A road map that indicates how the energy of the stars , or fusion energy, can be added to the European grid by year 2050, was released by the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA).
Detailed review of the current status of fusion research, identification of open issues and development of new programmes and research will be the most important factors leading to accomplishment of the goal.
Fusion energy has been long studied due to the fact that it is unlimited, safe and does not produce greenhouse gas emissions or radioactive waste. Current initiatives to produce fusion energy, however, have not been successful mainly because the amount of input energy has always been higher than the output.
In this respect, a new international experiment, ITER, is about to start operating in year 2020. It is funded by Europe and six other nations and it is expected to be the first project that will produce net surplus of fusion power.
Considering that China is already launching a programme that will supply fusion electricity by 2050, Europe will have to catch up by pursuing a pragmatic approach. According to Dr Francesco Romanelli, EFDA Leader, the road map indicates how this will happen at a reasonable cost.
The road map has identified three important periods and deadlines. These include the European Research Framework Programme, Horizon 2020, the years 2021-2030 and the time between 2031 and 2050. ITER is expected to achieve the milestones and therefore it is believed to be the key to Europe’s success.
In the first period up to year 2020, the resources for Horizon 2020 will be dedicated to ITER. As part of the second period, ITER will be used to its full potential and a construction of a demonstration power plant (DEMO) , which will supply fusion energy to the grid, will be prepared for. The construction of DEMO is the focus during the third period until 2050.
The construction of ITER is already generating a turnover of nearly 6 billion euros. However, it is important that the industry takes responsibility for DEMO after its successful operational start.
Or maybe we’ll power the grid with unicorn farts and wishful thinking. It’s about as likely. Back here in reality land, thorium has some potential and working reactors have been built. So, rather than hoping and praying for fusion, perhaps good old fission will do.