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UKAEA seeks backing for nuclear fusion research

NEWS

ATOMIC ENERGY authority UKAEA wants the government to back efforts to develop nuclear fusion as a green energy source.

Generating electricity using nuclear fusion technology could become a reality within 30 years if the UK can win support from the European Union for a new £2bn-£3bn research project, a UKAEA spokesman said.

It wants the government to include nuclear fusion in its energy review which is due to be published in December.

It also needs the government to agree a research site which includes a fusion reactor.

Nuclear fusion is achieved by electrically charging deterium and lithium atoms released into a vacuum. Excitation of the atoms causes them to collide and fuse, producing helium and a single neutron.

Fusion releases intense heat.

In a pilot research reactor run by UKAEA at Culham, Oxfordshire, temperatures of 100MinfinityC have been recorded. Heat is transferred via the walls of the fusion chamber and used to create steam, as with a conventional power plant.

UKAEA is pressing the government to commit to nuclear fusion research by including it as a future generating option in the energy review. It also wants a site for construction of a colossal electromagnetic reactor - known as the international theromonuclear experimental reactor or ITER - that will be needed for the development of fusion technology.

So far, the pilot reactor at Culham has needed constant energy input to sustain fusion, making it only 70% energy efficient.

Scientists believe that by doubling the size of the fusion chamber from 90m fusion process can be made selfsustaining.

ITER would take up to a decade to design and construct, said a UKAEA spokesman.

Experiments would take a further 10 years, with the technology coming to the point of commercial viability within 30 years.

The UKAEA spokesman said radioactivity from a fusion reactor would be comparable to that produced by a coal fired power station.

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