Looking into a Fusion Reactor

TNO kicks off a joint research program to develop diagnostics to study future fusion power plant technology • 19 Feb 2020

ITER is a Fusion Power research facility in southern France being built with the cooperation of 35 countries. It will be the world’s first net-positive-energy tokamak – a magnetically confined fusion reactor which will generate 500 megawatts of power. This technology could lead to carbon-free power for the future of mankind.
CSP spectrometer

“Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the Sun and the stars, is a potential source of safe, non-carbon emitting and virtually limitless energy. Harnessing fusion's power is the goal of ITER, which has been designed as the key experimental step between today's fusion research machines and tomorrow's fusion power plants.” ITER.

One of the big challenges with this first-of-its-kind system is its need to look directly at a thermonuclear reaction to ensure that the correct reactions are taking place, that temperatures remain under control, and that structures remain intact. This is primarily done with optical spectrographic diagnostics systems, which look at the reactions from all angles to monitor the system. In the same way that astronomers analyze the elements and temperatures of objects in outer space, the colors and intensity of the light observed in the reactor can confirm that it is running properly and safely as predicted.

TNO and its research partners have teamed to take on the challenge of one of ITER’s first and most important diagnostic systems – the Visible Spectroscopy Reference System (VSRS). The partners include the Dutch Institute For Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER), Active Space Technologies (Netherlands and Portugal) and Chromodynamics (Netherlands).

Unlike spectrometers built for astronomy, the diagnostics used in ITER, including VSRS, are located in close proximity to the fusion plasma, looking directly at a reaction hotter than the surface of the Sun, and facing a stream of by-product particles which can quickly contaminate an optical system. The assembled research team will help develop all aspects of the system, from plasma-driven remote mirror cleaning systems, through radiation shielded components, to back end multi-spectral analyzers.

On January 31, the project team kicked off the research which had been planned since the signing of a Collaboration Agreement early last year (for more information see: Over the next four years, the project will go from a design concept to a fully designed system, ready for production to start looking directly at the first plasma.

For more information please contact Matthew Maniscalco

Note that TNO previously built similar Fusion Diagnostics devices for the Jet Tokamak in the UK, and for ITER systems under development (The U.S.’s Upper Port Wide Angle Viewing System – UWAVS, the Charge Exchange Spectroscopy System – CXRS, and the Dutch built high-resolution CCD spectrometer at the Wendelstein 7X Stellerator – CSP).


mr. Matthew Maniscalco MSc, JD, LLM

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