UK Fusion research advance and nuclear fission power in France and Brazil

1. UK Researchers may have found a way to channel the flux and fury of a nuclear fusion plasma into a means to help sustain the electric current needed to contain that very same fusion plasma. The research paper is entitled : Electron Current Drive by Fusion-Product-Excited Lower Hybrid Drift Instability has just been published in Physical Review Letter.

Arxiv – Electron current drive by fusion-product-excited lower hybrid drift instability

The researchers used large scale computer simulations to confirm a longstanding prediction by US researchers that high energy alpha particles born in fusion reactions will be key to generating fusion power in the next planned generation of tokamaks.

The Warwick and Culham researchers were modelling the interaction of particular types of waves with alpha particles in a fusion plasma when they found that an expected type of wave was forming naturally within the plasma and that it was quickly growing in strength. As the simulation progressed the wave began to transfer energy from alpha particles to make an electric current which could help confine the plasma.

This particular type of waves, LH (lower hybrid) waves, are in fact often used by fusion researchers to generate the electric current required to confine and control the plasma – but these waves are usually generated externally to the plasma and channelled into it to create the current. The Warwick researchers’ model suggests that in fact these waves will occur naturally in the plasmas of fusion reactors and in doing so may be able to help exploit the energy of alpha particles. This would open up far more efficient methods of creating and sustaining the current needed to confine the plasma and could provide a mechanism that would confirm earlier predictions by US researchers, that the energy of Alpha particles would be key to the development of fusion energy.

2. All 58 of Electricité de France’s (EdF’s) nuclear power reactors are currently connected to the grid at the same time – for the first time in six years. 2010 production, at 408 TWh, was 5% up from 2009. In 2011 EdF is capable of producing 4200 MWe more on average in December and January than in 2009. An annual investment of around €3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) is needed for the modernization program to lift french nuclear generation to 460 TWH by 2014.

3. Brazil’s new minister of mines and energy, Edison Lobao, has stated that the government plans to give approval by the end of 2011 for the construction of four new nuclear power plants in the country.

Eletronuclear earlier projected the completion of the first two northeast reactors in 2019 and 2021, and the southeast ones, near the existing Angra plant, in 2023 and 2025.

There are currently two nuclear power reactors in operation in Brazil at the Angra site with a combined generating capacity of 1896 MWe. Together they provide about 3% of the country’s electricity. A third unit at the Angra site was planned as the twin to unit 2, but construction work never began despite the delivery of about 70% of the plant components. However, after receiving final approval, Eletronuclear began work in June 2010 to complete the 1220 MWe pressurized water reactor, which could enter into commercial operation in 2015.

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