A closer look at SPARC’s burning plasma ambitions

Cutaway of the SPARC engineering design. Image: CFS/MIT-PSFC, CAD rendering by T. Henderson

Seven open-access, peer-reviewed papers on the design of SPARC, Commonwealth Fusion Systems’ (CFS) fusion tokamak, written in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, were published on September 29 in a special edition of the Journal of Plasma Physics.

The papers describe a compact fusion device that will achieve net energy where the plasma generates more fusion power than used to start and sustain the process, which is the requirement for a fusion power plant, according to CFS.

The timeline for this planned device sets it apart from other magnetic confinement fusion tokamaks: Construction is to begin in 2021, with the device coming on line in 2025.

CFS expects the device to achieve a burning plasma—a self-sustaining fusion reaction—and become the world’s first net energy (Q>1) fusion system. The newly released papers reflect more than two years of work by CFS and the Plasma Science and Fusion Center to refine their design. According to CFS, the papers apply the same physics rules and simulations used to design ITER, now under construction in France, and predict, based on results from existing experiments, that SPARC will achieve its goal of Q>2. In fact, the papers describe how, under certain parameters, SPARC could achieve a Q ratio of 10 or more.

JPP lays out SPARC fusion physics basis

Cutaway of the SPARC engineering design. Image: CFS/MIT-PSFC, CAD Rendering by T. Henderson

A special issue of the Journal of Plasma Physics gives a glimpse into the physics basis for SPARC, the DT-burning tokamak being designed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. The special issue was announced in a September 29 post on the Cambridge University Press blog Cambridge Core.

The special JPP issue includes seven peer-reviewed articles on the SPARC concept, which takes advantage of recent breakthroughs in high-temperature superconductor technology to burn plasma in a compact tokamak design.

Metal frameworks could capture krypton-85 during reprocessing

Separation of Kr-85 from spent nuclear fuel by a highly selective metal organic framework. Image: Mike Gipple/National Energy Technology Laboratory

According to a story published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on July 24, the capture of gaseous fission products such as krypton-85 during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel could be aided by the adsorption of gasses into an advanced type of soft crystalline material, metal organic frameworks(MOF), which feature high porosity and large internal surface areas that can trap an array of organic and inorganic compounds.

Web workshop: Separating nuclear reactors from the power block with heat storage

A three-part free webinar workshop, Separating Nuclear Reactors from the Power Block with Heat Storage: A New Power Plant Design Paradigm, will run for three upcoming Wednesdays, starting this week on July 29. The workshop is being hosted jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Nuclear Video Matinee: Offshore Nuclear Plants

Jacopo Buongiorno of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discusses some of the advantages of a nuclear reactor concept under development in collaboration with industry and other universities: floating off-shore nuclear power plants, constructed entirely in a shipyard, anchored off the coast, linked to the electric grid via undersea cable. Earthquakes and tsunamis would not be a threat, the ocean would be readily available to serve as a heat sink for reactor cooling, emergency evacuation planning would be a lesser consideration...

Interview With ANS Landis Award Recipient Dr. Benoit Forget

Young Member Group 200x52Benoit Forget, associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was honored with the 2013 ANS Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award. The award recognizes outstanding achievement for effectively applying engineering knowledge to yield a new principle, concept, design, safety improvement, method of analysis, or product used in the nuclear energy enterprise.

Rising Stars in Nuclear Science and Engineering Symposium

Recently I had the honor of joining the "Rising Stars in Nuclear Science and Engineering Symposium" at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was a unique symposium, inviting a dozen Ph.D. candidates and early postdoctoral fellows to showcase their research, and to engage in rich discussions of early career strategies and challenges with exceptional researchers in the field.