Oxford.

Megajoules and Megawatts explained

JET has set a new world record by producing 59 Megajoules of heat energy from fusion in a five-second period (the duration of the fusion experiment). JET averaged roughly 11 Megawatts of fusion output (energy per second) during this trial (Megajoules per second).

The previous energy record for a fusion experiment was 22 megajoules of thermal energy, set by JET in 1997. Because the focus has been on sustained fusion power, the peak output of 16MW achieved momentarily in 1997 has not been surpassed in current trials.

Source: CCFE

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