back to article Joint European Torus celebrates 100,000 pulses: Neither Brexit nor middle age has stopped '80s era experiment

A milestone was reached this week by the Joint European Torus (JET): the 100,000th pulse of the fusion energy experiment. JET, which is located at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the English county of Oxfordshire, has a history going back to 1975. The Culham site was chosen in 1977 and the doughnut-shaped tokamak …

  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    WTF?

    "including a new inner wall made of deuterium and tritium installed in 2011. "

    Firstly I presume 2011 is a typo'd 2021?

    Secondly I'm no Physicist (though have a Physics BSc!) but isn't that like making the walls of a furnace out of coal?

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      More like making the walls of a furnace out of natural gas; deuterium and tritium are both gases. Definitely a vulture hiccup here.

      In fact the innovation in the "ITER-like Wall" is to incorporate beryllium and tungsten in various places, to see how the new materials hold up against plasma interactions.

    2. Boothy Silver badge

      The date appears to be correct, but the wall details are incorrect, as correctly pointed out by steelpillow (my highlighting below).

      Quote from an article on sciencenode.org posted OCT 24 2012:

      "Last year, we carried out the first experiments with the new ITER-like wall. Doing this in just deuterium, rather than in deuterium-tritium mixtures, allows us to test most of the relevant physics in a more flexible manner," says Lorne Horton, head of the JET department at the European Fusion Development Agreement.

      The new wall at JET is a combination of beryllium and tungsten armor, which has demonstrated the hoped-for greater-than-10-fold reduction in trapping deuterium, thus giving efficient fusion results. Further tests for ITER will continue at JET into 2015 and 2016."

      So looks like they moved from 'deuterium and tritium' rather than to it.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        New wall at JET is a combination of beryllium and tungsten armour

        It may be the Joint European Tours but it's in Britain

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          Joint European Tours but it's in Britain

          Tours is in France, you must mean TORUS.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Joint European Tours but it's in Britain

            >Tours is in France, you must mean TORUS.

            Andiord autocorrect not up on its topological terminology

            What's that law that any post pointing out a typo will contain a tpyo ?

            1. Yes Me Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Joint European Tours but it's in Britain

              > What's that law that any post pointing out a typo will contain a tpyo ?

              Toyp's Lwa, of coarse.

        2. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          I'm rather fond of the Joint American Tours, which involves visiting all the US states that have legalize pot. Just for the scenery you understand.

        3. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Isn't Britain in Europe then?.

          1. fg_swe

            Their main nation is rooted in Germanic and French tribes, but they hate their roots from the bottom of their heart sometimes.

            1. gerdesj Silver badge
              Pirate

              You make it sound as though there were countries called Britain, Germany and France fully formed in say 300CE. Perhaps the Brythonic speakers escape you (Hi Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Brittainy, Cornwall and many others) too. Then there's the elephant that was in the room, back in the day: SPQR.

              History is way more nuanced and frankly interesting than you make out, so kindly piss off.

              Luv

              "Them"

        4. Boothy Silver badge

          This was a straight copy/paste from the quoted article. In general when quoting someone else, the convention is to retain their spelling and grammar as-is, rather than correct it.

          Granted I could have added a [sic] to make this clear. My guess would be the author was from the US, rather than another English speaking country.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fusion power is going to be "cheap, safe and limitless".

        Except for the massive capital cost of the reactors. Never mind all that beryllium and tungsten, simply the scale and cost of building ITER-sized reactors is staggering.

        Except that the reactor vessel itself will become highly radioactive due to all that neutron flux, and all maintenance will have to be done robotically. I remember that years ago, after JET itself had fired for just one minute, the vessel became so radioactive they couldn't enter it for a week.

        Sure, it's all short-lived isotopes. Once the reactor has finished its working life, it's expected it will "only" be 150 years before the radioactivity decays to a safe level.

        There's a huge stable fusion reactor about 90 million miles away. If only there was some way we could harness the power that it's already sending in our direction...

        1. M.V. Lipvig
          Joke

          That's just today while they're workig out how to do it. 20 years from now you'll have breakfast, scoop the trash into a sack, then put the sack into the Mr Fusion in your car to provide the power for your drive to work. If you like to speed you'll pour in a cup of coffee. Caffiene, you know. It'll really wake the car up.

          1. Ken G Bronze badge
            Trollface

            Didn't you have that 3 years ago?

        2. steelpillow Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Rolls-Royce are one of several companies pouring cash into "tabletop" fusion reactors, which will supposedly be a lot more practical from this point of view. Apart from enabling the marketeers to reduce those big numbers in proportion with the power generated, before quietly multiplying again by the number of reactors required to do the same job, and not needing a thermic lance to cut a worn-out reactor into removable chunks, I am not clear that this will bring any real advantage. Fusion-powered submarines, perhaps? Just what we need to fire all those sealife-destroying supersonic torpedoes from!

        3. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          @AC - Fusion power is going to be "cheap, safe and limitless"

          Except you are pre-judging based on prototypes and experiments. If World Governments pulled their finger out and actually put some investment in things might be different. Apple spends 14Bn on R&D annually. Annual Worldwide fusion investment is a fraction of that - something between £2-3bn by my back of fag packet calc. That compares to about 170Bn on renewables - mostly Solar and Wind.

          The main problem is lack of willpower.

          Solar and Wind are both 60+ year old technologies that have suited incremental improvements in materials , process and engineering. Fusion is literally bleeding edge where a whole new industry needs to be bootstrapped from scratch.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Fusion research has been going on for 50 years.

            Do you really think that following the current line of research is going to end up with "aha! If only we'd though of this first, we could make the reactor 100 times smaller and cheaper?" Or find a way of fusion without generating neutron flux? That isn't going to go away.

            It's a technological dead-end. I suspect the only reason it has continued this long is that in the presence of nuclear test bans, it's the only way to continue to research the related physics of fusion weapons.

    3. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

      "Secondly I'm no Physicist"

      Neither am I, which is unfortunate as my father-in-law worked on JET from the 1970s to the late '80s and I inherited a stack of his notes which just make me go "...?" Maybe I should scan them in or something. There's some photos of things that look very hot.

      1. ClockworkOwl
        Thumb Up

        My dad worked there back in the 60's.

        I have an end of year progress report for the whole lab for '65 - '66 that is facinating reading!

        I also have a friend who worked there in the early century, and many of there key problems were the same...

        1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

          I imagine their paths may well have crossed in that case! Now that I think about it, I recall he worked there from the late '60s too, probably from around the time it opened; he was at Harwell before then. I get the impression it was around that time when the funding became less good than it used to be which caused various problems. Still a fascinating line of work though, certainly as an onlooker who spent too much of her career faffing about with financial systems...

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Wrong materials

      Hi -- thanks. We got our materials mixed up, and now fixed. Don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot anything wrong, please.

      C.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    I hope they celebrated with fission chips for dinner...

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Surely it would be an opportunity to try some fusion cuisine?

  4. JacobZ
    Coat

    40 years in the making

    So we're only 10 years from commercial fusion power then.

    1. Timbo Bronze badge

      Re: 40 years in the making

      or even 40 years in the toka-making .... :-)

    2. Sandstone
      FAIL

      Re: 40 years in the making

      Back at the New York World's Fair in 1964 I was at the GE pavilion and even then they were saying it was only ten years away.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: 40 years in the making

        It' synchronised with the year of Linux on the desktop...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: 40 years in the making

          Ah, so that's what the synchrotron is for :-)

          1. IGotOut Silver badge

            Re: 40 years in the making

            So it's true, when we finally achieve fusion 03:14:08 a tear will occur in the time space continuum and well all be sent back to 1970 where Nuclear fusion will be just 10 years away.

            1. JassMan Silver badge

              Re: 40 years in the making @IGotOut

              That's why it appears to be taking so long. We are actually on the fourth time round the timeloop.

        2. Fred Daggy Bronze badge

          Re: 40 years in the making

          Which will be the same year as the widespread adoption of IPv6.

      2. Elledan

        Re: 40 years in the making

        Back then the assumption was that Z-pinch fusion reactors would work for energy production, which it would turn out they didn't. That's when the attention turned towards this crazy Soviet concept of the tokamak reactor.

        Tokamaks are ahead in the race now, with China's HL-2M and EAST leading the way to the HL-2M successor, which should be a prototype for a commercial fusion plant.

        Right behind tokamaks are stellarators like the German Wendelstein-7X, which just had cooled divertors installed to enable it to run continuously with plasma. If it passes, the Wendelstein-8 (or whatever it'll be called) may form a first prototype of a power-producing stellerator fusion reactor.

        Glib statements about the decades it's taken do a lot of injustice to the incredibly hard and very fundamental science that had to be done and many painful lessons that were learned. Thanks to all of the R&D (with admittedly a massive funding drop in the 1980s), we know more about plasma physics than ever before, which is also incredibly useful with e.g. astrophysics.

        Just sayin' :)

        1. Keith Oborn

          Re: 40 years in the making

          On the "10 year" thing, I met someone who worked on the plasma [physics at JET - as it happened rather less than ten years ago. She said "the thing that's changed is we now have the computing power to simulate most of the plasma behaviour, instead of doing a try it and see approach. This has hugely increased the rate of progress."

          1. Elledan

            Re: 40 years in the making

            That's one of the reasons why stellarators are at all realistic today, yeah. With solid simulations we were able to figure out the plasma dynamics and create magnet shapes to fit these. Doing that kind of work with trial-and-error like in the olden days would have been exceedingly slow, frustrating and expensive.

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: 40 years in the making

      "we're only 10 years from commercial fusion power then.".

      That is high speed compared to getting rid of the "first past the vote".

  5. bazza Silver badge

    Brilliant Open Day

    I went there once, on the last open day they had before they started using tritium. That meant that it wasn't radioactive, and so they had the reactor vessel open. It's a pretty phenomenal piece of kit. The flywheel generators were also very impressive; one could go down inside these, and it was still warm in there from the last time they'd run.

  6. nautica Bronze badge
    Boffin

    Howzzat again?

    "Joint European Torus celebrates 100,000 pulses..."

    I suppose that, when one can't offer any other proof of progress, and one will be pilloried for banging the "...only ten years away..." drum yet one more time, any claim which is exceedingly difficult to 'see through'---particularly by those responsible for providing funding--- is worth its weight in gold...or deuterium...or tritium...or any other isotope of hydrogen, the use of which sounds amazing to those who absolutely do NOT know any better. This includes most all politician, by the way...a number probably approaching 100%.

    Saying that the "...Joint European Torus celebrates 100,000 pulses..." is entirely analogous to the claim of someone trying to sell you a used computer, and proceeding to emphasize how little it has been used, by saying, "...and the computer's clock only has 100,000 cycles on it...".

    1. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
      FAIL

      You appear to be dribbling...

      "Entirely analogous"? These words do not mean what you think they mean.

      Nobody is trying to sell the JET by saying it hasn't done many pulses.

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