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Aussies designing parts for $19b fusion energy generator


Australian scientists are designing vital components for what is currently the world’s largest science-engineering project – the development of a $19 billion fusion energy generator.

The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) Tokamak plant in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France, aims to generate temperatures of 150 million degrees Celsius (10 times the core temperature of the sun) to test the viability of large-scale fusion generation as a source of renewable energy.

ITER is designed to produce a ten-fold return on energy – 500MW of fusion energy for 50MW of input energy, and is completely carbon neutral in its energy generation.

Essentially, fusion releases energy when the nuclei of two forms of hydrogen are fused together form a heavier atom. This is the same process that provides energy powering the sun and other stars.

The focus of the ITER project will be seven levels of reinforced concrete that will sit 13 metres underground and 60 metres above. The site will include a cryogenics plant to produce liquid helium to cool 10,000 tonnes of ITER magnets which will help drive the fusion plasma process.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Australian National University (ANU)’s fusion research facility will design and install a plasma imaging system and superconducting technology in the ITER reactor.

“We have a number of small plasma devices in Australia that have helped us to develop technologies that are relevant for ITER,” said ANU Professor John Howard.

“With a tradition of fusion research dating back a half century and well-established programs at universities and labs throughout the country, Australia has the technical means and human capital to contribute meaningfully to the ITER project,” said ITER.

The project is a partnership between the EU, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US, with Australia being the first non-ITER country member to contribute to the project.

It is estimated that the entire project will be complete in 2025.

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