Fusion Power: Within Our Grasp?

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Hoover (Marriott Wardman Park)
Joanne Flanagan, Culham Center for Fusion Energy, Abingdon, United Kingdom
Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun and all other stars in the universe, releases a truly enormous amount of energy, using fuels that are safe, clean and abundant.  This primordial source of power can be replicated here on Earth by creating an artificial star inside a machine called a Tokamak. The Joint European Torus (JET), located at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in the UK, is currently the world’s largest Tokamak; a fusion research device that uses magnetic fields to confine plasma and allow it to be heated to temperatures in excess of 100 Million °C; more than ten times hotter than the center of the Sun. Current operations at JET are focused on informing the design of fusion’s next stage device: ITER, whose aim is to show fusion to be a viable future energy source and pave the way for DEMO: the first demonstration fusion power plant.

Accurate knowledge of the plasma properties (such as temperature) is central to the scientific research that feeds fusion development and is also essential for plasma control and machine protection. Understandably, there are considerable challenges associated with determining the conditions inside an active Tokamak; challenges that become increasingly complex with each development stage.   

This talk will give a basic introduction to fusion and will discuss the exciting challenges of diagnosing such extreme environments; in JET and in next stage devices on the path to fusion power: ITER and DEMO. A personal perspective on the Athena SWAN initiative, a UK wide effort to support women in science and related disciplines, will also be presented.