Dr Michael J Forrest: Lasers Across the Cherry Orchards - click to buyLinks

Fusion Research

Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is home to the UK's fusion research programme, most notably the MAST (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment. It also hosts the world's largest fusion facility, JET (Joint European Torus), which is operated for CCFE's European partners under the European Fusion Development Agreement. The work is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC - www.epsrc.ac.uk) and by the European Union under the EURATOM treaty. Further information is available at www.ccfe.ac.uk and www.jet.efda.org.

Nuclear fusion, the process which powers the Sun and stars, has great potential as a future source of low carbon energy. When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. To utilise fusion as an energy source, gas is heated to extreme temperatures, over 100 million degrees - hotter than the centre of the Sun. This creates a plasma in which fusion reactions take place. A commercial power station will use the energy produced by fusion reactions to generate electricity. Fusion will have major advantages as an energy source:

  • No atmospheric pollution: the fusion reaction produces helium, which is not a greenhouse gas;
  • Abundant fuels, found in seawater and the Earth's crust;
  • No long-lived radioactive waste;
  • An inherently safe system: even the worst conceivable accident would not require evacuation of the surrounding population.

The fusion programme's objectives are to obtain and study conditions approaching those needed in a power plant, using the 'tokamak' machine concept - effectively a magnetic bottle which contains the hot plasma. The next step is ITER, an international tokamak experiment which should provide a full scientific demonstration of the feasibility of fusion in power plant-like conditions. ITER is now being constructed at Cadarache in the south of France. ITER (www.iter.org) will be followed by a demonstration fusion power station, DEMO, and electricity from fusion is expected to be on the grid by 2040.

General Links

  • British Library - Oral History of British Science
    The British Library is creating a major archive for the study and public understanding of contemporary science in Britain through a new oral history fieldwork programme involving 200 in-depth interviews with British scientists. Remarkably few British scientists have been interviewed at length about their life and work. This project will address the situation by creating personal testimonies of scientific discovery and archiving them in the national collection. The 200 life story recordings will be recorded to the best digital standards for preservation in perpetuity at the British Library.
    The archive is an initiative of National Life Stories and the British Library in association with the Science Museum.
    Oral History of British Science
    Link to Mike's record

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