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Funding for MAST Upgrade enhancements announced | 12/04/2017
Culham's new tokamak MAST Upgrade is to receive funding to tackle one of the hottest issues in fusion energy research – plasma exhaust.
EUROfusion, the European consortium for fusion R&D, this week approved the first phase of its contribution to a £21 million programme of enhancements to MAST Upgrade, which is only months away from its first operations. Funding for the enhancements, which will be phased from now to 2022, will come jointly from EUROfusion and the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
The controlled exhaust of power and particles from a very hot tokamak fusion plasma, through the ‘divertor' area of the machine, is arguably the biggest challenge facing a future fusion power plant. The extreme power loadings (>10 megawatts per square metre – higher than that on a spacecraft re-entering Earth's atmosphere) in a conventional divertor will require regular replacement of reactor components and adversely affect the economics and cost of electricity. It is no surprise, then, that divertor and exhaust physics is a major part of EUROfusion's reactor design work as part of their EU Roadmap to the Realisation of Fusion Energy.
MAST Upgrade's flexible divertor design is already focussed on studying a range of configurations – from conventional designs to ‘snowflake', ‘doubledecker' and the new ‘Super X' divertor concept. The Plasma Exhaust funding will give MAST-U an unrivalled capability over the coming years by :
- increasing Neutral Beam heating power from 5 to 10 megawatts;
- installing a cryoplant for the divertor and Neutral Beam cryopumps;
- improving plasma fuelling with additional gas valves and a high frequency pellet injector;
- upgrading plasma control hardware and software;
- additional plasma exhaust diagnostics.
These upgrades will allow fusion scientists to greatly improve their understanding of plasma exhaust physics and enable better predictive modelling of this critical issue for the prototype powerplant DEMO.
Head of MAST Upgrade Operations, Andrew Kirk, was responsible for putting together the funding bid:
“MAST Upgrade provides a uniquely flexible test bed for plasma exhaust physics in all divertor configurations," he said. "This significant extra funding is very exciting – it will enhance our capabilities yet further, enabling MAST Upgrade to play a genuinely key role in assessing alternative divertors for use in the first DEMO power plants.”
Martin Cox, MAST Upgrade project sponsor, also recognised a wider benefit: “I am delighted that we have received such strong EUROfusion support for MAST Upgrade despite the perturbation caused by Brexit. This shows tremendous confidence in our facilities and people, and demonstrates that we have a very important role to play in the future EUROfusion programme.”