From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published October 13, 2012 07:06 AM

Update: Fusion Power

Green house gasses, nuclear waste.....these are concerns with our most widely used power generation technologies, fossil fuel combustion and nuclear fission. Fusion power holds the promise of abundant energy, no green house gas emissions, and little to no waste products. Fusion is getting closer to commercial reality. Until now, it has been produced only in the lab, and only for the briefest of time scales. Scientists in several countries are getting much closer to sustained fusion and this offers the real potential for commercial power production!

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The crucial next steps on the roadmap to developing fusion energy will be the focus of more than 70 top fusion scientists and engineers from around the world who will gather at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) this month. The Oct. 15-18 session will kick off a series of annual workshops under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that will address key scientific and technological challenges facing countries developing fusion as a source of clean and abundant energy for producing electricity.

Fusion powers the sun and stars. The process takes place when the atomic nuclei — or ions — in electrically charged gas called plasma fuse under extreme heat and pressure and release a burst of energy. Fusion programs seek to recreate this process on Earth under laboratory conditions.

The IAEA gathering comes against the backdrop of the construction of ITER, a huge experimental facility that the European Union, the United States and five other countries are building in the south of France to showcase fusion as a practical source of energy. Plans call for ITER to produce 500 million watts of fusion power for up to 500 seconds by the late 2020s.

Individual countries are exploring their own next steps toward fusion with different degrees of urgency, based on their perceived need for such energy. The steps themselves remain tentative and subject to government confirmation. "What's needed at present is for the planners to come together and discuss their different roadmaps," said nuclear engineering professor Mohamed Abdou, who will host the workshop as director of the Fusion Science and Technology Center at UCLA. "This will help us understand the goals and assumptions behind the plans of the major fusion programs."

Diagram of a Tokomak reactor credit USITER.

Read more at Princeton University.

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