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Fusion - Science Fiction or Science Fact? Will it be part of the Future Energy Mix


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This talk will provide an introduction to the history, aspirations and progress of R&D into controlled nuclear fusion, long identified as the power source of the stars.

Date and Time

24 April 2013 - 19:00-21:00


Inverness, United Kingdom - icon_popup  (See map)


Organised by the Scotland North local network.

About this event

This talk will provide an introduction to the history, aspirations and progress of R&D into controlled nuclear fusion, long identified as the power source of the stars.

A brief list of the various types of nuclear fusion will be given but the presentation will concentrate on the development of magnetic confinement fusion research from the simple concepts of the 1960s, through to the giant toroidal devices of today.  The main achievements to date will be highlighted, together with the status of ITER, the prestigious international next-step machine now under construction in France. Reflecting the title of the talk, the future fusion research programmes of the principal international players will be compared, noting some outstanding technical challenges and the presently conceived impact on mains electricity production.

The key mechanical engineering features of the two magnetic confinement fusion research machines in the UK, JET (the European flagship, with a programme managed under the European Fusion Development Agreement, and funding primarily from EURATOM) and MAST (the centrepiece of the UK programme), will be presented. These engineering features will be compared with those of ITER, now under construction in the south of France, which is both much larger and the first fusion research machine to require nuclear licensing.  

JET is not only the nearest machine to ITER in size and performance, but is also unique in having a full remote handling and tritium recycling capability so that it can undertake true nuclear fusion experiments. JET has been given many substantial enhancements over the years and its performance since the most recent of these, which changed the first wall from carbon to beryllium and tungsten, will be described. MAST is the largest machine in the world for studying the “Spherical Tokamak” concept, which potentially offers some advantages over the more conventional geometry of the JET – ITER route. Procurements are now in hand to realise a number of significant modifications to this machine, creating MAST-Upgrade, and these will also be outlined in the talk. Finally, to show the sorts of things actually studied in modern tokamaks, some examples of interesting physics results from the two machines in the UK will be presented.

The UK fusion research programme is funded jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and by the European Communities under the contract of Association between EURATOM and UKAEA.


Tom Todd joined Culham in 1975 as a physicist, working on various magnetic confinement configurations including (via a one-year secondment) the Doublet III tokamak at GA. Back in England, he provided physics liaison for the design of the COMPASS tokamak, beginning a change of direction into engineering. This change led to his spending five years in fission decommissioning, following which he returned to Culham as Chief Engineer for seven years, becoming Chief Technologist in the middle of 2011.

Registration information

Prior registration is not required.

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