ASG Superconductors - La Spezia
ASG SUperconductors

The Future of Energy

The Hexagon Metrology laser trackers inspect the construction of the huge magnets of a nuclear fusion reactor.

A miniature sun on the earth, capable of generating an astonishing amount of energy. Clean, safe, controllable energy, essential to guarantee supply for the exponential, overwhelming growth of the energy requirement on our planet. A nuclear reaction process powered by a raw material that is absolutely common, inexpensive and easily available: the hydrogen of sea water. The almost complete absence of risks in controlling this reaction, as well as the negligible production of waste harmful for the environment, and human and animal life.

All this and much more is the synthesis of energy generation through nuclear fusion, the physical phenomenon that powers the Sun. Observed by generations of scholars and reproduced on a very small scale in the 1930s, this is now becoming a reality due to advancements in physics and technologies. The actual feasibility will be technically and scientifically demonstrated in the next few years thanks to a large research project financed by the European Union, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and United States, that will result in the construction of a huge experimental reactor in Cadarache, in southern France. ITER, as the project and reactor is called, will be completed and started up in 2020. It will have to prove itself capable of producing for at least 30 minutes a quantity of energy ten times higher than that needed to power it: 500 MW output against 50 MW of actual consumption. The anticipated success of the experiment will be the driving force behind the continuation of a second project, known as DEMO, which is already underway. In the following 15-20 years, DEMO is expected to lead to the accomplishment of the
first real industrial plant for the generation of electricity from nuclear fusion.

As one of the various possible solutions to accomplish a nuclear fusion system, ITER is based on the magnetic confinement of the reaction. The core of the fusion is plasma, a state of matter that in the ITER reactor is achieved when it is heated up at temperatures higher than 150 million °C. The movement of the pairs of plasma atoms as they come together up to their fusion is made possible by a massive thrust from a magnetic field. When the fusion of atomic particles has been achieved into a single nucleus, the latter takes on a mass lower than the sum of the original particles, leading to the emission of huge quantities of energy. After the reaction the magnetic system continues to operate, confining the plasma in a space that enables the use of this heat energy and limits the forces acting on the containment room wall.

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