Thursday/ building the sun

Check out these illustrations from the New York Times, of the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor, underway in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance in Provence, France.   It is a structure that will be some 100 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall, with the largest stainless-steel vacuum vessel ever made, and an electro-magnet so strong that it could lift an aircraft carrier.

This is the stuff that science fiction is made of.  The first major operating goal for the plasma chamber is to contain pure hydrogen that will not undergo fusion, ‘first plasma’ (target: 8 years from now).  Then the goal is to establish a so-called burning plasma, which contains a fraction of an ounce of fusible fuel in the form of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, which can be sustained for perhaps six or seven minutes, but will release large amounts of energy (in the form of heat).  This goal will not be achieved until 2035 at the earliest.

[From the New York Times] ITER, short for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (and pronounced EAT-er), is being built to test a long-held dream: that nuclear fusion, the atomic reaction that takes place in the sun and in hydrogen bombs, can be controlled to generate power. First discussed in 1985 at a United States-Soviet Union summit, the multinational effort, in which the European Union has a 45 percent stake and the United States, Russia, China and three other partners 9 percent each, has long been cited as a crucial step toward a future of near-limitless electric power.

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