• Question: Just how soon might we be able to build fusion power plants that generate enough electricity to sustain the world's increasing energy consumption?

    Asked by mulvj004 to David on 15 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: David Armstrong

      David Armstrong answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Sadly it will be a little while yet. Currently ITER is being built in the South of France. This will be the biggest Tokkamak (the name for a fusion reactor) ever built and the first one that can generate more energy that it takes to start the reaction. This should be built by 2018. After ITER there are plans to build a reactor called DEMO. This would be on the scale of a commercial reactor, but not connected to the electricity grid. The tentative plans call for this to be built around 2024, with experiments from 2030. Hopefully a commercial reactor might be built around 2040-2050.

      For a long time controlling the plasma has been seen as the biggest hurdle, but now that is much better understood a lot of effort is being focused on the materials challenges for these complex systems.