It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Russia and Italy have agreed to build a new fusion reactor outside Moscow that they hope could become the first to achieve ignition - the point where a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy.
The design is based on MIT’s Alcator fusion research program, which in its present version - Alcator C-Mod - has the highest magnetic field and highest plasma pressure of any fusion reactor in the world. Ignitor will be about twice the size of Alcator C-Mod, with a main donut-shaped chamber 1.3 meters across, and an even stronger magnetic field.
Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium is produced from lithium, which is found in the earth's crust. Fuel supplies will therefore last for millions of years.
To get energy from fusion, gas from a combination of types of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – is heated to very high temperatures (100 million degrees Celsius). One way to achieve these conditions is a method called ‘magnetic confinement' – controlling the hot gas (known as a plasma) with strong magnets.
There is also no risk of a runaway reaction in a fusion reactor, since the plasma is normally burnt at optimal conditions, and any significant change will render it unable to produce excess heat.
In fusion reactors the reaction process is so delicate that this level of safety is inherent; no elaborate failsafe mechanism is required. Although the plasma in a fusion power plant will have a volume of 1000 cubic meters or more, the density of the plasma is extremely low, and the total amount of fusion fuel in the vessel is very small, typically a few grams.
If the fuel supply is closed, the reaction stops within seconds. In comparison, a fission reactor is typically loaded with enough fuel for one or several years, and no additional fuel is necessary to keep the reaction going.