September 19, 2020

With ITER begins the beginning of the end of fossil fuels • Trends21

The world’s largest fusion project has begun construction this week, hoping to end the fossil-fuel era after 2025: ITER will replicate the same system on Earth that the Sun uses for energy.

Construction of the world’s largest nuclear fusion project began this week in southern France, a process slated to finish in 2025.

The project, called ITER, is the combined effort of engineers and scientists from 35 countries that aims to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy with an enormous magnetic device called Tokamak, capable of obtaining the fusion of plasma particles and achieving nuclear reaction. of fusion.

Nuclear energy is that obtained from the nucleus of atoms and can be extracted using two different techniques: fission and nuclear fusion.

Better fusion than fission

All current nuclear power plants obtain energy through fission, which consists of splitting the nucleus of an atom, usually uranium or plutonium, to obtain energy.

Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, is based on a reaction in which two very light atomic nuclei unite to form a heavier stable nucleus, with a mass slightly less than the sum of the masses of the initial nuclei. This defect in mass results in a large release of energy, such as Explain Nuclear Forum.

The energy produced by the Sun has this origin and ITER represents the human attempt to replicate the same mechanism to obtain energy on Earth: the temperatures necessary for fusion will reach ten times the temperature of the center of the Sun, according to its creators.

Clean, risk free and uranium

The resulting energy will be much more efficient and cleaner than that obtained by the fission technique currently used: it does not represent an accident risk nor does it generate nuclear waste. In addition, it does not require a non-renewable fuel and as scarce as uranium.

It is believed that, if its technological and commercial viability is confirmed, nuclear fusion energy may end the era of fossil fuels, which have caused the global warming.

But while fusion technology is already 60 years old, there are still technical challenges to overcome to make it a reality.

Race against the clock

Those responsible for its construction know that they focus their eyes on the world because the time to change the energy model has arrived, and there is not much time left to achieve it.

“As we launch the ITER machine assembly phase we feel the weight of history. We feel the need for urgency and patience. We know that we need a replacement for fossil fuels as soon as possible. […] We are moving as fast as possible… If we are successful, it will be worth all the time and effort that has brought us to this point. ” declared ITER CEO Bernard Bigot in his speech at the start of construction.

The task is technologically complex: Your final reactor will weigh 23,000 tons, including 3,000 tons of superconducting magnets connected together by 200 kilometers of superconducting cables, all of which must be kept cryogenically cooled to -269 degrees Celsius, informs The Guardian.

“Achieving the exclusive use of clean energy will be a miracle for our planet,” concludes Bigot.

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