Engineers explain how nuclear fusion could provide us with energy for thousands of years with relatively little radioactive waste. At JET in Oxfordshire, engineers are fusing hydrogen isotopes to create energy to produce electricity. They explain how a tokamak uses magnetism to contain the very hot gases needed to obtain fusion, and the engineering materials needed to withstand the heat. They are helping to design a globally funded machine ten times the size of JET to allow them to get closer to a commercial fusion power plant. We hear from a Greenpeace spokesman who warns that we don't know how safe fusion power is and believes we should be concentrating on energy alternatives which are available now.
Could be used to illustrate the civil engineering considerations required to implement alternative approaches to energy generation.
The class could identify and discuss different methods to construct the inner wall of the facility using the insulating tiles, ranging from slot-based systems through semi-permanent fixings, to welding or high temperature adhesives. They should agree on a final recommendation.
Students could also research global future energy demands, calculating the number of nuclear fusion facilities that would be required to meet this. Particularly in light of failure of the nuclear fission site at Fukushima, the class should discuss the safety and public opinion issues that nuclear fusion developments will have to address.