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International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)

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International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER):

Context:

The truly massive International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) has entered its years-long assembly phase.

  • After 35 years of brainstorming, planning, and preproduction, ITER says assembly will take five years, starting now.

What is ITER?

It is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject, which will be the world’s largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment.

It is an experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor that is being built in southern France.

  • The goal of ITER is to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energyfor peaceful use.

Significance of ITER:

  1. ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy.
  2. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time.
  3. ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

The project is funded and run by seven member entities:

The European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

What will ITER do?

  1. Produce 500 MW of fusion power
  2. Demonstrate the integrated operation of technologies for a fusion power plant
  3. Achieve a deuterium-tritium plasma in which the reaction is sustained through internal heating
  4. Test tritium breeding
  5. Demonstrate the safety characteristics of a fusion device.

What is Fusion?

Fusion is the energy source of the Sun and stars. In the tremendous heat and gravity at the core of these stellar bodies, hydrogen nuclei collide, fuse into heavier helium atoms and release tremendous amounts of energy in the process.

How is it achieved in the laboratory?

Most efficient fusion reaction in the laboratory setting is the reaction between two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium (D) and tritium (T).

The DT fusion reaction produces the highest energy gain at the “lowest” temperatures.

Three conditions must be fulfilled to achieve fusion in a laboratory:

  1. Very high temperature (on the order of 150,000,000° Celsius).
  2. Sufficient plasma particle density (to increase the likelihood that collisions do occur).
  3. Sufficient confinement time (to hold the plasma, which has a propensity to expand, within a defined volume).

What is a Tokamak?

The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion.

  • Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel.
  • Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.

 First developed by Soviet research in the late 1960s, the tokamak has been adopted around the world as the most promising configuration of magnetic fusion device. ITER will be the world’s largest tokamak—twice the size of the largest machine currently in operation, with ten times the plasma chamber volume.

 InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. ITER is funded by how many countries? Is India a part of it?
  2. What is a Tokamak?
  3. Different states of matter?
  4. What is fusion?
  5. Differences between fusion and fission.
  6. Location and significance of ITER.

 Sources: pib.