Australian undergrads take on tokamak project

June 12, 2024, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

A computer rendering of a tokamak device designed by students at the University of New South Wales. (Credit: UNSW)

A recent article on Australia’s ABC News website highlighted the work of undergraduate physics and engineering students at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to design, build, and operate their own small nuclear fusion reactor. The ambitious work, known as the AtomCraft project, is being led by associate professor Patrick Burr with the objective of producing a student-built tokamak reactor by the end of 2026.

Australia-based HB-11 Energy and U.K.-based Tokamak Energy have partnered with UNSW for the project.

Research goals: The AtomCraft project has the following research goals for participating students, according to its website:

Our team aims [to] make the world’s first fusion reactor entirely designed, built, and operated by students. And [to] do so in 2 years. You will develop innovative solutions to engineering challenges across many engineering disciplines, work closely with industry partners, and be part a vibrant team of enthusiastic and dedicated people who want to push the boundaries of what is possible with fusion energy.

New model describes how tokamak shape affects plasma stability

June 5, 2024, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Image: Kyle Palmer and Michael Livingston/PPPL Communications Department

A new theoretical model about stabilizing plasma in tokamak fusion reactors is described in three papers from a study that was led by research physicist Jason Parisi of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Two papers—“Kinetic-ballooning-limited pedestals in spherical tokamak plasmas” and “Stability and transport of gyrokinetic critical pedestals”—appear in the International Atomic Energy Agency journal Nuclear Fusion. The other paper—“Kinetic-ballooning-bifurcation in tokamak pedestals across shaping and aspect-ratio”—appears in Physics of Plasmas.

DIII-D gets supercomputing access through the DOE’s high-speed data network

June 5, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News
The DIII-D Superfacility team. (Photo: General Atomics)

Researchers at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) are teaming up to make the high-performance computing (HPC) powers of NERSC available to DIII-D researchers through ESnet—a high-speed data network. Their collaboration, described in a May 29 news release, in effect boosts the computing power behind DIII-D’s diagnostic tools to make more data from fusion experiments available to researchers at DIII-D in San Diego and to the global fusion research community.

PPPL study points to better fusion plasma control

May 9, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News
The image on the left shows the tokamak and 3D magnetic perturbation generated by 3D coils, with the purple-blue hues representing lower amplitude perturbations and the red representing higher amplitude perturbations. The image on the right is a closer view showing the top half of the tokamak and plasma. The coils are used to generate the magnetic field perturbations that produce the islands (blue). Another coil can also be found on the bottom of the machine. The injection system for the ECCD microwaves is depicted on top (red). These can be used to adjust the width of the islands. (Image: Qiming Hu / PPPL)

The combination of two previously known methods for managing plasma conditions can result in enhanced control of plasma in a fusion reactor, according to a simulation performed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

2023 in Review: October–December

January 16, 2024, 3:01PMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2024, let’s look back at what happened in 2023 in the nuclear community. In today's post, compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire are what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from October through December 2023.

Stay tuned for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

China launches fusion consortium to build “artificial sun”

January 9, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear News
The HL-2M tokamak reactor, developed by the CNNC’s Southwestern Institute of Physics. (Photo: CNNC)

The government of China has formed a new national industrial consortium focused on the development and advancement of nuclear fusion technology, news outlets have reported.

What’s happening in big fusion? A global update

December 5, 2023, 9:35AMNuclear News

One year ago today, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved a record shot at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) that set the world talking about the potential of fusion energy. And the buzz hasn’t stopped. Fusion energy is getting its most significant attention yet on the world stage at COP28 in Dubai, UAE, where John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, delivered a keynote address today titled “An inclusive fusion energy future,” followed by a panel discussion.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems and Tokamak Energy: DOE’s tokamak fusion pilot picks

July 14, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and Tokamak Energy Inc. are the two magnetic confinement tokamak fusion developers to receive a portion of the $46 million in funding announced by the Department of Energy in late May for the first 18 months of a public-private Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program aimed at developing fusion pilot plant designs and resolving related scientific and technological challenges within five to 10 years.

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.”

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.”

U.K. picks a coal power station for its fusion pilot, but still needs a design

October 11, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, shown here in an artist's rendition, is a government-backed prototype fusion energy plant planned for operation in the U.K. in the early 2040s. (Image: UKAEA)

The U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Tokamak Energy announced on October 10 that they signed a framework agreement to collaborate on developing spherical tokamaks for power production. This news is a complement to last week’s announcement from the U.K. government that the West Burton A coal-fired power plant site in Nottinghamshire has been selected as the future home of STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), the U.K.’s planned prototype fusion energy plant. The government is providing £220 million (about $250 million) of funding for the first phase of STEP, which will see the UKAEA produce a concept design by 2024.

Fusion veteran Barabaschi selected as ITER director general

September 23, 2022, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe


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.

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.

Finding fusion’s place

May 27, 2022, 4:38PMNuclear NewsBart Gordon, Tim Peckinpaugh, Mike O’Neill, and Molly Barker
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.

DIII-D divertor to test tungsten tiles

April 29, 2022, 7:04AMNuclear News
[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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.