DIII-D tokamak used to test spacecraft heat shield materials

November 16, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
A set of graphite rods was exposed to hot plasma in the DIII-D tokamak. Researchers measured the ablation behavior under extreme heat and particle flow to simulate conditions experienced by spacecraft heat shields during atmospheric entry. (Image: General Atomics)

As a spacecraft on a research mission hurtles at up to 100,000 miles per hour toward the surface of a gas giant like Jupiter, the atmospheric gases surrounding the spacecraft turn to plasma, and spacecraft temperatures increase to more than 10,000 °F.

New model improves understanding of how heat moves through fusion plasmas

October 22, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Physicist Suying Jin with computer-generated images showing the properties of heat pulse propagation in plasma (Image: PPPL/Jin/Kiran Sudarsanan)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have developed a new model of how heat flows within plasmas. According to PPPL, the model could improve insights into the behavior of plasmas and may help engineers avoid the conditions that could lead to heat loss in future fusion facilities.

U.K. narrows in on five sites for prototype fusion power plant

October 15, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News
Five sites have been shortlisted for the U.K.’s STEP fusion facility. (Image: UKAEA)

The United Kingdom has announced a shortlist of five sites as the potential future home of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) prototype fusion energy plant, the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP). A final decision on the plant’s location is to be made by the U.K.’s secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy around the end of 2022.

ITER director general hails the promise of hydrogen—in fusion

October 12, 2021, 3:18PMANS Nuclear Cafe
This June 2021 photo of ITER vacuum vessel sector #6 includes two panels of thermal shielding ready to slide into place. (Photo: ITER/Courtesy of Chang Hyun Noh)

Following a week of heightened attention to all things hydrogen preceding Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day (October 8), Bernard Bigot, director general of the ITER Organization, published an op-ed on October 11 in The European Files, a magazine billed as an “effective work tool for European deciders.” Bigot’s article, “Hydrogen fusion: The way to a new energy future,” doubled as a fusion primer, promoting the technology as a future source of clean energy that is fueled by hydrogen and is capable of providing heat and power to produce more hydrogen.

Nuclear fusion: Are we getting close?

October 6, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
(University of Rochester illustration/Michael Osadciw)

The U.K. government has just published Towards Fusion Energy: The UK Government’s Fusion Strategy, which sets out the goal of the United Kingdom's moving from “a fusion science superpower to a fusion industry superpower,” with a prototype fusion power plant being built in the country by 2040.

While a slightly ambitious plan, there are now about 20 startup companies working to achieve a Wright brothers’ moment in fusion sooner than that. This includes Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which is aiming for a working fusion power plant by 2030 and is the subject of Rivka Galchen’s October 4 New Yorker article, “Can Nuclear Fusion Put the Brakes on Climate Change?”

Heralding a fusion breakthrough and “a new era” for energy

September 13, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Paul Dabbar, former undersecretary for science at the Department of Energy and distinguished visiting fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, is lauding the recent successful test of a 10-ton high-temperature superconducting magnet performed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. In an op-ed published on September 10 in The Hill, Dabbar calls for a new level of investment and support for the commercial fusion sector.

MIT ramps 10-ton magnet up to 20 tesla in proof of concept for commercial fusion

September 10, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News
This large-bore, full-scale high-temperature superconducting magnet designed and built by Commonwealth Fusion Systems and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center is the strongest fusion magnet in the world. (Photo: Gretchen Ertl, CFS/MIT-PSFC)

A high-temperature superconducting magnet reached and maintained a magnetic field of more than 20 tesla in steady state for about five hours on September 5 at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Not only is the magnet the strongest high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet in the world by far, it is also large enough—when assembled in a ring of 17 identical magnets and surrounding structures—to contain a plasma that MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) hope will produce net energy in a compact tokamak device called SPARC in 2025, on track for commercial fusion energy in the early 2030s.

A fitting situation for first ITER subassembly

September 1, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Taken from above, this photo of the subassembly tool shows the complex system of alignment units used to slowly swing two toroidal field coils (bottom left and right) into position around the vacuum vessel sector. In the background, poloidal field coil #5 sits on the floor of the Assembly Hall, awaiting installation in the assembly pit in mid-September. (Photo: ITER)

Inside the ITER Assembly Hall, aided by a 20-meter-tall sector subassembly tool known as SSAT-2, the first of nine 40-degree wedge-shaped subassemblies that will make up the device’s tokamak is taking shape. On August 30, the ITER Organization announced that all the components of the first subassembly were in place on the SSAT-2. After the wings of the subassembly tool slowly close, locking two vertical coils in place around the outside of a vacuum vessel section that is already wrapped in thermal shielding, the completed subassembly will be ready for positioning in the ITER assembly pit in late October.

National Ignition Facility experiment achieves record-breaking yield

August 18, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
A color-enhanced photograph of the NIF target bay. (Photo: LLNL/Damien Jemison)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is celebrating the yield from an experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) of more than 1.3 megajoules of energy—eight times more than the yield from experiments conducted this spring and 25 times more than NIF’s 2018 record yield.

Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X stellarator proves its confinement efficiency

August 17, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
The magnet system of Wendelstein 7-X features 50 superconducting magnet coils. (Graphic: IPP)

The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) was founded in Garching, Germany, in 1960, the same year that its Wendelstein 1a stellarator began operation. Wendelstein 7-X is now operating at IPP’s site in Greifswald, Germany, and one of the objectives the device was designed to achieve has recently been confirmed, IPP announced on August 12. Analysis by IPP scientists shows that the twisted magnetic coils of the device successfully control plasma energy losses, indicating that stellarator fusion devices could be suitable for power plants, according to a detailed analysis of experimental results published on August 11 in Nature.

High-energy physics gets DOE funding

August 6, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC) on August 2 announced a plan to provide $100 million over the next four years for university-based research on a range of high-energy physics topics through a new funding opportunity announcement. The objective of “FY 2022 Research Opportunities in High Energy Physics,” sponsored by the Office of High Energy Physics within DOE-SC, is to advance fundamental knowledge about how the universe works.

Basic fusion research accelerates with infusion of DOE funds

July 7, 2021, 9:28AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science has named seven companies as the recipients of cost-shared funding granted through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE). A total of $2.1 million in first-round fiscal year 2021 funding was awarded on July 1 across nine collaborative projects between DOE national laboratories and private industry aimed at overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

AI-based model makes predicting fusion profiles faster

June 28, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

PPPL physicist Dan Boyer. (Photo: Amber Boyer/Kiran Sudarsanan)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory are using machine learning to predict electron density and pressure profile shapes on the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U), the flagship fusion facility at PPPL that is currently under repair.

The hope is that such predictions, generated by artificial neural networks, could improve the ability of NSTX-U researchers to optimize the components of experiments that heat and shape the fusion plasma.

“This is a step toward what we should do to optimize the actuators,” said PPPL physicist Dan Boyer, author of the paper, “Prediction of electron density and pressure profile shapes on NSTX-U using neural networks,” published by Nuclear Fusion, a journal of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “Machine learning can turn historical data into a simple model that we can evaluate quickly enough to make decisions in the control room or even in real time during an experiment.”

First ITER central solenoid module ready for transatlantic journey

June 18, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
ITER CS Module 1 (shown here at right with the General Atomics fabrication team) is being loaded onto a specialized heavy transport vehicle for shipment to Houston, Texas, where it will be placed on a ship for transit to France. (Photo: General Atomics)

After a decade of design and fabrication, General Atomics (GA) is preparing to ship the first module of the central solenoid—the largest of ITER’s magnets—to the site in southern France where 35 partner countries are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak and the first fusion device to produce net energy.

DOE backs U.S. stellarator research at Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X

June 10, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics offers an interactive and informative 360-degree panoramic tour of Wendelstein 7-X. (Source: ipp.mpg.de)

U.S. scientists are getting funding to carry out seven research projects at two major stellarator fusion energy facilities located in Germany and Japan, the Department of Energy announced on June 8. A total of $6.4 million has been allocated for seven research projects with terms of up to three years.

Oak Ridge brings fusion and fission together for clean energy synergy

June 8, 2021, 12:06PMSponsored ContentORNL
ORNL associate laboratory director Kathy McCarthy at the prototype which led to the Material Plasma Exposure eXperiment (MPEX), a device that will support fusion materials research. Photo: ORNL

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has a long record of advancing fusion and fission science and technology. Today, the lab is focused more than ever on taking advantage of that spectrum of nuclear experience to accelerate a viable path to fusion energy and to speed efficient deployment of advanced nuclear technologies to today’s power plants and future fission systems.

U.K. and Chinese national fusion programs can take the heat

June 3, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News
Plasma in MAST. (Photo: UKAEA/EUROfusion)

As governments around the world cooperate on the ITER tokamak and, in parallel, race each other and private companies to develop commercial fusion power concepts, it seems that “game-changing” developments are proclaimed almost weekly. Recently, the United Kingdom and China announced new fusion program results.

Join ANS's watch party for a virtual field trip into outer space

May 18, 2021, 3:00PMANS News
Photo: NASA, ESA, and STScI

Help ANS celebrate the launch of our newest virtual field trip, “Nuclear Frontiers: Powering Possibility,” by attending tomorrow's online watch party!

The virtual field trip explores the amazing ways that nuclear science is fueling earthly innovation and deep space exploration. The field trip video, which was made available earlier this month, is part of ANS’s Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World program The Navigating Nuclear program, which was started in August 2018, has already reached more than 1.5 million K-12 students.

Register now for the watch party for the virtual field trip, to be held tomorrow, May 19, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. (EDT).

Join ANS for a virtual field trip into outer space

May 17, 2021, 3:00PMANS News

Help ANS celebrate the launch of our newest virtual field trip, “Nuclear Frontiers: Powering Possibility,” which explores the amazing ways that nuclear science is fueling earthly innovation and deep space exploration. The video is part of the Society’s Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World program, which has reached more than 1.5 million K-12 students.

Register now for this special event, to be held on Wednesday, May 19, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. (EDT).

First Light fires first shots from gun built for pulsed fusion

May 17, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
First Light Fusion CEO Nick Hawker stands near the target end of the 22-meter-long gas gun. (Photo: First Light)

Inside a new steel-clad facility nicknamed “The Citadel,” First Light Fusion has installed a 22-meter two-stage gas gun—the third-largest such component in Europe.