ACSER SEMINAR: The ITER project and Fusion Power

9 November 2016 - 1:00pm
Seminar Room G3, Electrical Engineering Building (map G17), UNSW Kensington

Fusion, the process that powers the sun and the stars, offers a solution to the world's long-term energy needs: providing large scale energy production with zero greenhouse gas emissions, short-lived radio-active waste compared to conventional nuclear fission cycles, and a virtually limitless supply of fuel. 

Almost four decades of experiments in fusion research has produced spectacular progress. Present-day experiments have a power gain ratio of approximately unity (ratio of power out to power in), with a power output in the 10's of megawatts.

Fusion energy research is now poised to advance rapidly due to a large international investment in next step high performance fusion experiments, including billion dollar class experiments in Asia, and the $20 billion burning plasma physics experiment ITER. The next step experiment, ITER, with a power gain of over five, will explore the uncharted physics of burning plasmas, in which the energy liberated from the confined products of reaction exceeds the energy invested in heating the plasma.  The ITER project, supported by a consortium of nations  and alliances spanning half the planet, is the world’s largest science experiment.

ITER heralds a new era in fusion research. Over 70MW of auxilliary heating will be used to initiate fusion events producing 500MW of fusion power.  Temperatures will range from near absolute zero in the superconducting cryostat to 10 times hotter than the core of the Sun. The plasma volume approaches that of an Olympic swimming pool, and it will carry 15 MA of current, more than the current in 500 lightning bolts. The machine itself will weigh 23,000 tons, or about half the weight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

In this talk A/Prof. Hole will outline the technical challenges posed by ITER and fusion research, the time-frame and associated R&D costs.  He will summarize his own research in the physics of burning plasmas, as well as highlight fusion-relevant research across Australia. Finally, he will comment on Australian participation in ITER.


A/Prof. Matthew John HoleAbout the Speaker:

A/Prof. Matthew J. Hole is a Senior Fellow of the ANU.  His principal field of research is magnetohydrodynamics, fluid modelling, and wave analysis of industrial plasmas, fusion plasmas, and space plasmas.  Matthew is the founding Chair of the Australian ITER Forum, a research network spanning over 180 scientists and engineers who advocate and support an Australian involvement in the next step fusion energy experiment ITER; the Australian member of the IAEA International Fusion Research Council, which is charged with the programmatic development of fusion across both ITER and non-ITER members; a member of the Board of Editors of Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, one of three top journals in this field, and the 2010 Young Scientist of the Year of the Plasma Physics Commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.