U.K. fusion energy projects get regulatory clarity to speed deployment

June 23, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), shown here, is a government-backed prototype fusion energy plant planned for operation in the U.K. in the early 2040s. (Image: UKAEA)

Future fusion energy facilities will continue to be regulated by the Environment Agency (EA) and Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the U.K. government announced June 20, and existing law on nuclear regulations will be amended to exclude fusion energy facilities from nuclear fission regulatory and licensing requirements. The move was announced by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) with the expectation it would provide “clarity to developers of prototype/demonstration fusion facilities currently being planned to support rapid commercialization.”

ANS Annual Meeting: A new outlook for fusion

June 16, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
Session moderator Scott Hsu (left) led a discussion with (from left) Troy Carter, Kathy McCarthy, Artem Smirnov, Satoshi Konishi, and Jane Hotchkiss during an ANS Annual Meeting executive session on “The New Fusion Outlook.”

A “bold decadal plan” to accelerate fusion research, development, and demonstration in partnership with the private sector emerged from a March 2022 White House Fusion Summit and inspired the June 14 ANS Annual Meeting executive session titled “The New Fusion Outlook.” Moderator Scott Hsu, who is leaving a role as a program director for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) to become a senior adviser to the DOE’s undersecretary for science and innovation as well as lead fusion coordinator for the DOE, ably led a panel of fusion stakeholders representing universities, national laboratories, private fusion companies, and public policy and communication. The discussion intended to bring attendees with fission experience up to speed on the rapidly accelerating area of fusion energy and explore how the fusion energy community can work toward a unique path for fusion energy regulation and public engagement.

EPFL researchers update fusion’s “Greenwald limit”

June 7, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

A newly released study led by physicist Paolo Ricci has revised a fundamental, foundational law of plasma generation and nuclear fusion by showing that more hydrogen fuel can safely be used in fusion reactors, thereby generating more energy than previously thought possible. Ricci, of the Swiss Plasma Center at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), explains that his team’s results indicate that tokamaks, such as the international collaborative project ITER, could use almost twice the amount of hydrogen fuel in their plasmas without the danger of disruption, or loss of confinement of the plasma.

The research team’s findings amend one of the long-time limitations (the so-called Greenwald limit) in generating and sustaining the high-temperature plasma needed to produce fusion energy.

JET celebrates sustained fusion energy production

February 10, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear News
The interior of JET with a superimposed plasma. (Image: EUROfusion)

A new record has been set by the world’s largest operating tokamak, the Joint European Torus (JET). According to the EUROfusion scientists and engineers who work on JET at the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, the landmark experiment, announced on February 9, which produced 59 megajoules of fusion energy over five seconds, is powerful proof of fusion’s potential as a clean energy source.

ANS Winter Meeting: Fusion energy needs private-public partnerships and workforce development

December 22, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

A major shift in fusion research and development is underway in the United States after recent national reports confirmed resounding support in the fusion community for building a pilot power plant and developing commercial fusion energy. Experts from professional societies, government funding agencies, industry, and the scientific community convened for the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting panel session, “The Future of Commercial Fusion in the U.S.,” to discuss what it will take to make that future a reality.

Euratom program receives EC funding

July 9, 2021, 12:38PMNuclear News
Flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels. (Image: Sébastien Bertrand)

The European Commission last week adopted the Euratom Work Programme 2021–2022, implementing the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2021–2025, a complement to Horizon Europe, the European Union’s key funding program for research and innovation.

Feasibility study for nuclear hydrogen under way in Canada

June 24, 2021, 3:05PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) has launched a study on the role of nuclear power in supporting a growing hydrogen economy. The study will be the first of its kind in Canada to evaluate the technical viability and business case for hydrogen production from nuclear power, according to NII, an Ontario, Canada–based nonprofit formed in 2018 to accelerate innovation in the nuclear industry.

Wanted: A regulatory framework for commercial fusion energy

February 5, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsJeffrey Merrifield, Peter Lyons

Fusion devices have yet to sustain a burning plasma and produce usable energy, so it should come as no surprise that there is not yet a framework for regulating commercial fusion energy.

Fusion and fission are two very different ways to release nuclear energy. But how different could their regulation be? There are many possible answers to two central questions: Who will regulate commercial fusion (in the United States, that authority could reside with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or an Agreement State operating under NRC oversight), and what aspects of a fusion plant will they regulate?

A growing part of the fusion community

January 29, 2021, 12:27PMNuclear NewsGuest Contributor

Fusion energy is no longer a far-off goal. It is now routinely achieved at laboratory scale but requires more energy to control the fusion reaction than the fusion reaction has released.

The path to viable fusion power from a magnetically confined plasma source requires the creation of a burning plasma, whereby the primary heating source comes from the fusion reaction itself.

To begin to consider the economic viability of a fusion power plant, the reaction must have a significant energy gain, or “Q” factor (the ratio of output power to input heating power), in a reaction that is sustained over a time frame of minutes or hours.

Construction has begun on an international experiment—the ITER tokamak—that aims to achieve a sustained reaction, and numerous privately funded smaller experiments have the potential to move forward toward this goal.

Nuclear News reached out to companies in the fusion community to ask for insights into their ongoing work. All are members of the Fusion Industry Association. Most companies submitted briefs at a specified word count, while others ran long and some ran short. Their insights appear on the following pages.

Notes on fusion

January 22, 2021, 12:23PMNuclear NewsDavid Kingham and Josh Kennedy-White

The ST25-HTS tokamak.

Governments around the world have been interested in fusion for more than 70 years. Fusion research was largely secret until 1968, when the Soviets unveiled exciting results from their tokamak (a magnetic confinement fusion device with a particular configuration that produces a toroidal plasma). The Soviets realized that tokamaks were not useful as weapons but could produce plasma in the million-degree temperature range to demonstrate Soviet scientific and technical prowess to the world.

Following this breakthrough, government laboratories around the world continued to pursue various methods of confining hot plasma to understand plasma physics under extreme conditions, getting closer and closer to the conditions necessary for fusion energy production. Tokamaks have been by far the most successful configuration. In the 1990s, the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory produced 10 MW of fusion power using deuterium-tritium fusion. A few years later, the Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom increased that to 16 MW, getting close to breakeven using 24 MW of power to heat the plasma.

TOFE 2020 opening plenary: Looking back and forward

November 17, 2020, 9:31AMNuclear News

Presented as an embedded topical meeting at the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting, the Technology of Fusion Energy (TOFE) 2020 meeting opened on November 16 with the first of four plenary sessions to be held during the week: “Looking Back and Looking Forward in Fusion.” (TOFE 2020 also features 29 technical sessions through November 19.)

The plenary session, chaired by Savannah River National Laboratory’s Greg Staack, featured two speakers: Melissa Hanson, curator for the Savannah River Site Cold War Historic Preservation Program, and Heather Lewtas, a technical lead for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)’s Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production program.