Modelling a fusion power plant

Thomas Jonsson
Fusion Plasma Physics
School of Electrical Engineering
KTH Royal Institute of Technology


Thermonuclear fusion is one of very few long term solutions for a sustainable electricity production. It is one of the most attractive future energy sources due to abundant low cost fuel as well as the negligible environmental impact and minimal security and safety concerns. Fusion energy does not produce any greenhouse gases and do not produce any long lived radioactive rest products.

A positive energy balance in a magnetic fusion device requires heating a Deuterium and Tritium mixture to over 200 million degrees and confining the it for sufficiently long time using strong magnetic fields. Surrounding the hot plasma metal walls are installed that has to be cooled to temperature of the order 100-1000 degrees and just outside the wall we have to place super conducting coils that operate at around 60 Kelvin. These temperature gradients may be larger than anywhere else in the Universe.

The modelling of a fusion plasmas is a huge challenge that mixes physics on time scales ranging from nano seconds to seconds and length scales from micrometers to tens of meters. In addition, plasmas are sufficiently far from thermodynamic equilibrium to require kinetic treatments that resolve both the real space and the velocity space. The modelling of fusion plasmas therefore requires us to build specialised models to handle different groups of phenomena and then to connect these in a greater model of the magnetised plasma and the engineering systems as a whole.

A European project for model integration is therefore ongoing. The main aim is to provide a modelling framework to be used in the ITER project; a fusion device being built in southern France that will, for the first time, produce 10 times more power than is consumes.