Important fusion energy record results at Joint European Torus (JET) were announced in February. Fusion, the process that powers stars like our sun, promises an inherently safe, near-limitless clean electricity source for the long term, using small amounts of fuel that can be sourced worldwide from inexpensive materials. The fusion process brings together atoms of light elements like hydrogen at high temperatures to form helium and release tremendous energy as heat, which can then be converted into electricity.
The record 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy was produced at JET by researchers from the EUROfusion consortium of experts, students and staff from across Europe, co-funded by the European Commission, including two members from my research group at Barcelona Supercomputing Center. The energy was released in plasma discharge 99971 which lasted about 10 seconds, and would be enough to boil a barrel of water.
This achievement on JET, the largest and most powerful operational tokamak in the world at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) site in Oxford, almost triples the previous fusion energy record of 21.7 megajoules set there in 1997. It comes as part of a dedicated experimental campaign designed by EUROfusion to test over two decades’ worth of advances in fusion and optimally prepare for the start of the international ITER project. The record and the scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for ITER, the larger and more advanced version of JET. ITER is a fusion research project based in the south of France. Supported by seven members – China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA – ITER aims to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.