US Is Now Down To Just One Major Nuclear Fusion Reactor

Posted: Oct 3 2016, 7:09am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 3 2016, 7:10am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


US is Now Down to Just One Major Nuclear Fusion Reactor
Credit: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)

Princeton nuclear fusion lab has broken down, leaving US scientists with just one major reactor to conduct fusion experiments

All the stars including our Sun are natural nuclear fusion reactors but replicating their mechanism down here on Earth is quite difficult and expensive. That is why; we have very limited number of nuclear fusion reactors around us. 

There are three major nuclear fusion labs in United States: One at Princeton University, one at the MIT and one in San Diego. Unfortunately, the nuclear fusion reactor at Princeton has broken down in less than a year after completing a $94 million upgrading. Researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in New Jersey are trying to determine the nature of the damage done to the reactor. However, they suspect that it could take up to a year to repair the reactor and to function it properly again. To make things worse, reactor at MIT is running out of funding and is scheduled to close down on September 30, leaving US scientists with just one major reactor to conduct fusion experiments.

“It’s definitely a challenge for everybody,” said Earl Marmar, who oversees the reactor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “We won’t be completely without access to experimental facilities, but it’s definitely not as good as it could have been for the coming year.”

Investigations are underway to find out how the disaster happened. Researchers suspect that the problem is in the reactor coil but they are waiting for definitive statement before they can cut coil open for further investigations.

It is widely believed that the nuclear fusion reactors can produce cheaper, cleaner and safer energy source of the future. To generate this energy, several experiments have been carried out every year and some of them have also managed to achieve the very high temperatures (100 million degrees) that are required to produce fusion energy. But there are still many other obstacles in the way.

All three nuclear fusion reactors are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The authority had decided several years ago to shut down the MIT reactor, but to maintain facilities in Princeton and San Diego. 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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