Go back

Joint European Torus bows out with new fusion power record

Image: EURO fusion [CC BY 4.0]

Achievements at UK-based facility bode well for European facilities, nuclear research leaders say

The Joint European Torus nuclear fusion research facility has achieved a new milestone with its final experiments, paving the way for further breakthroughs at successor facilities.

Jet, based in the UK, achieved a world-record 69 megajoules of fusion energy generation from 0.2 milligrams of fuel in its final experiments in December last year, operator Culham Centre for Fusion Energy announced on 8 February.

Power was consistently achieved for five seconds, and CCFE said Jet had “demonstrated the ability to reliably generate fusion energy”, describing its accomplishments as “a significant milestone in the field of fusion science and engineering”.

Paving the way

Jet is one of a series of large-scale international nuclear fusion research and demonstration facilities intended to help develop the technologies and processes needed to make fusion a useful source of energy generation.

Another of these facilities, Iter, is under construction in France, while a successor to Iter, called Demo, is intended to move fusion generation from a scientific enterprise to an industrial one.

The European contribution to nuclear fusion research is coordinated by an organisation called Eurofusion. Its programme manager, Ambrogio Fasoli, said: “Our successful demonstration of operational scenarios for future fusion machines like Iter and Demo, validated by the new energy record, instil greater confidence in the development of fusion energy.

“Beyond setting a new record, we achieved things we’ve never done before and deepened our understanding of fusion physics.”

Technology and processes developed

Emmanuel Joffrin, a Eurofusion team leader at the French atomic energy commission CEA, elaborated on what was accomplished at Jet, using a fuel of deuterium-tritium hydrogen isotopes.

“Not only did we demonstrate how to soften the intense heat flowing from the plasma to the exhaust, we also showed in Jet how we can get the plasma edge into a stable state thus preventing bursts of energy reaching the wall.

“Both techniques are intended to protect the integrity of the walls of future machines. This is the first time that we’ve ever been able to test those scenarios in a deuterium-tritium environment.”

Iter director-general Pietro Barabaschi said Jet had been “remarkably helpful” for informing the development of his facility, “in the testing of new materials, in the development of innovative new components, and nowhere more than in the generation of scientific data from deuterium-tritium fusion”.

“The results obtained here will directly and positively impact Iter, validating the way forward and enabling us to progress faster toward our performance goals.”

Not done delivering

The UK is also building a new fusion facility, called the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production after the type of machine at its core. CCFE said Step too would be informed by the Jet results. 

Jet will now be decommissioned in a process that will provide further information to inform future reactor designs.

CCFE said that more than 300 scientists and engineers from across Europe contributed to the “landmark” Jet experiments.