Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun and the stars, is heralded as the ultimate energy source for the future of mankind. The promise of nuclear fusion to provide clean and safe energy, while having abundant fuel resources continues to drive global research and development. However, the goal of reaching so-called “breakeven” energy conditions, whereby the energy produced from a fusion reaction is greater than the energy put in, is yet to be demonstrated. It is the role of ITER, an international collaborative experimental reactor, to achieve breakeven conditions and to demonstrate technologies that will allow fusion to be realized as a viable energy source. However, with significant delays and cost overruns to ITER, there has been increased interest in the development of other fusion reactor concepts, particularly by private-sector start-ups, all of which are exploring the possibility of an accelerated route to fusion. This chapter gives a comprehensive overview of nuclear fusion science, and provides an account of current approaches and their progress towards the realization of future fusion energy power plants. The range of technical issues, associated technology development challenges and future commercial opportunities are explored, with a focus on magnetic confinement approaches.
Part of the book: Power Plants in the Industry