Artificial sun: the US and Russia build a unique fusion reactor

In the research center of Cadarache in the South of France, 65 km from Marseille, the construction of the world’s first experimental fusion reactor ITER. The ceremony was opened by the President of Emmanuel macron — the music from the Saga “Star wars”, BBC reports.

Искусственное солнце: США и Россия строят уникальный термоядерный реактор

Photo: a video frame YouTube/iterorganization

According to Wikipedia, the name ITER (ITER) was originally the abbreviation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (international thermonuclear experimental reactor), currently the name associated with the Latin word iter — the way to go.

Scientists are seriously called ITER artificial sun. In a vacuum chamber sized 10-storey building — 30 meters in height and as much in diameter — is planned on an industrial scale to reproduce the process of nuclear fusion that power our star.

Russia is not only one of the main partners of this ambitious research project, but also its oldest member. The idea of a thermonuclear fusion reactor, which is now trying to implement, without exaggeration, the whole world belongs to the Soviet scientists at the Institute of atomic energy. Kurchatov.

In theory, nuclear fusion is an inexhaustible source of energy. Just a few grams of hydrogen fuel is enough to provide heat and electricity to thousands of homes, and “brick” the size of a pineapple can replace 10 thousand tons of coal.

Only, in contrast to conventional thermal or nuclear power plants, a fusion reactor does not pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases and leaves no toxic radioactive waste.

“We were inspired by the Universe and stars, where nuclear fusion creates energy for billions of years to come,” — said General Director of ITER Bernard bigot.

The participants of the project emphasize: the ITER experimental reactor. This is not a fusion power plant and the platform for unprecedented physical experiment.

However, if all goes according to plan, this experiment will determine the future of all energy on the planet.

“ITER is an absolutely stunning science project. He has United the whole world to create a clean and renewable source of energy — future energy, said bi-Bi-si the head of the British atomic energy Agency and Ian Chapman. Is an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that fusion reaction are possible on the Earth.”

“Sputnik, caviar, vodka, tokamak”

ITER is the largest scientific construction project in the history of mankind. The experiment involved 35 countries: India, China, Russia, USA, South Korea, Japan and EU countries (plus Britain and Switzerland) is 80% of the world economy and more than half the world’s population.

All participating countries recognize that the authorship of the idea of a thermonuclear fusion reactor belongs to Russia. The word “tokamak” (so called type reactor plant) is a Russian abbreviation for toroidal chamber with magnetic coils.

“A tokamak is like a donut of plasma through which the current flows, explains bi-Bi-si the head of the Russian Agency for ITER Anatoly Krasilnikov. Is one of those words that the whole world has learned from Soviet, Russian scientist. Satellite, caviar, vodka, tokamak — these words without translation will understand any foreigner”.

Искусственное солнце: США и Россия строят уникальный термоядерный реактор

Photo: a video frame YouTube/iterorganization

Krasilnikov engaged in nuclear fusion (or, as experts call it, “fusion”) has more than 40 years. In 1981 he graduated from the MIPT, and came to work at the Kurchatov Institute. And in 1985 signed a historic agreement between the United States and the USSR on the joint construction of the tokamak.

“Gorbachev and Reagan agreed to work together to build a reactor as an example of what two great powers can not only fight against each other in the cold war, but also to do something together, to realize joint research projects, — says Krasilnikov. — And we were soon joined by Japan and the European Union”.

After the end of the cold war, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement — based on the fact that without us funding the project will have to end. However, the remaining partners continued the work of — indeed, to the development of the tokamak joined India, China and South Korea. In Washington, it seems, realized that he had miscalculated.

“Then the United States asked ago, and I think in 2004 they took it back, says Krasilnikov. So if they now come out — nothing. The project is not determined by them, and they make a key contribution.”

After the site for construction of the reactor adopted the French Cadarache, most funding (45%) took over the European Union. The remaining costs of the participating countries, including Russia and the United States, divided equally.

“It’s the Sun on Earth”

Fuel in the tokamak are two varieties of hydrogen (called isotopes) — deuterium and tritium. Unlike oil, gas and uranium ore, reserves of both are practically unlimited: one in industrial scale is obtained from ocean water of lithium, resulting in quite simple reactions.

In the world created hundreds of tokamaks, but ITER is the first reactor, where fusion is planned to be sustained through the chain reaction of combustion of the plasma. For this you need “only” to heat the hydrogen to millions of degrees and some way to hold it, not allowing the hot plasma to fly.

“It’s the Sun on Earth, but with a temperature 10 times higher, explains Krasilnikov. But the Sun is a huge ball, it itself holds due to gravity, and for this purpose we use a magnetic field. Melt it impossible — would be obtained as a magnetic wall, and this is the uniqueness of Soviet invention.”

How it works:

  • in the hollow ring of the tokamak is injected a few grams of deuterium and tritium — isotopes of hydrogen;
  • the hydrogen is heated to a temperature of several million degrees, turning into a plasma — an ionized gas in which electrons separated from the nuclei;
  • the magnetic field provided by superconducting magnets with a total weight of 10 thousand tons, holds the plasma and gives it form;
  • when the temperature reaches approximately 150 million degrees (this is 10 times hotter than the Sun), begins a fusion reaction;
  • the atoms of deuterium and tritium fuse together to form one atom of helium-4 and one neutron, has enormous energy (approximately 3.5 MeV);
  • the neutrons leave the magnetic trap, and due to its kinetic energy heat the water in the walls of the tokamak;
  • water turns to steam, which turns turbines.

But the main difference, according to scientists, is the absolute safety of fusion reactor, because there is simply nothing to explode.

“In the event of an accident our bagel just goes out, and it will have light again — says Krasilnikov. — Temperature plasma in ITER of about 200-300 million degrees. Even if it so happens that the magnetic field will not withstand the plasma extends to the wall of the reactor, the temperature immediately falls to the order — and the reaction just stops”.

Искусственное солнце: США и Россия строят уникальный термоядерный реактор

Photo: a video frame YouTube/iterorganization

“Everything that ponasozdavali humanity”

All the experts agree that to carry out an ambitious project alone would not be under the power of any country in the world. And it’s not even about the money, and the unique know-how developed by scientists in the framework of international cooperation.

“Essentially this is a club of technologically advanced countries, each of which brought in the project its technology, says Krasilnikov. We came up with the tokamak, someone came up with the first wall, some method of additional heating someone is the best injector, someone superconductors… ITER United on its platform all that ponasozdavali humanity.”

For example, the magnetic coil of the reactor. Each the size of a four-storey house and weighing 360 tons. To create superconductive magnets cooled with liquid helium to -269 degrees Celsius.

A 13-metre Central solenoid weighs 1000 tons and generate a magnetic field of such strength that it will be enough to levitate an aircraft carrier.

Most of the systems created in cooperation of several partners. For example, one of the items collected on Tuesday, created as part of the responsibility of Russia — that is, developed by Russian scientists in St. Petersburg (scientific research Institute of electrophysical apparatus them. Ephraim), but picked it up contractors in Germany.

According to the partnership agreement, all member States of ITER have equal rights to the use of the tokamak and all used in its construction technology. Coming out of the project, any member country at risk of scientific isolation.

However, to get no one is going. According to participants of the project ITER is a unique social experiment: when people from different cultures, with different mentalities work together they learn from each other and understand how each other communicate — and this is no less important than anything else.

“Politically, our country will probably survive the warming and cooling of relations, — said Krasilnikov. But ITER is like the ice breaker, go ahead”.



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