March 1, 2024

Fusion Research Center’s Final Tritium Experiments Produce New Energy Record

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Looking inside the Joint European Torus tokamak on wrist #104522 of October 3, 2023, which set a new fusion energy record of 69 megajoules. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

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Looking inside the Joint European Torus tokamak on wrist #104522 of October 3, 2023, which set a new fusion energy record of 69 megajoules. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

The Joint European Torus (JET), one of the largest and most powerful fusion machines in the world, has demonstrated the ability to reliably generate fusion energy while setting a world record for energy production.

These remarkable achievements represent a significant milestone in the field of fusion science and engineering.

In JET’s final deuterium-tritium (DTE3) experiments, high fusion power was produced consistently for five seconds, resulting in a groundbreaking 69 megajoules using just 0.2 milligrams of fuel.

JET is a tokamak, a design that uses powerful magnetic fields to confine a plasma in the shape of a doughnut. Most approaches to creating commercial fusion favor the use of two variants of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium. When deuterium and tritium fuse, they produce helium and large amounts of energy, a reaction that will form the basis of future fusion plants.


Video inside the Joint European Torus tokamak of October 3, 2023 pulse #104522, which set a new fusion energy record of 69 megajoules. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

Fernanda Rimini, senior exploration manager at JET, said: “We can reliably create fusion plasmas using the same fuel mixture as being used by commercial fusion power plants, demonstrating the advanced expertise developed over time.”

Professor Ambrogio Fasoli, Program Manager (CEO) at EUROfusion, said: “Our successful demonstration of operational scenarios for future fusion machines like ITER and DEMO, validated by the new energy record, inspires greater confidence in the development of fusion energy .In addition to setting a new record, we achieved things we’ve never done before and deepened our understanding of the physics of fusion.”

Emmanuel Joffrin, CEA EUROfusion Tokamak Exploration Task Force Leader, said: “Not only have we demonstrated how to soften the intense heat flowing from the plasma into the exhaust, but we have also shown at JET how we can transform the edge of the plasma into a state stable, thus avoiding energy blasts hitting the wall. Both techniques aim to protect the integrity of the walls of future machines. This is the first time we have been able to test these scenarios in a deuterium-tritium environment.”

More than 300 scientists and engineers from EUROfusion – a consortium of researchers from across Europe, contributed to these landmark experiments at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) site in Oxford, demonstrating the unparalleled dedication and effectiveness of the international team. from JET.


Looking inside the Joint European Torus tokamak on wrist #104522 of October 3, 2023, which set a new fusion energy record of 69 megajoules. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

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Looking inside the Joint European Torus tokamak on wrist #104522 of October 3, 2023, which set a new fusion energy record of 69 megajoules. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

The results solidify JET’s critical role in advancing safe, low-carbon and sustainable fusion energy.

UK Nuclear and Networks Minister Andrew Bowie said: “JET’s final fusion experiment is a fitting swan song after all the ground-breaking work carried out on the project since 1983. We are closer to fusion energy than ever, thanks to the international team of scientists and engineers in Oxfordshire.”

“The work doesn’t stop here. Our Fusion Futures program has committed £650 million to invest in research and facilities, cementing the UK’s position as a global fusion hub.”

JET concluded its science operations at the end of December 2023.

Professor Sir Ian Chapman, CEO of UKAEA, said: “The JET operated as close to engine conditions as possible with current installations, and its legacy will be widespread across all future engines. It has a critical role in bringing us closer to a safe environment and sustainable future.”

The JET research results have critical implications not only for ITER – a fusion research megaproject being built in southern France – but also for the UK’s STEP fusion engine prototype, the demonstration engine of the Europe, DEMO, and other global fusion projects, pursuing a secure, low-carbon and sustainable energy future.

Pietro Barabaschi, Director General of ITER, said: “Throughout its life cycle, JET has been extremely useful as a precursor to ITER: in testing new materials, in developing new innovative components, and in nothing more than generating of scientific data on deuterium-tritium fusion.”

“The results obtained here will have a direct and positive impact on ITER, validating the way forward and allowing us to progress more quickly towards our performance objectives. On a personal note, it has been a great privilege for me to have been at JET for some years. There I had the opportunity to learn from many exceptional people.”


Looking inside the Joint European Torus tokamak on wrist #104522 of October 3, 2023, which set a new fusion energy record of 69 megajoules. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

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Looking inside the Joint European Torus tokamak on wrist #104522 of October 3, 2023, which set a new fusion energy record of 69 megajoules. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

JET has been instrumental in advancing fusion energy for more than four decades, symbolizing international scientific collaboration, engineering excellence and a commitment to harnessing the power of fusion energy – the same reactions that power the sun and stars.

JET demonstrated sustained fusion for five seconds at high power and set a world record in 2021. JET’s first deuterium-tritium experiments took place in 1997.

As it transitions into the next phase of its reuse and dismantling lifecycle, a celebration in late February 2024 will honor its founding vision and the collaborative spirit that has driven its success.

JET’s achievements, from major scientific milestones to setting energy records, underscore the facility’s enduring legacy in the evolution of fusion technology.

His contributions to fusion science and engineering have played a crucial role in accelerating the development of fusion energy, which promises to be a safe, low-carbon and sustainable part of the world’s future energy supply.

Fusion energy potential

Fusion, the process that powers stars like our Sun, promises a long-term clean source of heat and electricity using small amounts of fuel that can be obtained around the world from cheap materials.

When a mixture of two forms of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) is heated to form a controlled plasma at extreme temperatures – 10 times hotter than the Sun’s core – they fuse to create helium and release energy that can be harnessed to produce electricity. .


Interior of the Joint European Torus (JET) experimental tokamak fusion machine with a photo of the plasma superimposed. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

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Interior of the Joint European Torus (JET) experimental tokamak fusion machine with a photo of the plasma superimposed. Credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority, courtesy of EUROfusion

Deuterium and tritium are two heavier variants of common hydrogen, and together they offer the greatest reactivity of all fusion fuels. At a temperature of 150 million degrees Celsius, deuterium and tritium fuse to form helium and release a huge amount of thermal energy without any contribution to the greenhouse effect. Fusion is inherently safe because it cannot initiate an uncontrolled process and does not produce long-lasting waste.

There is more than one way to achieve fusion. Our approach is to trap the hot plasma using strong magnets in a ring-shaped machine called a “tokamak” and then harness that heat to produce electricity in a similar way to existing power plants.

About Fusion Energy Fuel

Most approaches to creating commercial fusion favor the use of two variants of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium. When deuterium and tritium fuse, they produce helium and large amounts of energy – a reaction that will form the basis of future fusion power plants.

Deuterium is abundant and can be extracted from water. Tritium is a radioactive variant of hydrogen with a half-life of about 12 years. Tritium can be grown from lithium.

About the Final Deuterium-Tritium (DTE3) Experiments

JET is the only operating tokamak fusion engine capable of handling tritium fuel. The third round of experiments using deuterium and tritium fuel was conducted over seven weeks, from August 31 to October 14, 2023. They focused on three areas – plasma science, materials science and neutronics.

JET’s fusion energy record is a result of advanced capabilities in operating deuterium-tritium plasmas. These experiments were primarily designed as the first opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility of minimizing wall heat loads in a deuterium-tritium environment, crucial for ITER scenarios.

More information:
To learn more about the scientific results of the JET DTE3 experiments, visit: Joint European Torus successfully tests new solutions for future fusion power plants.

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