Equipped with armor tiles, DIII-D takes “negative triangularity” plasma to new highs

April 26, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
A side-by-side comparison of a standard plasma configuration (at left) and the plasma created during the negative triangularity campaign at DIII-D, which was made possible by the installation of a temporary divertor region. (Image: General Atomics)

The DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, Calif., has completed a monthlong research campaign using a negative triangularity plasma configuration inside its fusion tokamak and produced initial data that “appear very encouraging,” according to an April 24 news release from General Atomics (GA), which operates the Office of Science user facility on behalf of the Department of Energy. Full experimental results on “the highest-powered negative triangularity experiments in the history of the U.S. fusion research program” are expected this summer, according to GA.

SPARC fusion power demo construction is underway outside of Boston

February 16, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
CFS CEO Bob Mumgaard showing Sen. Warren (left) and Secretary Granholm (center) around the SPARC facility. (Photo: CFS)

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) hosted visiting officials for a tour and ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open its new headquarters in Devens, Mass., on February 10. Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Sen. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) were among the national, state, and local leaders invited to celebrate what CFS heralded as a “fusion energy campus.”

ITER leaders outline plan for component repairs and replacements

January 11, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
The cooling pipes that snake along the surface of the vacuum vessel thermal shield will be removed and replaced. Here, on a right-hand outboard panel, workers determine the impact of pipe removal on the surface of the component. (Photo: ITER Organization)

ITER’s machine assembly phase began about two and a half years ago. Now, staff are reversing some of that assembly work to make needed repairs. According to a news article published by the ITER Organization on January 9, ITER is “facing challenges common to every industrial venture involving first-of-a-kind components.” Over one year after problems were first detected and less than two months after they were made public in late November, tests and analysis are producing a clearer picture of necessary repairs to the tokamak’s thermal shield panels and vacuum vessel sectors.

“There is no scandal here,” said ITER director general Pietro Barabaschi. “Such things happen. I've seen many issues of the kind, and much worse.”

Breakeven breakthrough at the National Ignition Facility

December 13, 2022, 3:02PMNuclear News
The target chamber of LLNL’s NIF, where 192 laser beams delivered more than 2 million joules of ultraviolet energy to a tiny fuel pellet to create fusion ignition on December 5, 2022.

It’s official: Early in the morning on December 5 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF), the laser-triggered implosion of a meticulously engineered capsule of deuterium and tritium about the size of a peppercorn yielded, for the first time on Earth, more energy from a fusion reaction than was delivered to the capsule. The input of 2.05 megajoules (MJ) to the target heated the diamond-shelled, spherical capsule to over 3 million degrees Celsius and yielded 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output. The achievement was announced earlier today by officials and scientists representing the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration, the White House, and LLNL during a livestreamed event.

Stress corrosion cracking and welding nonconformities are behind ITER’s fresh delays

December 5, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
A total of about 23 kilometers (about 14 miles) of piping are welded to the surface of the thermal shield panels. The piping on a vacuum vessel thermal shield panel is clearly visible in this photo. (Photo: ITER Organization)

The ITER Organization is working on a new baseline schedule for the magnetic confinement fusion experiment launched in 1985 and now under construction in southern France. First plasma was scheduled for December 2025 and deuterium-tritium operations for 2035 under a schedule approved in November 2016 that will soon be shelved. In addition to impacts from COVID-19 delays and uncertainty resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine, ITER leaders must now factor in repair time for “component challenges.”

General Atomics looks to silicon carbide for modular tokamak breeding blanket

July 15, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
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.

Zap Energy strives for magnetic confinement fusion power—with no magnets

July 5, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
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.

White House and DOE launch “bold decadal vision” for fusion energy

March 22, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
A panel on the status and benefits of fusion technology featured, from left, Kimberly Budil (moderator), of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Kathy McCarthy, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Abdalla Darwish, of Dillard University; Anne White, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Steven Cowley, of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory; and Mark Berry, of Southern Company.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Energy cohosted the White House Summit on Developing a Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy on March 17. The livestreamed event brought together fusion leaders from government, industry, academia, and other stakeholder groups to showcase recent achievements in fusion research and discuss the administration’s strategy to support the development of commercial fusion energy. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s announcement of a new agency-wide fusion energy initiative and a funding opportunity worth $50 million for magnetic confinement fusion research made March 17 a lucky day indeed for the U.S. fusion energy community.

French regulator puts ITER tokamak welding on hold

March 3, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
Approval from French regulator ASN is required before ITER vacuum vessel welding can begin. (Photo: ITER)

In a February 28 article posted on the ITER Organization website, Gilles Perrier, head of ITER’s Safety and Quality Department, addressed the decision by French nuclear safety regulator ASN (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire) to delay the anticipated February 1 release of a preset tokamak assembly “hold point.”

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.

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.

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.

ITER magnet assembly begins

April 28, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
Photo: Bruno Levesy

On April 26, as the ITER Organization announced that magnet assembly had begun with the April 21 placement of the divertor coil in the bottom of the machine, the organization also published an Image of the Week that bears an unmistakable—and unintentional—resemblance to the Olympic rings. The pre-compression rings were being prepped for installation in the ITER Assembly Hall when the serendipitous arrangement was captured by Bruno Levesy, a project manager at ITER.