Fusion Power - how and when?

Steve Cowley
CEO, UK Atomic Energy Authority

Fusion is one of the worryingly few options for generating base load power in the long term. I will outline the steps needed to develop fusion power and the science and technological challenges. It is expected that sometime in the mid 2020s the international experiment ITER will attain a stable fusion burning plasma configuration. Generating half a gigawatt of fusion power for hundreds of seconds at a time. Clearly this will be a major step towards fusion power. I will explain the predictions of ITER's performance and our confidence in its success. If ITER is successful, as we expect, it will be followed in the mid to late 2030s by a full-scale demonstration reactor -- DEMO. This device must proceed shortly after ITER if fusion is to deliver significant power by the late 21st century. I will address the scientific and technological problems that must be solved to enable this fast pace. I will also describe the latest developments in advanced plasma confinement - specifically the discovery of methods to suppress plasma turbulence to make more efficient magnetic "bottles" for fusion.

My chief research interest is in the confinement of hot plasmas by magnetic fields and the turbulence that is generated in these plasmas. Recent advances in theory and computation have made it possible to study these issues in depth and make quantitative predictions. I am focused on methods to reduce turbulence and thereby improve the design of future fusion reactors.


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