2023-10-17 – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-67101176?at_medium=RSS&at_campaign=KARANGA

Raw: [The JET laboratory, the focus of European fusion experiments for decades, carries out its last test.] BBC HomepageSkip to contentAccessibility HelpYour accountHomeNewsSportReelWorklifeTravelFutureMore menuMore menuSearch BBCHomeNewsSportReelWorklifeTravelFutureCultureMusicTVWeatherSoundsClose menuBBC NewsMenuHomeWar in UkraineClimateVideoWorldUS & CanadaUKBusinessTechScienceMoreEntertainment & ArtsHealthIn PicturesBBC VerifyWorld News TVNewsbeatScienceUK's nuclear fusion site ends experiments after 40 yearsPublished3 days agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, UKAEA EUROfusionImage caption, JET is the world's largest and most powerful tokamak reactorBy Esme StallardClimate and science reporter, BBC News”It felt brilliant. One thing is to work on a design, another thing is to operate it.” Barry Green recounts the moment in June 1983 when the JET fusion laboratory in Oxford undertook its first experiment.For the next four decades, the European project pursued nuclear fusion and the promise of near-limitless clean energy.But on Saturday the world's most successful fusion experiment will wind down.Nuclear fusion was “discovered” in the 1920s and the subsequent years of research focused on developing fusion for nuclear weapons. In 1958, when the United States' war research on fusion was declassified, it sent Russia, UK, Europe, Japan and the US on a race to develop fusion reactions for energy provision.Fusion is considered the holy grail of energy production as it releases a lot of energy without any greenhouse gas emissions.It is the process that powers the Sun and other stars. It works by taking pairs of light atoms and forcing them together – the opposite of nuclear fission, where heavy atoms are split apart. What is nuclear fusion and how does it work? The UK and the Europeans decided to pair up and from that the Joint European Torus (JET) site was born. Scientists were brought in from across the continent to Culham in Oxfordshire; Mr Green was one of them.An Australian researcher working on plasma physics in Germany, he became an engineer working on machine design and operation. The chosen model was tokamak, which uses magnetic fields to confine the plasma – a hot, ionised gas – inside a vessel. This plasma allows the light elements to fuse and yield energy.It was also designed to work with a mix of deuterium-tritium – forms of hydrogen – rather than just one, which proved a crucial decision. It has been identified as the most efficient reaction for fusion reactors.Image source, EFDAImage caption, The JET project team in 1977. Professor Green (fifth right) was lead engineer at the siteThe first experiment in the world with this fuel mix took place at JET in 1991. Subsequent experiments have achieved higher energy yields, and the site holds the world record for the most energy produced from a fusion experiment – 59 megajoules (MJ) during a five-second pulse. Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energyDespite the records, the JET site faced many difficulties and delays, with experiments suspended for years in the mid-2000s while the internal structure was replaced, according to Fernanda Rimini, JET senior exploitation manager.And the hope of producing enough energy to power homes remains a long way off – 59 MJ is only enough to boil about 60 kettles' worth of water. Joelle Mailloux is the JET science programme leader overseeing the third round of deuterium-tritium experiments which end on Saturday. She says the key challenges they are focusing on are making the plasma more stable, spreading the power load and looking at improving materials in the reactor to withstand the conditions.Once the experiments end, scientists will still have a lot to learn from JET.”The decommissioning will look at analysing what has happened to the [reactor] materials and how they have changed. This will help better maintain other fusion sites,” Ms Rimini said.One of the site's benefiting from JET's research will be the new Iter reactor in southern France. It is the world's largest fusion project and is a consortium of many countries including the EU, Russia, the US and China – but a few weeks ago the UK government confirmed the UK would not play a role. “In line with the preferences of the UK fusion sector, the UK has decided to pursue a domestic fusion energy strategy instead of associating with the EU's Euratom programme,” the government said.Image source, ITERImage caption, The giant Iter site in southern France aims to have its first plasma generated in 2025The UK government has committed to spending £650m on an alternative UK fusion programme between now and 2027. This includes a new prototype fusion energy plant in Nottinghamshire called STEP.Paul Methven, STEP programme director at the UK Atomic Energy Agency, told the BBC: “On endeavours like this, you need to be simultaneously really ambitious and also realistic. “We are driving pretty hard towards our first operations to be in the early 2040s.”Related TopicsPhysicsCulhamNuclear fusion More on this story'No guarantee' £20bn fusion power plant will workPublished6 October 2022Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energyPublished9 February 2022Breakthrough in nuclear fusion energy announcedPublished13 December 2022Top StoriesLive. Biden to visit Israel as rocket attacks continue and Gaza crisis grows'Europe shaken' after double shooting in BrusselsPublished2 hours agoSuspect in killing of US Muslim boy appears in courtPublished5 hours agoFeaturesBelt and Road: Is China's trillion-dollar gamble worth it?Has Canada's legal cannabis industry gone to pot?The incredible power of blue LEDsThe US athletes that paid a heavy priceOne week in Gaza: 'There are no safe places here'Will Sam Bankman-Fried take stand to save himself?'I'm totally helpless' – husband of new mother missing after Hamas attacksA spooked and lonely Taiwan looks for new friendsHow Disney took over the worldElsewhere on the BBCEurope's unlikely digital nomad hubScorsese on finding his new starThe sneaky trend hurting financesMost Read1'Europe shaken' after double shooting in Brussels2Trump gets gag order in 2020 election meddling case3Suspect in killing of US Muslim boy appears in court4Israel-Gaza inflames tensions on US college campuses5French hotel spent €1,500 getting rid of bedbugs6Has Canada's legal cannabis industry gone to pot?7Banker loses case over two-sandwich lunch claim8Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith 'healing relationship'9Putin in China to strengthen anti-West coalition10Trump sues in UK over ex-spy's Russia sex claimsBBC News ServicesOn your mobileOn smart speakersGet news alertsContact BBC NewsHomeNewsSportReelWorklifeTravelFutureCultureMusicTVWeatherSoundsTerms of UseAbout the BBCPrivacy PolicyCookiesAccessibility HelpParental GuidanceContact the BBCGet Personalised NewslettersWhy you can trust the BBCAdvertise with us© 2023 BBC. 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