Energy from nuclear fusion offers the possibility of an attractive solution to the World's energy problem: there are large fuel reserves, it is safe, relatively clean, no carbon emissions and economically competitive. There are, however, a number of scientific and technological challenges that need to be addressed before commercial fusion power stations become a reality. The €10Bn ITER experimental fusion device, presently under construction in France, will address these issues and, we anticipate, point the way towards the first fusion power plants.
This talk will investigate some of the challenges facing fusion physicists as we prepare for ITER. In particular, we will look at how the physics of hot ionised gas, called plasma, is being used to understand how to contain the extremely hostile environment required for fusion power production. We will explore complex and fascinating plasma turbulence processes. We will discuss plasma eruptions in fusion devices, with features similar to solar flares, that threaten the material surfaces of ITER.
Finally, we shall look at what happens if we lose control of the plasma, and it slams into the vessel wall: what are the consequences of this, and how can we guard against damage?