Fusion power

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Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion reactions. In this kind of reaction, two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus and in doing so, release a large amount of energy. In a more general sense, the term can also refer to the production of net usable power from a fusion source, similar to the usage of the term "steam power." Most design studies for fusion power plants involve using the fusion reactions to create heat, which is then used to operate a steam turbine, which drives generators to produce electricity. Except for the use of a thermonuclear heat source, this is similar to most coal, oil, and gas-fired power stations as well as fission-driven nuclear power stations.

As of July 2010, the largest experiment was the Joint European Torus (JET). In 1997, JET produced a peak of 16.1 megawatts (21,600 hp) of fusion power (65% of input power), with fusion power of over 10 MW (13,000 hp) sustained for over 0.5 sec. In June 2005, the construction of the experimental reactor ITER, designed to produce ten times more fusion power than the power put into the plasma over many minutes, was announced. ITER is designed to take 50MW of input energy to produce 500MW of output energy. Project partners were preparing the site in 2008. The production of net electrical power from fusion is planned for DEMO, the next generation experiment after ITER. Additionally, the High Power laser Energy Research facility (HiPER) is undergoing preliminary design for possible construction in the European Union starting around 2010.

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