HiPer Reaction? £500 Million Programme to Construct an Experimental Reactor by EU
The British-led team will use lasers to start fusion reactions that generate more energy than they consume and they have won the backing of an influ-ential EU science panel, The Times can disclose. The decision paves the way for a seven-year, £500 million programme to construct an experimental reactor based on a revolutionary technique that could make fusion a commercial reality within two decades.Source
The prototype for the Hiper (high energy laser fusion research) project is likely to be built in Britain, using the world’s most powerful laser to generate temperatures of millions of degrees at which fusion can occur.
A purely civilian facility, it will build on research at a US military laboratory which is expected within the next five years to use a form of laser fusion to produce more energy than it consumes. Hiper will then develop a slightly different laser technique that is more suitable for commercial use.
For more on this advanced laser/inertial confinement approach to fusion, see the HiPer website and this Wikipedia entry.
For comparison with another huge EU fusion project, see ITER. ITER is a magnetic confinement plasma reactor.
Fusion energy continues to promise an almost limitless power supply for human use. Several approaches to fusion energy production are being pursued. I confess to being prejudiced against laser -pellet designs. They appear inelegant and kludgy, in their "batch operation" approach. After each pellet fuses, another pellet must be fed to the reactor for another laser burst, then another . . . I prefer a continuous reactor design--preferably one with adjustable output.
My aesthetic preference is unimportant. If the new design laser/inertial confinement approach can achieve useful energy output suitable for commercial power generation, it is a good place to start.
In the meantime, national governments need to face the urgent need for the development and deployment of advanced fourth generation nuclear fission reactors to supply an explosive demand for electrical power worldwide.
See also Thorium energy blog, for more information about advanced fission.