On a cold snowy Monday morning we made the trip to Oxfordshire to visit the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the sun and it has the potential to play a big part in a carbon-free energy future. Culham is a world leader in fusion research and we were there to visit the two main experiments, MAST (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) and JET (Joint European Torus).
The first experiment we visited was JET. JET started operation in 1983 and is the world’s largest and most powerful tokamak and is currently the focal point of the European fusion research program.JET is opening the way to future experimental reactors and is increasing confidence in the technologies ability to potentially provide commercial quantities of carbon free electricity.
Next we visited MAST. MAST has been operating since 1999 and uses a spherical tokamak design as opposed to the conventional toroidal design adopted by JET. MAST is helping improve the design of ITER and is allowing researchers to investigate the potential of a spherical tokamak route to fusion power.
Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day and came away with a real appreciation of the importance of the research that is being undertaken at Culham and its potential to provide vast quantities of carbon free energy.
Mark Hobbs – MPhil Student with a Civil Engineering degree from University of Wales, Swansea.