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Ready-to-retire reactor breaks fusion energy record

Ready-to-retire reactor breaks fusion energy record

The joint European Torus reactor in Oxford, England, has more than doubled its fusion energy record since 1997. The Culham Center for Fusion Energy (CCFE) wrote in Press release.

The new record is the result of special fuel and decades of preparation for the so-called tokamak reactor.

Despite the fact that the old reactor will soon be retired, the latest benchmark experiment will be of great interest to the ITER reactor – a similar model under construction in France. Hence also our ability to crack the code into unlimited power.

Superfuel breaks records again

For five seconds, the old JET reactor produced at least 59 megajoules. That’s more than double the 21.7 megajoules in four seconds, which JET broke in 1997.

Although the 1997 experiment achieved a higher maximum power, the average amount of power was significantly higher during the last performance of the JET reactor.

The common denominator of both attempts to score is fuel. In 1997 and 2021, CCFE researchers used a fuel consisting of deuterium and the rare hydrogen isotope tritium.

Tritium is radioactive and produces more neutrons when it fuses with deuterium than it does if deuterium – a non-radioactive isotope of hydrogen – fuses with other deuterium atoms.

Video: Watch a JET reactor simulating the sun

A JET reactor is a so-called tokamak. It heats the fuel to extremely high temperatures, turning it into plasma, which keeps the tokamak’s central magnetic field under control.

At additional pressure and higher temperatures, the fuel atoms begin to fuse – and emit energy in the form of neutrons.

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Record attempts bode well for future fusion energy

In the south of France, the ITER reactor is about to be built on a mega project worth more than SEK 200 billion. The new reactor is a tokamak just like the JET reactor, which will soon be discontinued after 40 years.

The ITER reactor will run on the same fuel as JET, so the new record bodes well for the ambitious fusion project.

With greater capacity and an improved record-breaking tritium-fuel reactor, researchers hope ITER will be the first fusion reactor to release more energy than the plant can eat to start fusion.

According to the plan, ITER will be ready for merger attempts in 2025.