A tokomak nuclear fusion demonstration power plant (DEMO) will not arrive before 2050.
Such DEMO would show that controlled nuclear fusion can generate net electrical power and mark the final step before the construction of a commercial fusion power plant. This would represent the next stage after ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment under way, which is expected to demonstrate by the late 2030s that fusion can be used to generate net energy, i.e. produce more energy than supplied to it to feed the reactor. Crucially, however, energy produced by ITER will not be transmitted to the electricity grid.
This is overpriced and very late. ITER began in 1985 as a Reagan–Gorbachev initiative with the equal participation of the Soviet Union, the European Atomic Energy Community, the United States, and Japan through the 1988–1998 initial design phases.
1985 ITER project starts
2035-2040 maybe net energy is produced by ITER
2050s the first DEMO pre-commercial demonstrations begin operating
2085 maybe some giant and expensive commercial tokomaks begin operation, but would not be cheaper than current nuclear fission reactors
Ray Stantz: “Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities; we didn’t have to produce anything. You’ve never been out of college. I’ve worked in the private sector. [shrugs shoulders indignantly] They expect results.”
Construction of the ITER Tokamak complex started in 2013 and the building costs are now over US$14 billion as of June 2015. The facility is expected to finish its construction phase in 2025 and will start commissioning the reactor that same year. Initial plasma experiments are scheduled to begin in 2025, with full deuterium–tritium fusion experiments starting in 2035. If ITER becomes operational, it will become the largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment in use with a plasma volume of 840 cubic meters, surpassing the Joint European Torus by almost a factor of 10.
China has made significant progress in planning for a device called China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR) that would bridge the gaps between ITER and DEMO. Construction of the CFETR could start at around 2020 and be followed by construction of a DEMO in the 2030s.
The European Union and Japan are jointly building a powerful tokamak called JT-60SA in Naka, Japan, as a complement to ITER on a privileged partnership called the Broader Approach Activities. In addition to constructing the JT-60SA, the joint programme consists of two other projects, the Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities for the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF/EVEDA), and the International Fusion Energy Research Centre (IFERC). This partnership represents a well-integrated approach to support ITER and to prepare to undertake the engineering design and construction of a subsequent DEMO.
India has announced plans to begin building a device called SST-2 to develop components for a DEMO around 2027, and then start construction of a DEMO in 2037.
South Korea initiated a conceptual design study for a K-DEMO in 2012 targeting the construction by 2037 with potential for electricity generation starting in 2050. In its first phase (2037-2050), K-DEMO will develop and test components and then utilize these components in the second phase after 2050 to demonstrate net electricity generation.
Russia plans the development of a fusion-fission hybrid facility called DEMO fusion neutron source (FNS), a reactor that would harvest the fusion-produced neutrons to turn uranium into nuclear fuel and destroy radioactive waste. The DEMO-FNS is planned to be built by 2023, and is part of Russias’ fast-track strategy to a fusion power plant by 2050.
The United States of America is considering an intermediate step called Fusion Nuclear Science Facility (FNSF) to be used for the development and testing of fusion materials and components for a DEMO-type reactor. Plans call for operation to start after 2030, and construction of a DEMO after 2050.