- Landmark results from EUROfusion scientists and engineers at world-leading UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Oxford
- Record-breaking 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy demonstrates powerplant potential and strengthens case for ITER
- Fusion energy is crucial in addressing climate change through a safe, sustainable, efficient and low-carbon energy supply
Record results announced today are the clearest demonstration worldwide of the potential for fusion energy to deliver safe and sustainable low-carbon energy.
Researchers from the EUROfusion consortium – 4,800 experts, students and staff from across Europe, co-funded by the European Commission – more than doubled previous records achieved in 1997 at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) site in Oxford using the same fuel mixture to be used by commercial fusion energy powerplants.
Fifty-nine megajoules of sustained fusion energy was demonstrated by scientists and engineers working on the Joint European Torus (JET), the largest and most powerful operational tokamak machine in the world.
The record and scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for ITER, the larger and more advanced version of JET. ITER is a fusion research mega-project supported by seven members – China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA – based in the south of France, to further demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.
As pressures mount to address the effects of climate change through decarbonising energy production, this success is a major step forward on fusion’s roadmap as a safe, efficient, low carbon means of tackling the global energy crisis.
George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said: “These milestone results are testament to the UK’s role as a global leader in fusion energy research. They are evidence that the ground-breaking research and innovation being done here in the UK, and via collaboration with our partners across Europe, is making fusion power a reality.
“Our Industrial Strategy for Fusion is intended to ensure the UK continues to lead the world on the commercial roll-out of this transformational technology, with the potential to deliver clean energy for generations to come.”
Prof. Ian Chapman, UKAEA’s CEO, said: “These landmark results have taken us a huge step closer to conquering one of the biggest scientific and engineering challenges of them all. It is reward for over 20 years of research and experiments with our partners from across Europe.
“It’s clear we must make significant changes to address the effects of climate change, and fusion offers so much potential. We’re building the knowledge and developing the new technology required to deliver a low carbon, sustainable source of baseload energy that helps protect the planet for future generations. Our world needs fusion energy.”
Tony Donné, EUROfusion Programme Manager, said: “This achievement is the result of years-long preparation by the EUROfusion team of researchers across Europe. The record, and more importantly the things we’ve learned about fusion under these conditions and how it fully confirms our predictions, show that we are on the right path to a future world of fusion energy. If we can maintain fusion for five seconds, we can do it for five minutes and then five hours as we scale up our operations in future machines.
“This is a big moment for every one of us and the entire fusion community. Crucially, the operational experience we’ve gained under realistic conditions gives us great confidence for the next stage of experiments at ITER and Europe’s demonstration power plant EU DEMO, which is being designed to put electricity on the grid.”
Dr Bernard Bigot, Director General of ITER, said: “A sustained pulse of deuterium-tritium fusion at this power level – nearly industrial scale – delivers a resounding confirmation to all of those involved in the global fusion quest. For the ITER Project, the JET results are a strong confidence builder that we are on the right track as we move forward toward demonstrating full fusion power.”
Fusion energy’s potential
Fusion, the process that powers stars like our sun, promises a near-limitless green electricity source for the long term, using small amounts of fuel that can be sourced worldwide from inexpensive materials. The fusion process brings together atoms of light elements like hydrogen at high temperatures to form helium and release tremendous energy as heat. Fusion is inherently safe in that it cannot start a run-away process.
JET – where temperatures 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun are reached – is a vital test bed for ITER, one of the biggest collaborative science projects in history. The larger French-based project and future power plants plan to use the same deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel mix and operate under similar conditions to the record-breaking EUROfusion experiments held recently at Culham Science Centre, Oxford.
Megajoules and Megawatts explained
In its recent record-breaking experiment, JET produced a total of 59 Megajoules of heat energy from fusion over a five second period (the duration of the fusion experiment). During this experiment, JET averaged a fusion power (i.e., energy per second) of around 11 Megawatts (Megajoules per second).
The previous energy record from a fusion experiment, achieved by JET in 1997, was 22 megajoules of heat energy. The peak power of 16MW achieved briefly in 1997 has not been surpassed in recent experiments, as the focus has been on sustained fusion power.
Notes to editors
Representatives from UKAEA, EUROfusion and ITER will share the results of JET’s record results during a hybrid press event on Wednesday, February 9 at UKAEA’s site in Culham, UK starting at 12pm GMT.
- George Freeman, UK Minister for Science, Research & Innovation
- Vale de Almeida, European Union Ambassador to the United Kingdom
- Ian Chapman, CEO of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)
- Tony Donné, Programme Manager (CEO) of EUROfusion
- Tim Luce, Head of Science & Operation at ITER
The press conference will be held in person and live-streamed on the UK Government YouTube channel here. Media on-site will have the opportunity to ask questions directly. Remote participants can send in questions before the event.
To attend in person or ask questions in advance, contact UKAEA’s Stuart White, [email protected]. A link for the livestream is available here:
For further media enquiries, further information and interview requests, please contact UKAEA Senior Media Manager Stuart White at [email protected] or 07368 622510.
To get in touch with EUROfusion scientific spokespeople, please contact Gieljan de Vries at [email protected] or +31 6 1104 5527
Fusion research aims to copy the process that powers the sun for a new large-scale source of low carbon energy here on earth.
When light atoms fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. To do this, a few grams of hydrogen fuels are heated to extreme temperatures, 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun, forming a plasma in which fusion reactions take place. A commercial fusion power station would use the energy produced by fusion reactions to generate electricity.
Fusion has huge potential as a low carbon energy source. It is environmentally responsible and safe, using fuel that is abundant and sustainable. Pound for pound it releases nearly four million times more energy than burning coal, oil or gas.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK Government. UKAEA oversees the UK’s fusion programme, headed by the MAST Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment. It also hosts the world’s largest fusion research facility, JET (Joint European Torus), which it operates for scientists from around Europe.
More information: https://www.gov.uk/ukaea. Social Media: @UKAEAofficial
EUROfusion is a consortium of 30 research organisations, and behind them around 150 affiliated entities including universities and companies, from 25 European Union member states plus the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Ukraine. Together they work towards a facility that can deliver fusion electricity to the power grid in accordance with the European Research Roadmap to the Realisation of Fusion Energy.
The EUROfusion programme has two aims: preparing for ITER experiments and developing concepts for the future European demonstration fusion power plant EU DEMO. Another facet of the EUROfusion programme is to support diverse research projects in participating laboratories through the Enabling Research scheme.
For more information, visit: https://www.euro-fusion.org/
ITER—designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power—will be the world’s largest experimental fusion facility. ITER is also a first-of-a-kind global collaboration.
Europe is contributing almost half of the costs of its construction, while the other six Members to this joint international venture (China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA), are contributing equally to the rest.
The ITER Project is under construction in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in the south of France.
For more information on the ITER Project, visit: http://www.iter.org/