Big if True: Nuclear Fusion

The NY Times reports about Sparc, a nuclear fusion reactor designed by the private company Comonwealth Fusion Systems. The reactor design is called Tokamak and is the same one that is used in the ITER reactor as well. Hot plasma is kept in a donut-shape by powerful magnets. Hot means really hot: Temperatures needed are around 50-100 millions degree Celsisus. What makes Sparc different from ITER is a new magnet design that allows for much stronger magnets. This allows Sparc to be much smaller than ITER. Apart from that, not much has changed.

The big thing about Sparc is therefore not its design, but the timeline the company targets: CFS says they want to finish Sparc in the next three to four years. Even if we make this ten years, that is still much earlier than ITER, which is expected to be finished by 2035. The physics seems to be viable (can’t really say a lot about it). If everything goes according to plan, Sparc could yield about ten times as much energy as is needed to operate the reactor. The real issues seem to be on the engineering side. Let’s see how it works out. Big if true.

If you’re interested in topics like this one, you might also like “Your Green Electricity Might Not Be As Green As You Think“.

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