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Producing and consuming energy involves risks and places strains on the environment. The only known energy source not already in use is nuclear fusion. In fusion research, the main target has so far been to bring the fuel to a temperature of between 100 and 200 million degrees and to contain it sufficiently long to achieve the necessary thermonuclear power balance. Despite a series of problems, an International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) has now been conceived, in which D-T plasma burning for several hundred seconds is expected to release one gigawatt of fusion power. Currently, work is proceeding on a (quasi-)stationary mode of operation, tapping the fusion power produced and drawing off the helium (ash). Fusion does not generate fission products; but tritium, bred from lithium and fed back into the reactor as fuel, is radioactive. This volatile component is therefore to be reduced as far as possible. The choice of reactor material will determine whether the quantity of radioactive waste for final disposal is smaller than that from a fusion reactor. It should be noted that in the reaction chamber only 100 GJ of energy can be stored, which cannot be used unless the thermonuclear ignition requirement is met. It will be nearly fifty years before the first commercial fusion power station is built. The task and cost of building ITER should be shared internationally.

Additional information

Authors: WOLF G H, Kernforschungsanlage Jülich GmbH, Institut für Plasmaphysik, Jülich (DE)
Bibliographic Reference: Article: Physikalische Blätter, Vol. 47 (1991) No. 9, p. 811
Record Number: 199210855 / Last updated on: 1994-12-02
Original language: de
Available languages: de