Compact Fusion Power Plant Concept Uses State-of-the-Art Physics To Improve Energy Production

Compact Advanced Tokamak

The Compact Advanced Tokamak (CAT) is a potentially economical solution for fusion energy production that takes advantage of advances in simulation and technology. Credit: Image courtesy of General Atomics. Tokamak graphic modified from F. Najmabadi et al., The ARIES-AT advanced tokamak, Advanced technology fusion power plant, Fusion Engineering Design, 80, 3-23 (2006).

Fusion power plants use magnetic fields to hold a ball of current-carrying gas (called a plasma). This creates a miniature sun that generates energy through nuclear fusion. The Compact Advanced Tokamak (CAT) concept uses state-of-the-art physics models to potentially improve fusion energy production. The models show that by carefully shaping the plasma and the distribution of current in the plasma, fusion plant operators can suppress turbulent eddies in the plasma. These eddies can cause heat loss. This will enable operators to achieve higher pressures and fusion power with lower current. This advance could help achieve a state where the plasma sustains itself and drives most of its own current.

In this approach to tokamak reactors, the improved performance at reduced plasma current reduces stress and heat loads. This alleviates some of the engineering and materials challenges facing fusion plant designers. Higher pressure also increases an effect where the motion of particles in the plasma naturally generates the current required. This greatly reduces the need for expensive current drive systems that reduce a fusion plant’s potential electric power output. It also enables a stationary “always-on” configuration. This approach leads to plants that suffer less stress during operation than typical pulsed approaches to fusion power, enabling smaller, less expensive power plants.

Over the past year, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have released roadmaps calling for the aggressive development of fusion energy in the United States. Researchers believe that achieving that goal requires development of more efficient and economical approaches to creating fusion energy than currently exist. The approach used to create the CAT concept developed novel reactor simulations that leverage the latest physics understanding of plasma to improve performance. Researchers combined state-of-the-art theory validated at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility with leading-edge computing using the Cori supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. These simulations identified a path to a concept enabling a higher-performance, largely self-sustaining configuration that holds energy more efficiently than typical pulsed configurations, allowing it to be built at reduced scale and cost.

Reference: “The advanced tokamak path to a compact net electric fusion pilot plant” by R.J. Buttery, J.M. Park, J.T. McClenaghan, D. Weisberg, J. Canik, J. Ferron, A. Garofalo, C.T. Holcomb, J. Leuer, P.B. Snyder and The Atom Project Team, 19 March 2021, Nuclear Fusion.
DOI: 10.1088/1741-4326/abe4af

This work was supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, based on the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, a DOE Office of Science user facility, and the AToM Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing project.

10 Comments on "Compact Fusion Power Plant Concept Uses State-of-the-Art Physics To Improve Energy Production"

  1. Paul of Alexandria | November 8, 2021 at 6:56 am | Reply

    Hadn’t we better get one working in the first place, before we start plotting roadmaps?

  2. High temperature transients that materials can’t withstand for cyclic fatigue will be the downfall of fusion for more than a minute operation. Perhaps there really are materials squirred away in Roswell from other worlds that will work.

  3. 50 years and no sustainable fusion, how much longer another 50?

    • Charles Armentrout | November 11, 2021 at 9:46 am | Reply

      Interesting question. But the wrong way to say it. You ought to say “50 years of known potentials, must we wait 50 more for adequate funding?” There was a plan to do move the fusion chess pieces forward in 1979-80.

  4. Interesting Tokamak graphic showing connection to a high voltage power line. I’m curious, is the power flowing into or out of the Tokamak?

  5. Steve Nordquist | November 8, 2021 at 7:45 pm | Reply

    Open Source primer to it is very welcome. Indeed no bosonic matter walls at first squint.

  6. Get ONE of the buggers working first!!!

  7. Here is an Idea for them to simulate in a computer.

    They could make it a sphere like the sun is and and not have that obstruction in the middle. Maybe it will act like a mini star but since its not as powerful as a star the corona like part could maybe be cooler than the center.

    Or it at least takes out the power requirement that those electromagnets in the middle need to function.

    Recreating some of the ways material in stars moves.

    But if quantum tunneling is needed like they think stars even need.

    Fusion happens at 6 times the suns core temperature from what they say.

    So a star may need quantum tunneling so common senses says a far weaker fusion reactor using different fuels needs it for sure.

    But then what if mass affects some quantum effects under control and you need the mass of a star to do that….

    Would that be dangerous? Quantum things teleport and all this other crazy stuff.

    Like worst case in my mind kinda goes like this.

    Them: “What was that explosion?”

    Scientist: Ahh.mmmm. Our best guess is that the plasma quantum teleported and just appeared in the middle of the ocean. The blast was… Interesting given that 162 million degree plasma just appeared 100 feet underwater.”

    Them : “Taking this setback inti account, how close are we to safer cleaner energy through fusion?”

    Scientist : 10 years or so maybe 20… Tho… If mass is needed to stop events like this then never unless we can shrink the sun but that would make a black hole anyway.” Lol

    Scientist in his head: Ohh I wasn’t supposed to say that last part. Tho they are told all the time that you cant get more than you put in and the by product of some fusion reactors is is uranium fuel so right back to handling radioactive material.”

    Odd to spend so much on something that’s already reached over 6 times the suns core temp a few times.

    Ignoring that the LHC was in Guinness for.. oh Wow being 250,000 times as hot as the suns core. Ignored as an energy source to smash atoms apart using massive amounts of power.

    Oh and what about the ocean and atmosphere.

    16,000 psi in the deepest ocean and 14.5 Psi in the air and a vacuum in comparison to the ocean depths.

    And with the whole ocean pushing on water in a pipe to the surface.

    Unless the water in the pipe is equal to the weight of the whole ocean (impossible) it will flow. Then have the water turn generators in the pipe as it loops to the surface and empties back into the water. Would be a dangerous area that needs sectioned off but doable.

    And that would be a system that literally starts and runs itself as ling as we have rather deep water. Maybe not even having to go down where it is 16,000 psi as well.

    Zero emissions and an accident would be. What an air bubble bursting the pipe and dumping water into water.
    Nothing but water piping and generators to make power.

    But ignored even as its literally a natural pump that can be used around the world and other sources come up short.

    Odd right.

    Even that spin launch thing for space travel could maybe innovate energy generation.

    They used 20% power to fling an object at supersonic speed.

    Replace the fling arm with a lightweight flywheel magnetically suspended instead of on ball bearings as it turns in a vacuum and acts as a generator.

    Storing built up power as its generated so that it can use it later to spin up again to supersonic speed, maybe faster if materials allow for it. Flywheels not in a vacuum and in bearing drive buses around dome places for like 6 to 8 hours up hills and full of passengers and its electric.

    So why no fly wheel generators with almost frictionless movement in a vacuum. They could be the suze if a car engine or a train engine. A fly wheel is in a clock work watch even.

    But not funded like other things they technically say are as impossible even as we have a way to store and redeliver the energy generated and you might actually get a net return of energy if it works and is done right.

    Wheres the research into simple things like these two ideas.

    One by the math is a surefire green energy source with no emissions that is far more reasonable sounding than trying to copy stars.

    Stars that use different fuel and most likely have quantum tunneling going on as most scientists reach calculations that say even the sun shouldn’t be doing fusion.

    Lets get some real solutions that dint contradict everything they say.

    And the water pressure thing is a high energy system settled below a low energy one that we see all the time. No laws of physics get broken or ignored by it either.

  8. Every idea sounds marvelous. On paper.

  9. … where is the Love you had so much faith into, when your hopes and prayers are full filed….

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