British company says controlled nuclear fusion is fast

September 30, 2020

This nuclear fusion star company, established in 2009 in Oxford, England, announced recently that its latest ST40 fusion reactor has been launched for the first time, and it has officially generated its first plasma. This fall, the ST40 can generate plasma with a temperature of 15 million degrees - this is equivalent to the temperature of the sun center. After achieving 15 million degrees, the next goal of the ST40 is to generate 100 million degrees of plasma in 2018. The company plans to achieve commercial nuclear fusion power generation by 2030.

“Today is an important day for both UK and global nuclear fusion energy development. We have shown the world the first state-of-the-art controlled nuclear fusion facility designed, built and operated by private companies.” David Kingham said, ST40 It will be demonstrated that a fusion temperature of 100 million degrees can be achieved in a compact, cost-conscious reactor. "This means that nuclear fusion will become a reality after years instead of decades."


Both the Sun and the hydrogen bomb experience uncontrolled nuclear fusion. Relatively controlled nuclear fusion, capable of sustained, stable and safe release of energy, superior to nuclear fission in terms of cleanliness and raw material reserves, has been regarded as the ultimate mode of complete solution to the energy crisis. Since the 1950s, scientists have been relentlessly pursuing this kind of solar-like technology.

Unconventional: Spherical tokamak device, a "shortcut" to nuclear fusion?

Unlike the large-scale national-scale nuclear fusion projects or international cooperative nuclear fusion projects, Tokamak Energy Company has taken a different approach by focusing on the design and development of small-scale fusion reactors—using a spherical Tokamak device and Two new high-temperature superconducting technologies, and try to keep the equipment miniaturized.

Tokamak devices are the most common designs in nuclear fusion reactors. This doughnut-like device is a hollow metal structure with a circular coil that uses a magnetic field to control ultra-high temperature plasma. Spherical Tokamak is a more dexterous alternative and a "rising star" in the field. Tokamak Energy believes that both experimental and theoretical studies have shown that the spherical tokamak device is a “shortcut to fusion” compared to the more “conventional” Tokamak devices such as the European Union Joint (JET). Smaller installations have shorter construction times, lower costs, and broad commercial prospects.

The company stated in the announcement that with the start-up of the ST40 reactor, the next step is to install and commission a set of electromagnetic coils that are critical to achieving the temperature required for nuclear fusion. This fall, the ST40 will be able to produce plasma with a temperature of 15 million degrees - this temperature is equivalent to the center temperature of the sun. After achieving 15 million degrees, the next goal of the ST40 is to generate 100 million degrees of plasma in 2018. This is almost seven times the temperature of the Sun's center and is also the temperature necessary for controlled nuclear fusion. "100 million degrees is a critical threshold, and this will be a record-breaking milestone because the plasma in a privately-owned or invested fusion reactor has never reached such a temperature," said David Kingham.

The ultimate goal of Tokamak Energy is to bring fusion energy to the grid in 2030. Its predecessor, Culham Laboratories, is home to the world’s most powerful Tokamak installation European Union and the world’s leading magnetic confinement fusion energy research center. Among them, the European Union Ring is the core and cornerstone of British nuclear fusion research.

"There's nothing wrong with setting up our company near Callum." David Kingham said in an interview with the media earlier, "The experience accumulated in the European Union project (also including other spherical Tokamak units in Karrum) helped We have come to this day. Large-scale government projects such as the European Union and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) have further deepened our understanding of nuclear fusion and have brought commercial companies like us closer to fusion goals."

   The company uses spherical tokamak devices and high-temperature superconductors to keep the equipment compact

David Kingham said that they did not regard the nuclear fission industry as a competitor; instead, they could benefit from fusion and fission. "There is a very interesting technical overlap between the small modular nuclear fission reactors and the small-scale fusion reactors of the same size that we are developing."

The emergence of nuclear fusion enterprises supported by private capital and a higher level of government-led projects

This is not the first time that Tokamak Energy has shocked the energy industry. The world's first tokamak device for complete high-temperature superconducting magnets and Tokamak Energy's second reactor, the ST25, demonstrated the continuous 29-hour plasma output at the 2015 Royal Society of London Summer Science Exhibition. Record.

After publishing the latest developments on the ST40, David Kingham said: “We still need a lot of investment, many academic and industry in-depth cooperation, professional and innovative engineers and scientists, and an excellent industrial chain to support our approach. We continue to break down the journey of exploring fusion power generation into a series of engineering challenges and continue to raise funds to achieve new breakthroughs. On this road, we have already achieved half our goal. Through unremitting efforts, we will achieve commercial scale by 2030. Fusion power generation."

In the field of nuclear fusion, private companies such as Tokamak Energy Corporation tend to show more aggressive risk preferences than government agencies, and are dedicated to finding more flexible and rapid technological paths. For nuclear fusion research itself, this is not bad news, because nuclear fusion research in the past decades has virtually affixed labels such as “large-scale, political, and troublesome” to the field. Small, flexible private capital is better at trying new methods on old issues. “Our pursuit of nuclear fusion is based on treating it as an engineering challenge, a business, rather than a 'big science project',” said David Kingham.

In contrast, projects funded by large-scale public funds sometimes have new scientific breakthroughs, but generally they have made slow progress. Large-scale nuclear fusion projects are becoming more and more expensive. For example, in the face of a mountain of technological challenges and rising huge costs, ITER, one of the largest and most influential international scientific research projects in the world, has had to modify the established timetable and postpone the implementation of the first plasma. The body's time node. The current plan of the project is to achieve ignition operation in 2035. Seven members—China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States—are responsible for the design and manufacture of key components, but in the implementation process, this Large and complex projects have encountered many difficulties. For example, some members failed to complete the task within the prescribed time limit. Their respective manufacturing technologies and standards were also different. The resulting chain reaction seriously slowed down the overall progress.

In recent years, nuclear fusion startups sponsored and supported by the world's super-rich are launching an attack on this technological revolution, and are eager to compete with government-funded large nuclear fusion projects. General Fusion, which is backed by investors such as Canadian oil company Cenovus and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has been mobilized from Goldman Sachs, Microsoft founder Paul Allen, and Russia’s state-owned Rusnano to hundreds of millions of dollars. USD-funded Tri-Alpha Energy Company is a star-studded star company in recent years, breaking the dull atmosphere that has historically been in the nuclear power industry.

After more than a decade of commercialization of fusion power generation, Tokamak Energy's goal is to dream it? At least, it has so far achieved a series of small goals previously set.

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