The assembly of the most complex system in the history of our civilization has begun in France – ITERA, which will last for the next five years.
It is a 20 billion euro difficult science project that plans to create a replica of the processes taking place inside the Sun, more precisely, which aims to enable the creation of energy with the help of nuclear fusion, and which, scientists hope, could be commercial in the future usable, writes the Guardian. Namely, it is an unlimited source of clean energy, but for which our civilization has not found a way to use it for the past 60 years due to the great technical challenges that such an endeavor requires.
For example, the fusion of only five grams of material produces as much energy as burning 60 tons of very high quality coal.
- Fusion is a safe source of energy on an unlimited scale
Unlike fission, ie the fission of atomic nuclei, which is the basis of nuclear power plants, but also atomic bombs, there is no danger of an uncontrolled reaction in fusion. In other words, a scenario like the one at Chernobyl is not possible.
- With fusion energy, there is no long-lived radioactive waste, and there is no carbon dioxide emissions – Arneux emphasized
A 60-year-old dream
The fusion reaction is seemingly simple: for example, the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium combine to form helium and neutrons. In order for this to happen, the fuel must be in a plasma state, ie. it must be heated to more than 150 million Celsius. Furthermore, in order for the core to be connected, the plasma of sufficient density must be kept long enough without contact with the walls of the vessel in which it is located.
This is achieved using strong magnetic fields in the so-called. magnetic bottles or tokamaks designed by Russian physicists Andrei Sakharov and Igor Tam based on the idea of Oleg Lavrentiev. Andrei Sakharov, the creator of the Russian thermonuclear bomb, but also the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, predicted in the late 1950s that a fusion reactor based on his design would produce energy in just 10 or 15 years. Other physicists predicted similarly, but it did not come true.
To assemble the huge, 23,000-ton reactor at the center of this project, millions of different components will be installed, including more than 3,000 tons of superconducting magnets and more than 200 kilometers of superconducting cables, all housed at extremely low temperatures. of -269 degrees Celsius. In short, it is the most complex “construction” endeavor of today.
Miracle for the planet
The beginning of the phase of assembling the system was also marked by French President Emanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country is participating in this project together with the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, India, South Korea and Russia.
- I believe that such innovations will be key in the fight against climate change and building a society in which there are no excessive carbon dioxide emissions – said Abe.
- If we enable the use of clean energy, it will be a miracle for our planet. But, you must be aware that assembling this system will be an extremely complex process during which we must be as precise as a Swiss watch – said the director general of the ITER project, Bernard Bigot.
When ITER is completed in 2025, the first experiments will begin, and by 2035, the construction of the three-gigawatt DEMO reactor, which will produce electricity, should be completed. The ultimate goal is to start commercial energy production by 2050 through fusion