Commercially usable power from fusion takes a step closer to UK news thanks to the UK breakthrough

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The dream of pollution and radiation-free electricity from nuclear fusion could be one step closer to reality thanks to a breakthrough by British scientists.

They have developed an exhaust system that can withstand the immense temperatures generated during the fusion process, which has previously limited the viability of commercial fusion power plants.

Initial results from the UK Atomic Energy Agency’s MAST upgrade experiment suggest that the world first could make the development of fusion energy easier.

The generation of electricity with a fusion reactor is still in the experimental stage. However, experts have determined that fusion energy – based on the same principle that stars generate heat and light – could be a safe and sustainable part of our energy supply in the future.

A fusion power plant uses a machine called a tokamak to allow hydrogen atoms to fuse together and release energy that can produce electricity.

However, fusion reactions can generate a lot of heat, and without an exhaust system, materials need to be changed more frequently.

This restricts the operability of the power plant and increases energy costs.

Undated UKAEA flyer photo of the interior of the MAST upgrade tokamak. Scientists have successfully tested a worldwide first concept that could overcome one of the biggest hurdles in the development of fusion energy. Date of issue: Wednesday May 26, 2021.
Picture:
A fusion power plant uses a machine called a tokamak to allow hydrogen atoms to fuse together

However, the system used by the MAST upgrade experiment – the Super-X divertor – helped to make tokamak parts last longer.

Tests showed at least a 10-fold reduction in heat, which could make the power plants run more economically, which in turn lowers the cost of fusion power.

UKAEA’s lead scientist at MAST Upgrade, Dr. Andrew Kirk said the results were “fantastic” and added, “This is the moment our team at UKAEA has been working towards for almost a decade.

“We built MAST Upgrade to solve the emissions problem for compact fusion power plants. The signs are that we have succeeded.

“Super-X reduces the heat in the exhaust system from a blowtorch to a level similar to that of a car engine.

“This could mean that it only needs to be replaced once during the life of a power plant.

“It is a critical development in the UK’s plan to bring a fusion power plant online by the early 2040s – and bring low-carbon energy from the fusion to the world.”

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