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Fusion: how 35 countries are seeking to replicate nuclear reaction as the Sun does.

Happy 2024. Today is January 1, 2024.

Did you know that the most complex machine ever designed is being built in southern France?

We are talking about ITER - either “The Way” in Latin or International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor - the world's first nuclear fusion reactor, one of today's most ambitious energy projects.

During last COP-28 and according to ITER, the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said that there is the potential in fusion to revolutionize our world and that fusion can be a critical piece of our energy future, along with wind and solar, nuclear fission and geothermal energy.

National Geographic refers to nuclear fusion as the stars’ nuclear fire and, as such, could provide plentiful energy without “inflaming climate change”. On paper, nuclear fusion is an energy dream: abundant, with no meltdowns, planet-baking carbon emissions, or long-lived radioactive waste. Problem: igniting fusion within a magnetically confined plasma requires temperatures of 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than our Sun’s core.

The main equipment being built in France is called tokamak, a magnetic fusion device that has been designed to prove the feasibility of fusion on the same principle that powers our Sun and stars.

Since its start back in 2005, ITER represents so far close to twenty years of collaborative research experiments on the machine, with 35 nations participating.

ITER Members are China, the European Union (27 member states), India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States and these countries are sharing the cost of project construction, operation and decommissioning, and also share in the experimental results and any intellectual property generated by the project.

Click on the image below - device called a tokamak - for an infographic from National Geographic explaining this giant ITER experiment. And here to access ITER's impressive website, where you can subscribe for their newsletters.

And if you click here you have a recent article from Euronews, which includes a very illustrative 7 minutes video explaining all sorts of challenges from ITER, including of geopolitical nature.

Important to know that also the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California, United States is testing a different way of obtaining fusion other than with a tokamak, by amplifying the power of lazer beans more than a billion times. Click here for a great 5 minutes video that explains how they are doing that.

In both experiments - ITER and NIF - the target for ignition is the same: two forms of hydrogen, deuterium (D) and tritium (T), the DT fuel that heats to extreme temperatures and densities until the hydrogen atoms fuse, creating helium nuclei (alpha particles) and releasing high-energy neutrons and other forms of energy. The resulting alpha particles will spread through and heat the surrounding cold fuel, triggering a self-sustaining fusion reaction.


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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