Nuclear fusion 'could be on the grid in 15 years'

Martin Greenwald Dennis Whyte and Zach Hartwig

An worldwide research team believes that with a new approach, nuclear fusion could be only 15 years away from being hooked up to a national energy grid.

MIT researchers have teamed up with a new private company called Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) to carry out a rapid research project that they say could dramatically accelerate fusion energy technology. By GCR Staff0 CommentsThe Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced a breakthrough in fusion power that could lead to a commercial station coming on line in as little 15 years, thereby realising a way to generate electrical power from an inexhaustible fuel with nearly no environmental consequences.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif said: "This is an important historical moment: Advances in superconducting magnets have put fusion energy potentially within reach, offering the prospect of a safe, carbon-free energy future". Commonwealth CEO and MIT grad Robert Mumgaard said.

There's also an multibillion-dollar fusion research effort known as ITER, which is building an experimental reactor in France with support from 35 nations, including the United States. However, the field of fusion research is littered with failed predictions.

If a sustained and stable nuclear fusion power reactor is achieved, it would usher in a new age of near-limitless, cheap and clean energy. This process is different from what's going on in today's nuclear power plants, where fission is used to split atoms to create energy-along with a side of radioactive waste.

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Commonwealth is counting on recent advances in high-temperature superconductors to give its approach an edge.

Visualisation of the proposed SPARC experiment. "We think we have the science, speed and scale to put carbon-free fusion power on the grid in 15 years".

"Our strategy is to use conservative physics, based on decades of work at MIT and elsewhere", said Martin Greenwald, the Plasma Science and Fusion Center's deputy director.

In a statement, Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said his company's investment marked a "significant step toward the development of alternative energy sources with an ever-lower environmental impact".

In Italy, which rejected the development of nuclear power in a referendum in 1987 following the Chernobyl disaster, renewable energy initiatives are mainly driven by utility Enel and its global Enel Green Power unit. The ultimate goal of the project is to build a compact, fully functional fusion reactor called a tokamak, which could fit on a truck and produce 100 million wattsof power, the researchers said in a statement.

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