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[mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]N[/mk_dropcaps]UCLEAR FUSION is a tantalizing promise of a clean, efficient, safe and plentiful energy supply. Better still, unlike conventional nuclear fission power, fusion power is safe from meltdowns and doesn’t produce nuclear waste. For decades, scientists around the world have strived to achieve controlled and sustainable fusion reaction. (Nuclear fusion is the process of joining two or more nuclei to form a single nucleus. The mass of the resulting nucleus is smaller than the mass of the original nuclei that formed it, and the surplus mass is released as energy.) On Earth, fusion can only occur with the lightest elements converted into plasma, which requires temperatures reaching 100 million to 150 million C.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”http://www.energy-exchange.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/DSC_0269.jpg” image_width=”1000″ image_height=”660″ crop=”true” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” desc=”ARTIFACT NO. 2001.0474, COURTESY OF CANADA SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY MUSEUM” caption_location=”outside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]A magnetic field created in an ultra-high vacuum chamber — a device known as a tokamak — can contain hot plasma and allow it to circulate fast enough and long enough to achieve fusion and produce energy. In 1979, work began on the first tokamak in Canada. Tokamak de Varennes was constructed between 1979 and 1987 under a national fusion program and operated at Hydro-Québec’s research institute in Varennes, Que. The program’s goal? Prove that it could be possible to harness energy from nuclear fusion sometime in the future. For a decade, scientists working on the reactor conducted extensive research on nuclear fusion and advanced general knowledge of this technology. However, high costs and lack of consistent support led to the cancellation of the program in 1997.

Tokamak operations are extremely complicated and expensive, and require an enormous energy input; no country in the world has yet been able to economically produce large amounts of energy from fusion. The Tokamak de Varennes was fully decommissioned in 1999 and donated to the national energy collection at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in 2001. It’s the only nuclear fusion reactor in a public collection in the world.

 

Note: The University of Saskatchewan has a research tokamak, while British Columbia-based General Fusion is currently working on full-scale fusion reactor prototypes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]

—Anna Adamek

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Read more stories from the Winter 2016 issue of Energy Exchange magazine[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]