South Korea has initiated the development of a design for a fusion power demonstration reactor. The provisionally named Korean Demonstration Fusion Power Plant, K-DEMO, will be build in collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in New Jersey.
The project is planned to be fully completed by year 2030, with a plant built in Daejeon, under the leadership of the country’s National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI).
South Korea is already involved in two major international projects- Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (K-STAR) project and the ITER, where an experimental reactor is being built. K-DEMO, is going to bring Korea one step closer to the construction of commercial reactors, and it is going to be the first fusion plant that will contribute to the grid.
Stephen Dean, president of Fusion Power Associates, an advocacy group in Gaithersburg, Maryland, believes that constructing K-DEMO using their experience from the involvement in ITER, was a very smart decision.
K-DEMO is expected to generate around 1 billion watts of power for several weeks. This output will be much bigger than the anticipated one coming from ITER in the late 2020s.
Technologies such as K-DEMO were given a high priority by governmental officials in South Korea in 2012. The goal was to gain knowledge and construct commercial fusion power plant in the period between years 2022 and 2036, investing 1 trillion won (US$941 million ) in the project. New developments in this industry are expected to create almost 2,400 new jobs.
Experts in the field are convinced the project is feasible, especially considering the commitment of South Korea to the completion of the K-STAR project, even in times of financial crisis. Lee Gyung-Su, a research fellow at NFRI and a former chairman of the ITER Management Advisory Committee points out that such fusion reactor is very much needed in South Korea, because of the increasing population and power consumption.
The ITER project is being delayed due to increase in costs of operational systems, which encourages critics to doubt its finalization. Lee however emphasizes that the problems associated with ITER are mainly on management level, and such risks are taken into account. Thomas Cochran, a consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC, is convinced South Korea should emphasize on developing technologies that can reduce the impact on carbon emissions and climate change in a nearer-term.