Capping a session in Paris, the ITER Council has unanimously selected Pietro Barabaschi as the new director-general of the ITER Organization. The Italian-born Barabaschi, who has been involved in nuclear fusion research for some 30 years, was chosen to lead the massive international fusion project following an intensive recruitment effort necessitated by the death of Bernard Bigot, the previous director general, in May. Since Bigot’s death, Eisuke Tada has been serving in the role in an interim capacity. Barabaschi will take office in October.
F4E leader: Barabaschi has been the head of the Broader Approach Programme and Delivery with Fusion for Energy (F4E) since 2008. F4E is the EU organization responsible for Europe’s contribution to ITER. In this position, he has been managing the department that oversees three projects stemming from the Broader Approach agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the government of Japan: the JT-60SA tokamak, the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility/Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities linear accelerator, and the International Fusion Energy Research Centre . Barabaschi has also been acting director of F4E.
Queen Elizabeth II visits Calder Hall for its ceremonial opening in 1956. (Photo: U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority)
As citizens of the United Kingdom and others around the world mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many have reflected on how the world has changed during the seven decades of the queen’s reign—the same decades that saw the rise of civilian nuclear power.
Calder Hall was already under construction at the Sellafield site in West Cumbria when Princess Elizabeth became queen in 1953. Queen Elizabeth traveled to the site in October 1956 and declared, in a televised ceremony, that “It is with pride that I now open Calder Hall, Britain’s first atomic power station.” Watch the fanfare in a historical clip uploaded to YouTube by Sellafield Ltd below.
The first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel was placed in the assembly pit in May. Here, a technician positions targets on the surface of the component to be used in laser metrology. (Photo: ITER Organization)
Delivery of electricity from fusion is considered by the National Academies of Engineering to be one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. The tremendous progress in fusion science and technology is underpinning efforts by nuclear experts and advocates to tackle many of the key challenges that must be addressed to construct a fusion pilot plant and make practical fusion possible.
A stylized image of a cryogenic target used in NIF experiments. (Image: James Wickboldt/LLNL)
The new TRFS provides for automated adjustment of the direction of the DIII-D primary magnetic field. (Photos: GA and PPPL)
The DIII-D National Fusion Facility now boasts a unique automated system that allows for a quick reversal of the direction of its magnetic field, expanding the range of possible fusion experiments while reducing downtime. General Atomics, which operates the DIII-D for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, announced the new Toroidal Field Reversing Switch (TFRS) on July 26.
Savannah River National Laboratory (Photo: DOE)
When the Department of Energy announced Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) awards earlier this month, Savannah River National Laboratory was named a recipient of two of the 18 awards. SRNL released a statement on July 19 explaining how a national lab with a long history of supporting environmental management and national security missions can lend a hand in the development of future commercial fusion power.
A plaque honoring JET’s world record–setting achievement of fusion energy production of 50 megajoules in a single shot (right) and commemorating a 34-year-old bet between Goldston (top left) and Jacquinot (bottom left). (Photo: PPPL and EUROfusion consortium/collage by Kiran Sudarsanan)
A wager struck by two plasma physicists 34 years ago was finally fulfilled in June during the opening day of the 48th European Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics, when Robert Goldston, former director of the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), virtually presented a plaque to his friend and colleague Jean Jacquinot, former director of the Joint European Torus (JET), EUROfusion's flagship fusion experiment based at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the United Kingdom. Their bet, and JET’s record-breaking achievements in 2021, were celebrated in an article published by PPPL on July 8.
This fusion tokamak cutaway illustrates how the GAMBL concept would be incorporated into a fusion pilot plant. The SiC-tungsten composite wall provides superior heat-removal capabilities and durability, and a modular approach enables fabrication using existing technologies. (Image: GA)
Researchers at General Atomics (GA) are proposing a breeding blanket made of modular silicon carbide–based components to withstand the intense conditions in a high-power fusion power plant. The GA modular blanket (GAMBL) concept is described in an article published this month in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, and was introduced by GA in a July 13 press release.
The Department of Energy announced awards for 18 Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) projects on July 6 that link private fusion energy developers with DOE national laboratories (and, in a first for the program, with U.S. universities) to overcome scientific and technological challenges in fusion energy development. The 18 selected projects include representation from 10 private companies, three national labs, and eight universities.
The first plasmas created in FuZE-Q, shown here during assembly, represent a key step towards fusion experiments with net energy output. (Photo: Zap Energy)
Zap Energy has created the first plasmas in its FuZE-Q machine—the company’s fourth prototype machine and the one it hopes will demonstrate a net energy gain from a Z-pinch fusion plasma just one millimeter in diameter and half a meter long. Zap Energy announced that engineering achievement and the close of $160 million in Series C funding in late June.
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.”
Ambassador Philippe Étienne (sixth from left) and staff from the Consulate General of France with senior leaders from General Atomics at the GA Magnet Technologies Center in Los Angeles. In the background are two partially completed ITER central solenoid modules. (Photo: GA)
General Atomics’ Magnet Technologies Center in Poway, Calif., played host last week to French ambassador Philippe Étienne, the company announced June 16. During the visit, which was hosted by Vivek Lall, chief executive of the General Atomics Global Corporation, Étienne viewed ITER central solenoid modules—all destined for shipment to France—in several stages of the fabrication process.
“General Atomics and French organizations have a strong relationship in both the defense and energy sectors, as well as in the unmanned field, that meet both France’s and the United States’ important interests,” Étienne remarked during his visit.
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.
Panelists (from left) Adam Stein, Jon Ball, Mike Laufer, and Michl Binderbauer during the Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize session at the ANS Annual Meeting.
If nuclear innovators are in a race to decarbonize, it is a race with one finish line—affordable, clean, and reliable power—and many ways to get there. Over 40 fission developers and 20 fusion developers are in the running, and while attendees of the June 13 ANS Annual Meeting executive session on Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize heard from representatives of just three of those companies, they presented very different designs and deployment approaches, aptly reflecting the broader diversity of nuclear power innovation.
Session chair Adam Stein, director of nuclear energy innovation at the Breakthrough Institute, welcomed representatives from an advanced non–light water reactor developer (Mike Laufer, Kairos Power), a small modular light water reactor developer (Jon Ball, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy), and a fusion power developer (Michl Binderbauer, TAE Technologies). Together they explored the challenge of engineering a significant commercial scale-up of advanced nuclear technology by the end of the decade, tackling questions of cost, schedule, supply chain, regulation, and more.
Government policies and innovative technologies are the key to fusion energy economics
Artist’s rendering of the U.K.'s STEP fusion reactor. (Image: U.K. Atomic Energy Authority)
Fusion energy is attracting significant interest from governments and private capital markets. The deployment of fusion energy on a timeline that will affect climate change and offer another tool for energy security will require support from stakeholders, regulators, and policymakers around the world. Without broad support, fusion may fail to reach its potential as a “game-changing” technology to make a meaningful difference in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and geopolitical energy security.
The process of developing the necessary policy and regulatory support is already underway around the world. Leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, China, and elsewhere are engaging with the key issues and will lead the way in setting the foundation for a global fusion industry.
Artist’s rendering of USNC spacecraft using EmberCore. (Image: DIU)
The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a Department of Defense organization focused on swiftly putting commercial technology to use in the U.S. military, has awarded contracts for two nuclear technologies—compact fusion and radioisotope heat—for spacecraft that could carry a high-power payload and freely maneuver in cislunar space. The objective is to accelerate ground and flight testing and launch a successful orbital prototype demonstration of each approach in 2027.
PSFC director Dennis Whyte (left) and CFS chief executive officer Bob Mumgaard in the test hall at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. (Photo: Gretchen Ertl, CFS/MIT-PSFC)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) recently announced it will expand its involvement in fusion energy research and education under a new five-year agreement with Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a fusion energy company that got its start at MIT and is now building what it says will be the world’s first net-energy fusion machine—the demo-scale SPARC.
“CFS will build SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education,” said PSFC director Dennis Whyte in describing the collaboration.
[CLICK to see entire image] Overview of the SAS-VW program at DIII-D. A research concept map illustrates how intense plasma exhaust power entering the divertor leads to the emergence of impurities that can migrate into the plasma core. After identifying the research requirements for the SAS-VW, a process of engineering design, prototyping, and implementation is performed. (Image: General Atomics)
Researchers at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility (DIII-D) are preparing to test a new method that could enable future fusion power plants to withstand the heat and particle flow created by the fusion reaction, General Atomics reported this week.
PPPL physicist Walter Guttenfelder with figures from the paper he coauthored with members of the NSTX-U team and 23 collaborative institutions worldwide. (Photo: Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications. Collage: Kiran Sudarsanan)
According to the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, recent simulations and analysis demonstrate that the design of its flagship fusion facility, the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), which is currently under repair, could serve as a model for an economically attractive next-generation fusion pilot plant.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (center) tours the ITER site with ITER chief scientist Tim Luce. (Photo: ITER)
“We cannot eliminate our way to net zero,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) during a visit to the ITER site in Cadarache, France, on March 25. “We have to innovate, not eliminate, our way to carbon neutrality."
Manchin was joined by Ali Nouri, assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Energy; Kathy McCarthy, director of the U.S. ITER Project Office; and other U.S. officials for a tour of the ITER Assembly Hall led by ITER chief scientist Tim Luce, head of the ITER Science and Operations Domain. The visit was described in an ITER Newsline article published on March 28.