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MIT reactor sets nuclear fusion record on the day it's closed down

Lucas Mearian | Oct. 19, 2016
Funding for an international fusion reactor signaled the end of MIT’s project

ITER fusion reactor 
An aerial view of the International Experimental Reactor (ITER), a tokamak fusion reactor under construction in France. The reactor will be approximately 800 times larger in volume than MIT's Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor.

Seven nations, including the U.S., have collaborated to build the ITER Tokamak in southern France. The ITER fusion chamber has a fusion radius of 6.5 meters, and its superconducting magnets would produce 11.8 Teslas of force.

The ITER reactor is about twice the size of the ARC and weighs 3,400 tons, making it 16 times as heavy as any previously manufactured fusion vessel. The reactor will be between 11 meters and 17 meters in size and will have a tokamak plasma radius of 6.2 meters, almost twice the ARC's 3.3-meter-radius.

The concept for the ITER project began in 1985, and construction began in 2013. It has an estimated price tag of $14 billion to $20 billion. Whyte, however, said the ITER will end up being vastly more expensive, $40 billion to $50 billion, based on "the fact that the U.S. contribution" is $4 billion to $5 billion, "and we are 9% partners."

iter vacuum overview no plasma 

The stainless steel vessel of the ITER tokamac reactor houses the fusion reactions and acts as the first line of containment against the super-heated plasma gas inside it. The plasma gas, contained by a strong magnetic field, never touches the metal of the containment barrier.

Additionally, ITER's timetable for completion is 2020, with full deuterium-tritium fusion experiments starting in 2027.

MIT's ARC reactor was projected to cost $4 billion to $5 billion and would have been completed in four to five years, according to Sorbom.

When completed, the ITER is expected to be the first fusion reactor to generate net power, but that power will not produce electricity; it will simply prepare the way for a reactor that can. 


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