back to article Joint European Torus more than doubles fusion record with 59 megajoules

Scientists and engineers running the Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Oxford have announced a record-breaking 59 megajoules of heat energy from fusion, more than double the previous record achieved by JET. The 59 megajoules was achieved over a five-second period in which JET averaged a fusion power of around 11 megawatts …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MegaJoules? Watts?

    What's the Register's unit of energy these days? Greg's Steakbake warmed from fridge to eating temperature?

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

      I believe that this is the official list.

      https://www.theregister.com/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

        So energy would be Lg2 Badger / s2 and power would be Lg2 Badger / s3 .

      2. Alan Bourke

        Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

        I don't see the larger units such as swimming pools, double decker buses and Wembley Stadiums.

        1. Crypto Monad Silver badge

          Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

          A Mars Bar has 960 KJ.

          59 MJ is what you would get from eating (or burning) 61 Mars Bars. With no neutrons emitted.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

          I don't see the larger units such as swimming pools, double decker buses and Wembley Stadiums.

          These are not large units: are tiny weeny units.

          You want large unit: large unit is the GW150914, often known as the 'LIGO'. This supplies unit of energy which is approx 5.5E41 mars bars if previous figure for mars bar is correct. GW150914 unit of power is about 3.7E43 mars bars / second. Is many mars bars any way you look at it.

    2. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

      The BBC's units of energy are boiled kettles. JET has produced a fairly piffling 60 of them.

      But, as someone who used to work there, I can tell you this is not really news. JET is already the world's biggest operational fusion reactor so they can easily set the record. And it is very soon going to be decommissioned, sadly, so it doesn't matter anymore if they break it. They just "turned it up to 11".

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

        I'm trying to work out how they got to that figure. The specific capacity of water is 4.2 KJ per kilo per kelvin. At STP, 1kg == 1 litre. Assuming the water starts at room temperature (20°C) and is raised to boiling point at sea level (100°C), that is enough energy to heat 175.6L of water (59,000,000 / 4,200 / 80). If that's 60 kettles, then the BBC is heating 2.92L of water in each, which is a pretty full kettle. I think mine holds 1.8L, and as any fule kno, you only boil the amount of water you need, because heating water is expensive (4.2KJ/KL expensive).

        Maybe they could save a bit on the license fee by only boiling the amount they need for one pot at a time? 500Ml will make a couple of mugs of tea, so this is enough energy to make about 700 mugs. That's almost a week's worth in my household...

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

          You are slacking.

          I once went on a trip to Le Mans with 4 friends - I don’t drink tea.

          We were there for 5 days during which they almost emptied a bag of 1000 teabags about 40 cups per day each. Honestly every 30 minutes they were brewing up….

        2. notyetanotherid

          Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

          I suspect that cold water straight from the mains is at around the 10°C mark, which would bring the BBC kettle size down to around 2.6l.

          Then you would need to account for the heat loss to the walls of the kettle and surrounding air.

          And the energy required to drive out the dissolved atmospheric gases in the water.

          And the latent heat of vaporization for the steam produced before the rest of the water reaches boiling...

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

            Yeah, fair enough, those are things I didn't consider.

            I picked 20°C as the starting temperature. "Room temperature" is typically defined as 298K, which is 25°C, I've made an assumption here that the source temperature of the water is going to be somewhere between 0°C and this. It's going to depend a lot on a number of things, such as the season, and whether your cold water pipes are lagged, run alongside your central heating, whether your cold water is held in a roof tank, etc.

            A typical kettle is apparently 80-90% efficient; I'm assuming this relates to heat lost from the body of the kettle.

            Compared to the heat capacity of water, the amount of energy to drive out dissolved gases is minimal, and dissolved gas content will typically be low in a domestic supply. This is a more complex one to work out in detail, as different solutes will have different heats of dissolution (some even dissolve endothermically). We should also consider other solutes here as well, such as calcium and magnesium salts, but again, the energy requirements to precipitate them next to raising the temperature of the volume of water are minimal and can probably be disregarded.

            As for the latent heat of vaporisation - a decent kettle will stop as soon as the water starts boiling. This might look like it is producing a lot of steam, but due to the large volume increase, it's going to look like a lot more than it is. Probably well under 0.1% of the volume of water being heated.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MegaJoules? Watts?

        But, as someone who used to work there,

        I made some parts for JET back in the 90s. Just some parabolic waveguides. No idea if they are still in use

  2. Jedit Silver badge
    Joke

    "Despite the paroxysms of Brexit gripping the UK..."

    "... JET has continued to demonstrate the ability of scientists to work together even if lawmakers won't."

    Are we sure about that? The director general is a Bigot.

  3. This is not a drill

    But it's hardly the Mr Fusion unit I need to power my flying time car.

    1. zuckzuckgo

      I'd be satisfied if it could reliably power my coffee maker, hopefully before I am no longer able to drink coffee.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Sadly, current technology seems to be indicating that if you want it running long term, ie more than 5 seconds, it needs to be much, much bigger. Mr Fusion looks unpossible with what we know now.

      Unless there's multiple breakthroughs, I don't think we'll see super-cooled magnets creating containment fields for 100 million C plasma in a portable unit very soon.

      1. dajames

        Unless there's multiple breakthroughs, I don't think we'll see super-cooled magnets creating containment fields for 100 million C plasma in a portable unit very soon.

        Methinks breakthroughs are the last thing one wants in a plasma containment field?

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "it needs to be much, much bigger"

        Star sized, perhaps

      3. Yes Me Silver badge

        ZETA

        Yes, fusion energy has been 10 or 20 years in the future since ZETA in 1954.

        Thorium-based fission has a better chance of providing safe energy:

        https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/how-a-swiss-start-up-wants-to-reinvent-nuclear-energy/47298052.

  4. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "The construction of a prototype fusion energy plant, producing net energy, is expected to be complete in the 2040 timeframe"

    That's cutting it a bit fine if we're going to be carbon neutral by 2050.

    Wouldn't it be funny if we finally get fusion working and everybody goes, "Nah, we've got it covered. Wind. Solar. Hydro. Tidal. Geothermal. HV lines from the Sahara, lots of batteries and these fission reactors we're locked into paying for to 2099. We don't actually need fusion now. Thanks, all the same..."

    1. thondwe

      Lookup...

      Lookup, the answer's staring you in the face (weather permitting)!

      Much as to appreciate there's a lot of clever engineering and science going into this, you do have to wonder if it will be some completely different solution which eventually delivers practical fusion or other power solutions make it irrelevant?

      1. Jim Mitchell
        Linux

        Re: Lookup...

        Lookup, the answer's staring you in the face (weather permitting)!

        I am interested in your birds as power plants proposal and would like to know more!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I am interested in your birds as power plants proposal and would like to know more!

          Oh, good grief!

          Surely, on an IT site, you should know they are actually referring to power from the "cloud" :-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lookup...

        >weather permitting

        I take it you don't live in the UK?

    2. Andrew Kaluzniacki

      I think there is a chance of this, and there maybe some competition with newer generation fission reactors, but I suspect if this gets done, we will find a way to use the energy - maybe CO2 sequestration plants!

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      There are lots of situations where fusion will make more sense than the alternatives, plus it might allow us to suck more of that CO2 back in.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        We don't know how much fusion will cost to build and to run. We don't know it's characteristics. (Will it be easily "turn off and onable" or will it, in practice, be more suited to base load?) And we don't know how much the alternatives will have advanced. (Supercaps to the rescue!)

        The one thing you can say is sunk costs will likely prevent us replacing what we have already built. We will sweat the existing assets and when they retire then we might consider fusion. My original comment was tongue in cheek, but it could be the Betamax of energy generation.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Cost of Fusion

          We do know that the cost to build a fusion reactor big enough to stand even a small chance of actually working would be orders of magnitude more than a fission plant of a similar capacity.. The last 50 years have taught us that.

          However, it certainly would be easily "turn off and on-able" as you put it. There is no very little decay heat to worry about, and no self-sustaining chain reactions. At least not in the plasma itself. The machine still has to be very big, still has to boil water, and has a lot of thermal mass. So maybe more suited to baseload as you say.

          But fusion will never work for two reasons: 1. Because it has to be so big. We're talking about components weighing 80 tons that need to be moved around by robots for maintenance (in the current DEMO designs). And that's when they are not filled with liquid lithium-lead primary coolant. 2: Because the energy has to be transferred across a vacuum, from the plasma to the walls, by sheer intensity of neutron flux. Neutrons destroy matter by turning it into unstable isotopes of itself. So the only way to avoid making the whole machine into a radioactive mess is to make it out of low atomic number metals like lithium (too soft) or beryllium (too rare and highly toxic). No material on earth can withstand the 10MW/m2 of neutron flux that would be needed for a gigawatt-scale fusion plant.

          I think if we had spent a bit less time and money on the pipe-dream that is fusion, and more on better fission designs, then we would be in a much better place.

          The reactor that I think is most exciting though, is the subcritical fission reactor (aka fusion/fission hybrid), which uses a controllable neutron source (which can be a very small, very cheap 'fusor') to create the neutrons for a fission reactor. There is no 'chain reaction' necessary. The big advantage of these designs is that they don't require enrichment (and so cannot be used as a fig leaf for weapons development) and can use spent fuel from other reactors - most fission reactors only consume about 3% of the fuel before it is considered spent.

          Because the reaction is subcritical there is no chance of a runaway. And it is extremely easy to turn it on and off, and adapt it to different load conditions, by varying the neutron intensity. It's not as fast to react as a gas turbine, but faster than a standard fission reactor because there is no chain reaction. It should be as fast as a traditional coal, oil or biomass-fired power plant.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Cost of Fusion

            Yup. But there's also a lot of research into D-T and p-B fusion to reduce the neutron problem. Or for proton-Boron, produce charged particles instead. Then easier to turn protons into electricity, with just a couple of issues to solve, like needing rather high temperature and pressure. Life would be simpler if there was an easy way to wrangle neutrons.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Alien

          Fortunately the base load / adjustable load problem is solved but people do not realise this yet.

          We very definitely are going to have to sequester vast amounts of CO2 now, and the only way to do this which is not stupid is to drive some reaction backwards to turn CO2 into some stable thing. (Whole 'pump it underground' idea is fucking stupid cretin thing: idiot 'green' idiots worry about nuclear waste which is quite dangerous maybe hundreds of years and a little bit dangerous for maybe some thousands of years perhaps, and there are many thousand tonnes of it. Well, CO2 pumped underground is dangerous for ever, and there we need to pump maybe billions of tonnes of it there ... yeah, no.). Driving reaction backwards requires much energy, is problem.

          But wait, nuclear power, base load. Run nuclear power plant flat out all the time as it likes to be. At times of high demand all power from plant goes into grid. At times of low or no demand power from plant goes into driving energy into CO2 sequestration system which can be ramped up and down as you like. Is really nice solution. More base load power is exactly what we need because we can just drive the CO2 sequestration with all the surplus.

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Yes, exactly. But I bet that the resulting compound will be highly useful as fuel. How do you stop people using it as such, when the economics clearly says that they should?

            And Now, what to do with all these Biomass plants that are burning trees and/or food for energy, effectively undoing sequestration?

            Sadly, if you ask the IEA, they still believe in the madness of Biomass..

            I suspect that if you "Follow the money" you would find that the anti-nuclear lobby leads back to the fossil fuel industry. :(

    4. yogidude

      While I laud your optimism for carbon neutrality. I reckon fusion will be important for next gen space travel. In interstellar space the only viable power source is one which travels with you. Fission reactors will only last a few decades. So the thing that powers propulsion and life support has to be fusion using interstellar hydrogen. Maybe not the original problem the tokamak was envisaged to solve. But there are plenty of examples of discoveries and technologies that ended up being used for completely different purposes from that which they were originally conceived for. The internet being a prime example.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        ...fusion using interstellar hydrogen...

        Unlikely to be viable. The interstellar medium has a density of about 1 hydrogen atom per cc so if you were thinking of a Bussard scoop it's have to be huge to collect much hydrogen.

        The reactor needs deuterium and tritium, the tritium is surprisingly easy, use the shitload of neutrons the reaction spits out to convert lithium to helium and tritium, deuterium is the problem - there's not likely to be much to scoop up.

        The mass of a few tonnes of deuterium would probably be lower than that of the collector and processing equipment and that's before you factor in the massive amount of energy a Bussard collector would consume.

        Collectors would probably be more useful for gathering reaction mass than for fuel.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Did a bit of rough maths:

          1g of fusion fuel will liberate roughly 7x10⁹ joules. (In a hypothetical but impossible perfect reactor - in reality the reactor itself will use a significant proportion of the power generated).

          Apollo needed 2.9x10¹¹ joules to get the ¼million miles to the moon which works out to 41g fusion equivalent.

          Yes most of that was used for take off but Apollo (and no disrespect is meant) was a poxy little tin can pottering along, an interstellar craft will have to big enough to comfortably house the crew and will need to accelerate for months to get to a decent velocity.

          Alpha Proxima is a bit over a 100 million times further away than the moon.

          Even if it just used 10g per lunar distance that's 1,000 tonnes of fuel just to get to Alpha Proxima.

          Interstellar travel by Newtonian propulsion is a non-starter, we need some new physics that can work directly on space/time if we're ever to get out there.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Boffin

            Probably you should read about rocket equation. Energy is not a problem: reaction mass and exhaust velocity (specific impulse) is.

            1. DJO Silver badge

              I know about that one, it only makes things worse as you also need allow for energy to to carry a load of reaction mass as well as fuel and the ship itself.

              Energy is most definitely a consideration as it's all there is to accelerate the reaction mass to propel the ship, conservation of energy dictates it'll take a minimum amount of energy to achieve a given amount of thrust irrespective of the source be it chemical or nuclear.

              I was just looking at the minimum energy requirements to get a craft from Sol to Alpha Proxima, as for how one would go about converting energy from a fusion reactor into thrust is a closed book at the moment. Can ion drives be scaled up to give a decent amount of thrust?

              This shows that the fuel requirements for interstellar travel even with fusion are prohibitive. If you bring Tsiolkovsky along it gets much much worse, thousands of tonnes of fuel and far more tonnes of reaction mass would be needed to accelerate up to (and decelerate down from at the other end) a likely interstellar speed cruising of around 0.8c to 0.9c (1.6667 to 2.3 time dilation).

              Also I know the ship would not be under thrust for the whole trip, about a year at each end accelerating or decelerating at about 0.75g would be needed, it could coast for the rest of the trip but the reactor would need to keep running the whole time to keep the ship running, they could also scoop while coasting to replenish reaction mass for the slow down and return trip.

              1. DJO Silver badge

                Did a bit more maths, this time just looking at kinetic energy:

                A ship with mass of 100 tonnes at 0.85c would possess kinetic energy of 3.24x10²¹ Joules.

                If everything was perfect with no loses (and the fuel was magically teleported to the ship) that would need 465,000 tonnes of fusion fuel, and the same to slow down at the other end. Nothing is perfect, 50% efficiency would be amazing so call it a nice round million tonnes of fuel.

                Tricky. Factor in the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation and the fuel requirements tend towards infinity. Even trickier.

                Going at 0.5c would use a lot less fuel but the dilation factor is only 1.15 so not really significant.

                For energy context, the Hiroshima bomb was about 1.5x10¹³ Joules

    5. MacroRodent
      Mushroom

      use of fusion

      I'm all for fusion energy research, very worthwhile even if results are always 50 years in the future. But let's not pretend it is going to be a real solution to climate change, which we must fix far earlier than by 2050, if we want to avoid a Mad Max scenario in a few decades.

      So yes, even in the best case (or even a tolerable case), it is going to be Wind, Solar, ... and fusion is just a cherry on the top, if it ever works.

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: use of fusion

        > we want to avoid a Mad Max scenario in a few decades.

        Which IPCC RPC model is that?

        ( You aren't a science denier, are you? )

        1. MacroRodent

          Re: use of fusion

          It's called hyperbole. Look it up (in a dictionary).

          In any, case we already have probably lost any change to limit warming to a nice 1.5 C, and most likely will break 2.0 C as well, given how most actual climate action is just nice speeches at conferences.

          https://climateactiontracker.org/global/temperatures/

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: use of fusion

            So far every prediction which has been achieved has been close to the "worst case scenario" which politicians of 40 years ago refused to consider as a possiblity

            This doesn't bode well for the future - and there are methane clathrate deposits bubbling out of the siberian continental shelf - whilst politicians are deflecting and saying this doesn't add much to what's being emitted, the REAL danger is that it's destabilising the 20Gigatonnes that's still down there, making it more likely to come out in one big "Storegga" event. All it takes is a reasonable earthquake to kick things off

            Even that's survivable. The problem is that it cause a chain reaction and drive atmospheric CO2 levels past 800ppm. Once that happens it's "Game over, complex life" and we have another permian-level extinction on our hands

            1. MacroRodent
              Unhappy

              Re: use of fusion

              Just happened to come across this: "UK set to ‘torpedo climate action’ by approving six new North Sea oil and gas fields" https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/oil-gas-fields-net-zero-b2010060.html

              And that is not an isolated example, similar business-as-usual fossil fuel exploitation still happens around the world.

              We are doomed.

              1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: use of fusion

                It's almost as if adults realise that gas is necessary today and that by leaving it in the ground and buying it elsewhere, we'd just be pretending.

                1. MacroRodent

                  Re: use of fusion

                  That kind of "adult" thinking inevitably leads to burning all fossil fuel reserves. Result would be a warming of 6.4 C - 9.5 C according to one study (https://phys.org/news/2016-05-fossil-fuels-earth.html), and that is ignoring the effect of released methane. It would be seriously apocalyptic.

                  1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    One study.

                    Is that an IPCC RPC model, or are you looking for fringe science to find the most exciting outcome?

                    It's not an IPCC RPC model, is it?

                    You people are worse than the "Only God can change the climate" people.

                    1. MacroRodent

                      Re: use of fusion

                      That was just one paper, true. Picked with google. But the IPCC Sixth Assesment report from last year is about as grim for the scenario with largest emissions they considered, SSP5-8.5, which I guess represents the "let's burn all fossils" case. These reports can be found at https://www.ipcc.ch/

                      IPCC is quite conservative in its reports, being under heavy political pressure from various governements to tone down its warnings.

                      1. codejunky Silver badge

                        Re: use of fusion

                        @MacroRodent

                        "IPCC is quite conservative in its reports, being under heavy political pressure from various governements to tone down its warnings."

                        The IPCC are the ones who claimed the Himalayan glaciers would be by 2035 based on an off the cuff comment by a scientist who had absolutely no desire to stand by the hyperbolic comment. As well as other failings calling into question their rigorous 'science'.

                        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
                          Facepalm

                          Re: use of fusion

                          To be fair, they publicly apologised for that "prediction".

                          The idea that they are watering down their reports is hilarious though.

                          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                            Re: use of fusion

                            Yup.

                            IPCC's part of the UN. Reports are literature reviews to give the 30,000 people who go to the COP jollies something to talk about. Like why taxpayer's should give the UN $100bn a year to win the War on Weather.

                            No conflicts of interest there.

                            Also a bit predictable given one of the early architects of the IPCC was a Canadian, Maurice Strong. He was an oil man who became the first director of the UN's Environment Program. Then had a spot of bother around a $1m cheque given to him during the UN's oil for food debacle.

                            But such is politics, and the joys of the UN. One of the reasons I became a sceptic was due to climate 'scientists' making policy recommendations waaay outside their area of expertise. Hence why we've ended up with pre-industrial wind power, and less money invested in fission and fusion.

                      2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
                        Mushroom

                        Re: use of fusion

                        8.5 requires that we go back in time and undo the work already done.

                        It requires all the world that switched from coal to gas in the 80's and 90's to reverse that process.

                        That isn't happening. 8.5 is not a realistic scenario. China building coal as fast as it is isn't enough to make 8.5 viable.

                        7.5 is also considered to be a bit of fringe case. 4.5 is where you should be looking.

                  2. codejunky Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    @MacroRodent

                    "It would be seriously apocalyptic."

                    Are people still believing this nonsense? I thought this daft rubbish was discredited enough for all but the insane to believe we were doomed.

                  3. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    > It would be seriously apocalyptic.

                    Is that hyperbole again or are you you denying the science now?

                  4. LybsterRoy Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    I'm going to believe the future predictions of climatologists when their computer programs can be used to match historical reality. OH yes, and as with good science, they all give the same answer not a bloody great range.

                    ps: yes the climate is changing - I do know that

                    1. MacroRodent

                      Re: use of fusion

                      The older predictions do match pretty well:

                      https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2943/study-confirms-climate-models-are-getting-future-warming-projections-right/

                      quote: "The team compared 17 increasingly sophisticated model projections of global average temperature developed between 1970 and 2007, including some originally developed by NASA, with actual changes in global temperature observed through the end of 2017. The observational temperature data came from multiple sources, including NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) time series, an estimate of global surface temperature change.

                      The results: 10 of the model projections closely matched observations. Moreover, after accounting for differences between modeled and actual changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other factors that drive climate, the number increased to 14. The authors found no evidence that the climate models evaluated either systematically overestimated or underestimated warming over the period of their projections."

                      Sorry, no relief there. I would not bet against modern climate models.

                  5. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    Another study by Mark Lynas reckoned it could be 11C. Or the IPCC reckons it'll be around 1.3C per doubling of CO2. To get more warming, they need positive feedbacks that don't seem observable outside of simulations.

                    But such is politics. The UK has 50+ years of gas reserves before we run out, or find more. We may crack fusion before then. People have suggested we use the energy to extract CO2. People have also suggested we steam reform CH4 to produce H, which we could burn instead of methane. Or we crack water for hydrogen instead.

                    But then there's chemical engineering, like Fischer-Tropsch and Sabattier processes that can turn CO2 and H2O into CH4. Germany made synthetic fuel this way during WW2, South Africa did the same during apartheid sanctions.

                    So assuming reliable, affordable energy, we can always make gas. But the higher the input cost, the more expensive the end product. Which is why we're having our inflation crisis, because energy is an input cost to pretty much everything.

                    (Also where 'renewables' rather suck. Start a bunch of manufacturing processes, wind drops, time to un-gunk your factory while waiting for the wind to pick up again.)

          2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

            Re: use of fusion

            Interesting graph - do you have a link to one which starts say 5,000 years ago when it was warmer than today?

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: use of fusion

        Wind and solar are absolutely the worst case. Neither produce affordable, reliable power. The current energy crisis demonstrates this, so low wind, windmills don't spin, so more gas needed to run proper turbines. And the solution according to Harrabin, the Bbc's chief luddite is to reward failure and throw even more money at the 'renewables' lobby.

        As for 2050, that's just marketing. There's no scientific basis behind that date. Avoiding a Mad Max future will be easier. In the UK, the last V8 is due to be sold in 2035, at which point the Mad Max franchise will be re-imagined as the Last Cybertruck. Or possibly the first given production delays. But kinda fun to re-imagine Mad Max and other post-apocalyptic tales in an EV future.

        1. MacroRodent
          Mushroom

          Re: use of fusion

          Actually, I'm a fan of nuclear power.

          But renevables can be made to work just fine, if or when the energy storage problem is cracked. Ought to be easier than fusion energy.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: use of fusion

            Renewables can slightly outproduce existing carbon-sourced electrical generation.

            Electrical generation only accounts for 1/3 of carbon emissions in developed countries

            Getting rid of the OTHER carbon emissions requires a lot more electrical production requirement that renewables can't be extended to fill

            No, paving deserts with solar cells or windmills is not a viable solution - and for the UK, nor is relying on European generation. There are hard practical limits on transmission distances and underwater transmission power maximums

          2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: use of fusion

            This is the fundamental problem with 'renewables'.

            So offshore wind costs say, £160MWh vs nuclear's £90MWh. Nuclear, or most thermal will generate MW 24x7x365. Wind obviously is weather dependent and intermittent, with lulls that can last days, and coincide with freezing weather. So high demand, and wind being useless.

            Current solution is to fire up gas (or coal) to keep our lights on. Net Zero just makes this worse by increasing electricity demand. The 'renewables' lobby doesn't care because it generates billions in subsidies that are added to our energy bills, directly in the form of charges to consumer's bills, and indirectly in wholesale costs.

            Storing electricity is very expensive, and assumes a surplus to store. And it's not being used to produce hydrogen. It's also only 'neccessary' because of the fundamental problems of 'renewables'. Those also increase the costs of grid stabilisation.

            If the UK market was based on firm delivery, ie contracted to supply say 2GW, nobody (given a choice) would buy wind because you'd have to pay the windmill cost, stand-by, and/or storage costs. But sadly we have an insane energy policy. Just look at the demand for windfall taxes on gas producers. Yey, let's make gas even more expensive!

            Obvious solution would be to figure out why our ancestors dumped wind for steam, and follow their example. No more subsidies for wind, because that's 1,000yr old technology, and the fundamental problems are unchanged. Wrong weather, no power. And rather than lumping more tax on gas, we should be incentivising gas exploration and production in and around the UK. It's crazy that politicians don't seem to understand that the obvious solution to high gas prices is to increase production and reduce reliance on imports. Especially as being self-sufficient helped the UK avoid previous oil crises.

            1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

              Re: use of fusion

              "And rather than lumping more tax on gas, we should be incentivising gas exploration and production in and around the UK."

              Nobody is stopping the energy firms re-investing their windfall dividends. But it appears they are only going to hand it out to shareholders.

              In that sense, a tax on profits might make them consider whether ploughing the money back into the business and accruing future profits would be a better investment than giving it to the taxman. So I would argue a windfall tax is more likely to drive investment than letting them siphon off the cash. But truth be told, they'd probably just grumble a lot and take the hit - in which case a windfall tax allows us to put the money to better use than a fifth home and a second yacht .

              1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

                Re: use of fusion

                Just because they haven't spent it on something other than shareholder payouts doesn't mean they aren't going to. Most of the traditional (ie not the mob who went bankrupt) are looking at the renewables sector and moving into it.

            2. DJO Silver badge

              Re: use of fusion

              Energy supply is an integrated market, there's space for multiple electricity generation and storage systems working together to provide a reliable supply.

              Nobody is suggesting we switch to only renewables, that's just a stupid straw man put out by vested interests.

              So when there is plenty of wind we only need that and the nuclear base supply, when there is less wind we may need to import power or fire up a gas generator or two.

              Just because wind does not run 24/7 that's not a reason to dismiss it. And it does blow 24/7 somewhere on or off these islands, we are never completely becalmed.

              Also your cost estimate for offshore wind is well out of date, now it's a bit over half that, more or less parity with nuclear but without the colossal decommissioning costs which are conveniently left out of the nuclear MWhr cost.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: use of fusion

                Decommissioning costs are an issue for 'renewables' as well, especially if full site remediation is required. Removing and disposing of thousands of tons of used windmills is expensive, especially if that includes the massive foundations. Hence why a lot just get abandoned to become someone else's problem. Then again, if you cover land in windmills or solar, you can convert it from agricultural to brown field making housing development more lucrative.

                But the costs haven't really reduced, and for the UK, a lot will continue to increase thanks to idiotic politicians granting 20+ year indexed contracts. Offshore wind drives up inflation, so the 'renewables' lobby gets paid even more. Sure, there have been some CfD contracts with lower strike prices, but they have no real effect on bills.

                But that's all part of thw 'renewables' looby long con. We're told wind is cheap and bountiful, yet our bills just went up by 50%. Surely if the 'renewables' lobby was telling the truth, our bills should be falling and we can scrap the subsidies.

                1. DJO Silver badge

                  Re: use of fusion

                  Are you being deliberately disingenuous or just parroting what you read elsewhere?

                  Decommissioning nuclear site will cost at least 2 orders of magnitude more per acre than any windmill or solar plant. Also the amount of nuclear waste found in windmills and solar is zero, some hazardous stuff but all recyclable (in theory) unlike nuclear where the ongoing costs of containment will continue for generations.

                  Agriculture can and does coexist with wind and solar plants very successfully, not something you can say for any kind of thermal power generation.

                  Energy bills have not reduced because fossil fuels are getting more expensive, recently Russia raised the cost of gas so UK wholesale gas has gone from about 30p a therm this time last year to over £4.50 a therm in December, now dropped to £1.86 a therm but still very volatile. That's why fuel costs have risen.

                  I guarantee that without renewables fuel bills would have increased earlier and by a greater amount.

                  When they scrap the subsidies for nuclear, gas, oil & coal, then we'll talk about the subsidies the renewables get.

                  1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    -- I guarantee that without renewables fuel bills would have increased earlier and by a greater amount. --

                    And my crystal ball says that if we'd stuck to fossil fuel and nuclear the Russians couldn't have increased the gas price because people wouldn't have bought. The current renewables approach made it impossible not to buy.

                    1. DJO Silver badge

                      Re: use of fusion

                      You (obviously don't) understand that Gas IS a fossil fuel?

                  2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    Et tu, oh gullible one. Thing about sceptics (and science) is having to think. Not just parrot pre-digested thoughts from lobbyists.

                    That means spotting problems, or just bs. So I suspect you're under estimating nuclear decommissioning costs. But such is politics.

                    So out of curiosity. Hinkley C is around 400 acres to produce 3.2GW, or say 28.032TWh for a full year.

                    How many acres of windmills would you need?

                    How much gas would you need?

                    How do you propose recycling windmill blades?

                    And why isn't nuclear considered low carbon?

                    But such is physics and engineering. Comparing energy dense fuel like uranium to a variable and diffuse fuel like wind is hardly fair. Especially when nuclear is shrinking in size, whilst to increase windmill power means bigger windmills. Which then means more area needed, especially to avoid turbulence.

                    But all that factors into lifetime costs. Turbulence can damage blades, which then need replacing. Old ones end up in landfill because they're hard to recycle. Larger windmills need more materials like steel and concrete, increasing their 'carbon debt'. And there's general lifecycle comparisons, ie Hinkley C's expected to run 60yrs or more, offshore windmills might need replacing every 20yrs or less.

              2. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: use of fusion

                @DJO

                "Just because wind does not run 24/7 that's not a reason to dismiss it. And it does blow 24/7 somewhere on or off these islands, we are never completely becalmed."

                Recently Europe has had a drastic fall in wind, going pretty calm and vastly reducing wind output. Amusingly it seems that to believe in wind power and climate change is to hold to opposing views as one theoretical consequence of climate change is a 'global stilling' where wind speeds fall-

                https://www.ft.com/content/d53b5843-dbe0-4724-8adf-75c66127ea80

                1. DJO Silver badge

                  Re: use of fusion

                  One (extremely unlikely) possibility out of dozens of possible outcomes.

                  What is your agenda, you reject evidence and promote talking points from vested interests that have almost no bearing on reality.

                  Do you want more CO2, do you think climate change will have advantages?

                  1. codejunky Silver badge

                    Re: use of fusion

                    @DJO

                    "One (extremely unlikely) possibility out of dozens of possible outcomes."

                    MMCC co2 theory being right?

                    "What is your agenda, you reject evidence and promote talking points from vested interests that have almost no bearing on reality."

                    So you think its rejecting evidence to note the observed drop in wind which is required to rotate those monuments to a sky god? That the slowdown is considered as part of climate change (just as more/less wind/rain/snow/ice or anything is proof of it) has mp bearing on your version of reality that relies on monuments to a sky god? What is your agenda?

                    "Do you want more CO2, do you think climate change will have advantages?"

                    To the first question I dont care, to the second yes. As the cold is known to be far more deadly to the survival of life on earth than heat yes. As a developed species we also have the ability to mitigate less hospitable aspects of the planet which is why as a species we are far better at surviving than ever in human history so far.

                    But go on put on your sandwich board, stand on the street corner and shout the end is nigh.

                    1. DJO Silver badge

                      Re: use of fusion

                      One day of reduced wind for every 10 to 20 of increased wind does not mean the overall wind is less.

                      If you think a warmer climate will be beneficial then you do not understand climate change at all and there is no point arguing with a closed mind.

                      Try reading some independent studies, not one financed by vested interests which from what you write must be the only stuff you read.

                      Look at the extreme weather events over the last 10 years and more importantly look at the severity trend over the same period. The damage caused by climate change runs into the trillions, any possible benefit will be dwarfed by many orders of magnitude by the harm.

                      1. codejunky Silver badge

                        Re: use of fusion

                        @DJO

                        "One day of reduced wind for every 10 to 20 of increased wind does not mean the overall wind is less."

                        One day? Its been reducing for decades-

                        https://ec.europa.eu/research-and-innovation/en/horizon-magazine/stilling-global-wind-speeds-slowing-1960

                        https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/are-low-wind-speeds-to-blame-for-britain-s-energy-crisis-

                        And its not stopping in one place its going calm far and wide which makes for little power. If you are in the UK (or Europe) you may have noticed a steep increase in energy costs, hell we even had to fire up coal to make up the shortfall. This is over winter, a season not a day.

                        "If you think a warmer climate will be beneficial then you do not understand climate change at all and there is no point arguing with a closed mind."

                        If you think a warmer climate isnt beneficial then you truly demonstrate a lack of clue. Warm and sunny is great for vegetation, habitats and wildlife. That of course would support the growing of crops. It reduces death from the cold which is 20x more dangerous than heat. If you consider that to be from a closed mind then yours is walled off good and proper.

                        "Try reading some independent studies, not one financed by vested interests which from what you write must be the only stuff you read."

                        Aka so far you disagree but cant refute in any way so make an unverifiable claim that I am reading the wrong stuff. Even when I post you links that you obviously struggle to refute.

                        "Look at the extreme weather events over the last 10 years and more importantly look at the severity trend over the same period. The damage caused by climate change runs into the trillions, any possible benefit will be dwarfed by many orders of magnitude by the harm."

                        Is this where any weather calm/extreme hot/cold is proof of climate change even if it refuses to do what the scientists say? And your claim of so much damage dwarfing any benefits assumes god like powers and a crystal ball that makes me laugh. The costs of mitigating climate change has so far been high and show no sign of getting lower. In fact years ago fools were trying to claim energy would be cheaper because of all this free wind and sun, they too denied reality. All of this knowing we dont have the technology to deal with the 'problem' and if we did will require decades before we know if any of it worked.

                        But you keep shouting from the street wearing a sandwich board.

                      2. codejunky Silver badge

                        Re: use of fusion

                        @DJO

                        You seem to have excess faith in the MMCC Co2 religion (all bow now). Maybe this will help-

                        https://extinctionclock.org/

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: use of fusion

                    DJO "What is your agenda, you reject evidence and promote talking points from vested interests that have almost no bearing on reality."

                    Whatever the Tufton Street message is: There are plenty of paid shills and unpaid dupes to parrot it.

              3. LybsterRoy Silver badge

                Re: use of fusion

                -- Nobody is suggesting we switch to only renewables, --

                Unfortunately they are.

            3. LybsterRoy Silver badge

              Re: use of fusion

              I feel sad when the downvotes appear for a rational and well reasoned post. It is only one but I've upvoted you.

          3. LybsterRoy Silver badge

            Re: use of fusion

            Not whilst they're still messing around with things like bladders on the sea bed.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: use of fusion

          >But kinda fun to re-imagine Mad Max and other post-apocalyptic tales in an EV future.

          Given petrol's rather short shelf life Mad-Max would have to be using diesel, or perhaps bicycles.

          Somehow Mr Max on a 1.2L diesel VW Polo or a Dutch old-lady bike doesn't quite compute

          1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

            Re: use of fusion

            Nah - petrol has a short shelf life for optimum performance but will still work until it evaporates. Just look at the difficulty Max has in starting the engine sometime, and the odd cloud of smoke. Says it all really.

        3. LybsterRoy Silver badge

          Re: use of fusion

          -- But kinda fun to re-imagine Mad Max and other post-apocalyptic tales in an EV future. --

          How can anyone downvote this? I love the image of Max trying to steal a tanker load of electricity!

  5. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge
    Joke

    At this rate, commercial fusion power could be as little as 30 years away.

    1. EBG

      just like

      it always has been

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wow, only 10-15 short years after full adoption of IPv6!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge
        Coat

        And at the same time as Linux on the desktop

  6. TWB

    Idle speculation

    Let's assume humans manage to get fusion to work and we generate electricity from its heat - I wonder if we find 50 years after that the next problem we have is too much heat which we cannot get rid of - leading to a slightly different type of global warming.... (all heat engines generate excess heat)

    Maybe we will need huge radiators which disperse the heat at into space.

    I'm still excited about fusion.

    1. zuckzuckgo

      Re: Idle speculation

      There is active development of systems to radiate excess heat into outer space using infrared wavelengths between 8 and 13 micrometres where the atmosphere is most transparent.

      Used as a roofing material it could absorb solar energy and radiate it back out to into the space, reducing the need for air conditioning.

      May also be handy for space craft that have trouble getting rid of excess heat.

      https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03911-8

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Efficiency...

    Even if you get more than you put in it could still require absolutely shed loads of lithium to keep it going for relatively little power out and there's no recycling the lithium.

    Big step forward though, finally looks like it might be plausible.

  8. batfink

    Not enough information

    Can we have some detail on Power In vs Power Out please? This is the crucial piece, not "we've doubled the output and done it for longer".

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not enough information

      From the article and the BBC article, it's a proof of concept for the new internal plating to be used at ITER. They were limited to a max of 5 seconds run time because their magnets don't have the internal cooling that the much larger ITER will use. It's also a matter of scale, which they say have evidence for to go net positive.

      From the Beeb article:

      "But there is solid evidence that this deficit can be overcome in the future as the plasmas are scaled up. ITER's toroidal vessel volume will be 10 times that of JET. It's hoped the French lab will get to breakeven. The commercial power plants that come after should then show a net gain that could be fed into electricity grids."

    2. Richard Tobin

      Re: Not enough information

      A practical fusion generator will have to achieve Q > 1, but it will also have to achieve it at high powers for long periods. There is no one "crucial piece".

      Achieving Q > 1 was not the aim of this experiment - JET is too small, so it loses heat fast.

    3. Annihilator

      Re: Not enough information

      They have two 500MW fly-wheels to run the experiment, so P-in vs P-out isn't worth measuring yet...

      To be fair though, they need to run it bigger and longer, which JET can't do. 5 seconds is roughly the point where the electromagnets overheat - ITER is going to use a larger torus and supercooled electromagnets.

      JET has pretty much run to its limits, but has proven the longevity of the burn.

  9. Richard Tobin

    More megajoules

    The energy released - 59 megajoules - is equivalent to 14kg of TNT (The Guardian) or 60 kettle's worth of water (BBC). Both these are correct.

    Clearly a kilogram of TNT is a lot less exciting than I thought.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: More megajoules

      Clearly you are not a petrolhead with a need for speed :-)

    2. Annihilator

      Re: More megajoules

      I'm also disappointed to discover that I could only boil 4 kettles with a kg of TNT. I'd been managing to boil about 3 kettles, sometimes 3 with an extra mug, and wondered why I was going so far wrong...

    3. Wyrdness

      Re: More megajoules

      Sky News says "enough to power around 10,000 homes". I'm not sure how they're going to manage with only 60 kettles between them. I can imagine the headlines now: "Fusion Power Causes National Tea Crisis".

    4. Alan Bourke

      Re: More megajoules

      TNT is old hat. Not very energetic.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: More megajoules

        But very energetic in a short period of time

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: More megajoules

          TNT is destructive because of the volume gain from the gases it releases, not so much from the heat it produces.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: More megajoules

            And the rate with which it generates the gas, the rather wonderful term "brisance"

          2. adam 40 Silver badge

            Re: More megajoules

            So if it generated the gas all at zero Kelvin, then what?

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: More megajoules

              An ideal industrial explosive generates gas with as little heat as possible

              A big problem, especially underground, is the toxic chemicals produced by stuff being burned by explosives - you have to go to great lengths to avoid any plastics around a blast.

    5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: More megajoules

      I think being immersed in 175L of boiling water would do for you just as much as being on the receiving end of 14kg of TNT.

    6. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: More megajoules

      I think the trick with TNT is not to waste your time boiling kettles with it. But to use it to threaten people into making lots of tea for you, and as a side-effect, you can also demand biscuits. This also saves on washing up - or at least means that it's not you doing it.

      Oh, and it should be called TNTea...

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: More megajoules

        I wonder if Ordnance Labs or Beyond the Press could be persuaded to do this on their YT channels. Burning explosives can be a disposal method, although using them as fuel instead of FRH is generally frowned upon. Snag is fumes can cause splitting headaches, or a strong laxative effect if they end up in your tea.

  10. Bunker_MonkeyUK

    2040?

    Why 2040? Seriously they just reverse engineering and then building the reactor that powers that UAP recovered in the '40s and making it a little bigger, just so they can re-flog us the green dream?

    Little but little step by step....... disclosure is coming....

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: 2040?

      If they recovered it, it's not a UFO.

      (No, I won't use UAP when talking about likely UFOs, or at least "things" which appear to be objects rather than wisps of swamp gas. UAP is just the new "fad" for a term with a much wider application than the more specific "traditional" UFO.)

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: 2040?

        The UFO "that crashed at Roswell" is now just a UO.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: 2040?

          By now, it's probably just an O, if any of it remains, or it ever existed.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was fortunate enough to visit JET and walk around the tokamak doughnut and see the quartz window thru which they fired the laser to "ignite the plasma". They said at the time that Fusion would be 50 years away.

    This was back in 1985.

    Hopefully these new coatings and much more powerful magnets and also better computing control will help keep it on track.

    Ah, perhaps they should ape Marvel's Doctor Octopus and control the fusion process with robotic arms and most important of all, build it in a major population zone :D

    1. hammarbtyp

      I visited there in 81 and worked there as a placement student in 84.

      It was a fascinating place, more like a university than a workplace, but it is hard to realize that some people have worked their entire life to get to this point

  12. Binraider Silver badge

    Go to all the top engineers in their outfit and find out what is needed to speed things along. I am utterly convinced that this is the only solution to infinite demand, and it cannot come quickly enough.

  13. EBG

    really ?

    10MW isn't nearly industrial scale. Power plants (e.g. the EPR) work at about the GW level.

    Plus - industrial plants run 24/7. If it's taken 25 years to double the performance, we're looking at 10 sec operation in 2047 !

    There may be fantastic work being done at JET, but this press release is seriously underwhelming.

    1. hammarbtyp

      Re: really ?

      this is an engineering proof of concept. Once the engineering has been certified, in theory scaling up should be less of a challenge. The important thing is that theory has been proved so another obstacle has been removed to a full scale power station prototype.

      Once that has been proved the designs can be optimized and scaled

      This is a signpost not the final destination

      1. EBG

        Re: really ?

        Pure hand-waving. What's been proven ? In particular what's been proven now, compared with whatever was proven at the 50% lower performance 25 years ago ? Please do tell.

        Certified !? We're a long long way from any certifications.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: really ?

      You hear that loud whooshing sound? That's the entire point flying by over your head. Yes, it's very loud, because there's a lot of point that you've just managed to miss.

      1. EBG

        Re: really ?

        Did you think up that line all on your own ? Which facts given ATL I have missed out, then ?

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: really ?

          Well, for starters you've missed the point that JET is an experimental technology development system, not even a demonstration one, let alone a break-even proof of concept, and certainly not aimed at being something designed to reliably produce net energy output, as you seem to be implying.

          What is being reported here, is an experiment that has shown the reactor can be operated to give a higher output than previously. Admittedly, that's not necessarily very exciting, but that doesn't appear to be what you are whining about.

          I think that's the question you're asking. The phrase "Which facts given ATL I have missed out" doesn't actually parse. What do you mean by ATL? Are you trying to make yourself out to be all clever by throwing in random initialisations for things?

          1. EBG

            Re: really ?

            What's being reported is an improvement by a factor of 2 over a 25 year period. That factiod, per se, to me is underwhelming. But I guess you're easily impressed.

  14. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    It is an impressive achievement, both in terms of the science ... scientists ...

    JET is an engineering project, not a science one.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      To be fair, it's almost certainly a bit of both.

    2. Boothy

      Likely depends how you look at things, but their description implies JET is a science project, with lots of support from engineers and technical staff.

      EUROfusion: The JET facilities are collectively used by all European fusion laboratories under the EUROfusion consortium. About 350 scientists from EU countries (plus Switzerland, the UK and Ukraine), and more from around the globe, participate in JET experiments each year. CCFE is responsible for operating the facility for fusion researchers and for maintaining and upgrading it. This work is carried out under a contract between the European Commission and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (CCFE’s operator). This funds around 400 engineers and technical staff essential for operating and maintaining the device.

      CCFE scientists also play a full part in running experiments on JET within the integrated European research programme co-ordinated by EUROfusion.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2040, eh? I can hope to live to see that happen... :)

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