The ITER Project: Future of Endless Clean Energy?

in steemstem •  last year

Hello Steemians, today I bring to you a topic which I was planning to write about for a long time. It is about the next generation power source which is endless and clean. Extensive research on the subject is underway all over the world. The following project is a collaboration of countries all over the world to get a solution for the future power need. Lets visit it to know more about it.

Read in my high school books, “Sun is the ultimate source of energy on earth”. That was only some combination of words for me at that time. Though lately, now I understand what that sentence means. I am a product of sun and I won’t have existed in absence of sun, no one on earth could.


Sun is the Ultimate Source of Energy[Source]

The discovery of fossil fuel revolutionized the way of living of the world for the last few centuries. It fueled the industrialization of the world.

But the fossil fuel reserve is getting shallow over years and is expected to run out by the next few decades. May be its nature’s blessing to us in the form of a second chance to clean our atmosphere. Alternative sources to run the world is being studied all over the world like the solar energy, wind energy and nuclear energy. Energy sources like solar energy and wind energy need large infrastructure for operation for large scale energy production and their energy yield is comparatively low. While nuclear energy need relatively smaller set up which can generate a very large amount of energy.

ITER Project:


ITER Logo[Source: Wikipedia]

ITER which stands for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is an international nuclear fusion research program and an engineering megaproject with an eye to fulfill the energy needs of the post fossil fuel period. The project is funded by seven nations namely India, Japan, USA, China, Russia, South korea and the European Union where European Union is the host and funds the major part of the total cost. The construction of the Tokamak type fusion reactor is underway at Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, France.


An episode on ITER by the youtube channel Technology Update RT

The readers can know more about the project from the official website of ITER[here]


The ITER Tokamak Reactor Construction Site at Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, France
[Source: ITER]

While nuclear fission has already grown as a reliable source of clean energy, nuclear fusion is still in its infancy. The disadvantage of nuclear fission is that it produces a very large amount of radioactive wastes while the advantage of nuclear fusion is that the energy produced in this process is very large compared to nuclear fission. Also, the radioactive wastes produced in fusion process mostly have very short life.

The aim of the project is to construct a Tokamak fusion reactor and to operate it, to demonstrate the application of the experimental studies of plasma physics into a full-fledged energy production purpose through nuclear fusion.


An Artist's Sketch of a Tokamak Fusion Reactor[Source]

At extreme temperatures electrons get torn apart from the nuclei and the system becomes a mixture of very high velocity electrons and nuclei. This state of the matter is called plasma and is called the fourth state of matter. The reactor is expected to produce 500 megawatts of power with only 50 megawatts to initiate it. The project started in 2013 and is expected to operate from 2025. It applies the concept of magnetic confinement plasma physics to operate it and will be the largest of its kind in terms of plasma volume used (approx. 840 cubic meters). The project will be followed by a commercial demonstration of a fusion power station named DEMO.

  • Nuclear Fusion:

Nuclear fusion is an application of Einstein’s concept for mass-energy conversion,

E=mc2

In this process two or more atomic nuclei come close to each other and fuse together to form a larger nucleus and some subatomic particles like protons and neutrons with a release of energy. Nearly all isotopes lighter than Iron-56 and Nickel-62 which have the highest binding energy per nucleon, fuse with other isotopes, deuterium and tritium enjoys the most attention as it has the lowest activation energy (hence low temperature needed to fuse them together) and produce the largest amount of energy per unit weight.

The reaction results in a decrease in the mass in the system. This missing mass between the reactants and the products is manifested in the form of energy. The reaction needs a high energy to force the nuclei to fuse together which then yields a huge amount of energy compared to that used. This process is what powers the sun and many other stars. It seems the ITER team took it so seriously. They be like,”If sun is the ultimate source of energy, why not make a mini-sun on earth itself”.

Nuclear fusion has many other advantages. The reactants which are isotopes of hydrogen i.e. deuterium and tritium are abundant on earth. Deuterium can be easily extracted from seawater while tritium is produced in the reaction itself. Moreover, the process produces no CO2 or any other atmospheric pollutants.

The reaction is as follows:


The Nuclear Fusion Between Deuterium and Tritium[Source:Wikipedia]

Deuterium and tritium fuse to form a helium nucleus and a high energy neutron.

21D + 31T → 42He + 10n + 17.6 MeV

We know, like charges repel. The protons in the two nuclei repel each other while in the process of fusing together. That is why the activation energy needed in the fusion process is very high which overcomes the electrostatic repulsion between the protons and allows the two nuclei to fuse. The optimum distance between the nuclei to undergo fusion is 100 femtometers when the nuclei undergo quantum tunneling. At this condition strong nuclear force and electrostatic forces are equal and the nuclei undergo the fusion process. Magnetic confinement and high temperature is used to achieve the small separation between the nuclei in the ITER Tokamak reactor.

At such a high temperature the particles in the reactor have high kinetic energy. These particles may escape the vessel if not confined well thus decreasing the plasma temperature. In ITER reactor these particles are confined within the container vessel using magnetic field induced by some coils around the container. Charges when move though a magnetic field experience a force in the perpendicular direction of their motion. It results in a centripetal acceleration of the charge and hence the charge continues in a circular or helical motion thus getting confined in the container vessel.

The container vessel for the reactor is subject to high velocity particles like the protons, neutrons, ions and many other particles due to the high temperature which may gradually degrade the container. A strong vessel which can sustain such an environment must be designed. The tests for such container material is a part of the ITER project and the IFMIF(International Fusion Material Irradiation Facility).

The high energy neutrons which will be radiated from the plasma crossing the magnetic field without any hindrance (since it is chargeless) is the primary source of the output energy of the ITER project. This energy will then be used to run an electricity-generating turbine which will generate electricity.

The project if successful may turn into a holy-grail of energy source and will open the door for future application of nuclear fusion and plasma physics for energy production which is clean and endless. It is hoped that it will end the long debated energy shortage of the world.

References:


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Very nice post. Disclaimer: my comment is entirely based on my memory. Please do not hesitate to correct anything wrong or incorrect :p

But the fossil fuel reserve is getting shallow over years and is expected to run out by the next few decades

Maybe a little bit more, no? For 20 years, I am hearing that we have for about 50 years in front of us, without any modification of the 50 number ;)

Anyways, this is just a small detail and does not change much to your conclusions. I also believe fusion is the future, but maybe not on the Tokamak form (there is now another promising option using stellerators, but again, I do not have any detail on those as this is not my field).

Also, the radioactive wastes produced in fusion process mostly have very short life.

Still on the top of my mind, if I remember well, the problem with fusion is to decontaminate the structure and the place where the reactor will have to be built. Is that correct?

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First ever post i read on steemit , and indeed I had the same question; how rare is fossil fuel really?

I came across a youtube vid just 2 days ago with a retired USA colonel explaining that ; yes, maybe its a hydro carbon, but no one ever has explained why the deepest fossils are found at 16000 feet, but oil gets drilled at 30000 feet and lower. In his story he tells that Rockefeller knew that the 2nd most abundant liquid on earth was going to be hard to put a price on, but if its supply was limited, he could claim scarcity.

He sent a number of scientists over to a biology conference in Geneva in the late 1892 in which the attendants were going to come up with the definition of what constitutes an organic substance, and he managed to get petroleum classed as a biological substance. The rest is apparenty history.

Not promoting carbon based fuels tho; anything thats less a polutant than what we use now is a win.

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You made my day dude. Happy to know bout this new fact. Already going through it.
A hearty welcome to Steemit.com. Keep in touch.

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I agree on the fact that anything that would pollute less would be already a kind of victory. But one must be careful in the definition of "polluting less". Being objective with this respect today is hardish.

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Oil below 17000 feet cracks to gas because the heat and pressure at that depth breaks up the long chains liquid petroleum is composed of. Oil is only exploitable because it pools up in porous rock , usually associated with salt dome caps which act as stoppers.

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I think that is what Gold's theory says

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Gold was a proponent of non-biological origins for oil. The ongoing formation of methane deep within basement rock by bacteria might be the source for more complex hydrocarbons. The petroleum we use daily has pretty well understood origins. Porous rock capped by a salt dome is a common structure, fault slip zones are another. The accumulations we can access are geological rarities. MOST of the oil ever generated by our planet never accumulated, but escaped because there was no geological trapping mechanism.

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Technically, if you think about it, water is the real fossil fuel. If a fossil is just "formerly living matter" and nearly all life on Earth is made out of mostly water. It doesn't just disappear when things die, water evaporates and returns to the natural water cycle. And with the way water mixes together, I bet it would be difficult to find even a single cup of water in any ocean, kitchen sink, or can of soda that wasn't already water from thousands of living things (The planet Earth and its water have been around for billions of years). And water can even be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, which is basically rocket fuel.

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I also heard the number 50 , I think 10 years back. Even so, a clean energy is an urgency looking at the environmental degradation.

Second, I like to confess that I have not studied much about the other approaches being made. I am reading about this project since when I was in my secondaery school. That is why I concentrated only on this project. And if I'm not wrong this project has achieved most attention.

Third, I'm not sure about the problems you said. But yeah, there are so many issues associated with this project. for example, the constant bombardment of the high energy neutrons on the container vessel walls may damage the container. It is also claimed that the bombardments may induce radioactivity on the container walls. Another problem with the reactor is that the neutron fluxes may hamper the normal operation of the electromagnets of the tokamak. Safety measures and materials to address these problems are being studied by the ITER tem and the IFMIF. The project is facing many problems day by day. That is why it has missed many deadlines.

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Thanks for the answer. Unfortunately, you seem to have the same questions as I have :D

If I have time, I will dig into it to find the answers :)

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Yeah...but the fact that "Water is not a fossil fuel" caught my attention.

Good one

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Thank you...

India is already Launched a Thorium232 based nuclear power plant in Kalpakkam ,Tamilnadu. Thorium 232 produced zero nuclear waste and highly efficient. Thorium 232 is next generation nuclear project for unlimited Source of electricity.

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I think it is a fission based reactor if I am not wrong

An excellent post, but I will be surprised if we are ever able to make tokamak fusion economic. As far as I can tell it's a technological dead end. I think Polywell is far more promising as a technology. Polywell might well be able to able to achieve break-even with around a 2 meter diameter machine. Simulations have shown break-even with boron-proton fusion (which ONLY gives charged particles, much more efficient and with way less need for shielding, and with no radioactive waste, perfect for spacraft) with a 6 meter machine.

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Tell me whether it was a first ever attempt in such a large scale? If decommissioned it will just be a waste of fund. The only way around is to address all those issues and make it economically viable.

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If it's not decommissioned it'll be a waste of even more funds.

Fusion is the energy source of the future, no doubt. Earlier or later it will work on a commercial scale.

India too has Tokamaks and they are located at Institute for Plasma Research at Ahmedabad. The best nuclear fusion reactor has been the Wendelstein 7-X (W 7-X)stellerator having produced the longest stable plasma.
Replying to @malay11 's comment, Yes it is a fission reactor, but the statement that it has zero nuclear waste is false. They have nuclear waste, but being Thorium232 and the plant using a fast breeder reactor, it is highly efficient and it has much less radioactive waste.

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Yes...the Aditya Tokamak. But I guess it is not for fusion energy purpose. It is just for plasma physics research

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Nice post i couldn't stop reading it

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It's definitely cool. I see the power and usefulness. God knows I'm a fan of getting off coal crack, but until this is ready, we need to do something. Perhaps the whole world can't switch to solar and wind right away, but a lot of people could switch right now, and of course that funds more people switching. It's mostly grid tie now, but the cost of batteries is dropping big time, and as ev's go through the roof, which is already a done deal, battery tech will improve and those costs will drop dramatically. I really get fusion as a large scale solution, but I don't see the wisdom in dismissing solar when it's growing like wildfire, exceeding all expectations every year for 20 years and incredibly helpful in lowering troublesome emissions right now.

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There is no question to dismiss solar energy or other such clean energy sources. What is the problem in having many clean energy sources

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I don't have any issue with it at all. I'd like anything sustainable with minimal negative impact to be going strong. When you said that solar requires too much infrastructure, it sounded dismissive. Perhaps I misread? I work in solar, and we encounter so many misconceptions. Perhaps I am overly sensitive? 😂 Wouldn't be the first time.

Congratulations for getting curated ;)

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Thank you @himshweta...bht dino ke bad

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Aakhir mehnat rang laai :p

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haan thoda mehnat to lga...but bht din se time nhi de pa rha tha

Thanks for a very informative post. The world is long over due for an abundant and clean source of energy. Many of the world's ills can be directly attributed to an over reliance on fossil fuels. When fusion energy production becomes a main stay within the national grid society should reap the benefits of lower prices, increased safety and greater reliability.

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I think such research for clean energy must have been done long ago. However, it is a novel approach to clean our environment along with providing an alternative for the post fossil fuel period.

Congratulations @physics-o-mania!
Your post was mentioned in the hit parade in the following category:

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Thank you @arcange... for mentioning my content

Awesome.

Apologies if I missed it in there, but my question is this;
How portable is this?

To me, the true future of clean energy is when anyone can have a tiny little device, no bigger than a traditional generator, and place it somewhere in their house, and power everything.

Completely eliminating any need for a power grid at all.

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Portable energy source is the battery itself. I am studying about a similar type of topic...may be will post on it

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I was present at this newearth festival in Bali.

During the closing ceremonies they unveiled a working free energy device, admittedly with some kinks that are still being worked out.

The device is relatively small, and the gist of it is that you put 1KW of energy into it, and it generates a toroidal field, and then this toroidal field taps into the energy that is all around, and outputs 5KW of energy.

I can very much see a future where we have these devices being installed all over the world, like literally a tour going around and just installing them in people's houses, in communities, everywhere.

Imagine if we could bring 1000 of these to Puerto Rico, and instantly everyone could have energy during this critical time.

Nice post, lucky to read this, can add knowledge about energy theory. Thank you for the beautiful post.. @physics-o-mania

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Thanks friend...keep steeming

ITER is the need of the day and well presented in this post,

Shared this one at:

http://www.steemlearn.com/2017/10/the-iter-project-future-of-endless.html

Thankyou.

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Thank you for sharing...following you. Keep in touch and Steem on...

Very nice post that's really interesting i never have seen this before. Thanks for sharing Follow and upvote

I am an optimist but there is a saying in the nuclear fusion industry. "Fusion is 20 years in the future and it always will be.

Fusion has been elusive because nature has a way of protecting the universe from too much instability. Nuclear reactions release a huge amount of energy compared to anything that we see on earth. Fortunately they are slow.

The reason for the slowness on earth is the same reason that fusion happens slowly on the sun; electrostatic repulsion. Bringing fusible nuclei close together means overcoming the repulsion between positively charged protons. The force is huge and on earth as on the sun, it essentially cannot be done.

It cannot be done but there is fusion at very, very low rates. Fortunate that nature protects by the near impossibility of fusion or we would have long been incinerated by the sun. Fusion happens by quantum tunneling. The is a behavior that allows for a VERY small percentage of fusible nuclei to actually jump across the electrostatic (coulomb) barrier and fuse with another nucleus.

This is a pathetically low probability of happening but if you crash enough energetic nuclei at each other on the earth or on the sun, then you get some fusion. For this reason, fusion is a VERY difficult proposition. Even in the brief flash of a hydrogen bomb, only a tiny fraction of the nuclei fuse. It is terribly inefficient.

The scientists are working hard but it is nearly like trying to invent a perpetual motion machine. Not quite as impossible as that but extremely challenging for sure.

A very informative post. I love the future technology article. Thank so much for the post.

Scientists need to seriously look into the electric universe theory of solar nuclear fusion as it predicts that fusion is not taking place in the core of the sun, but actually within the corona causing the photosphere to light up. The convective and radiative zones predicted within the sun cannot transport the energy required for emitting starlight at the rate it currently is. Perhaps if they adjusted the conditions required for fusion they would achieve sustainable output.

Happy to know that INDIA too a part of this endless clean energy project...Cheers to kudos