The JET reactor has successfully completed its final tests with deuterium and tritium. It is a crucial milestone for nuclear fusion

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If everything continues as planned, ITER ( International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor ), the experimental nuclear fusion reactor being built by an international consortium in the French town of Cadarache, will begin high-power tests with deuterium and tritium in 2035 . These two isotopes of hydrogen make up the fuel that commercial fusion energy reactors will presumably use when they become available in the 1960s according to EUROfusion plans.

However, before starting the high power tests with the final fuel ITER must pass other tests that are also crucial, such as, for example, the low and high power tests with hydrogen and helium. This experimental reactor is going to have enormous importance in the path we must follow to make the arrival of commercial fusion energy possible, but there are other reactors that are also crucial. Crucial, curiously, for ITER. One of them is the Japanese JT-60SA and the other is JET ( Joint European Torus ), which is housed in Oxford (England).

The JT-60SA experimental reactor resides in Naka, a small city not far from Tokyo, Japan. Its very broad purpose is to carry out experiments to pave the way for ITER when it begins its journey with the first plasma tests (this will possibly happen in the middle of this decade). JET has essentially the same task, although it has been delivering very important results to scientists researching in the field of nuclear fusion for several decades. The last ones, precisely, have just arrived.

JET’s last major milestone came to light on February 9, 2022. That day the scientists who operate it announced that they had managed to break the record for power generation through nuclear fusion. And, what’s more, they had achieved it using an ionized plasma containing deuterium and tritium nuclei. Yes, the same fuel that ITER will use . At the time this news was extraordinary, but since then JET has continued along a path whose goal in a way has just been reached.

And just a few hours ago those responsible for this experimental nuclear fusion reactor announced that their scientists have successfully completed the DTE3 ( Deuterium-Tritium Experimental 3 ) program, which is nothing other than the third and final test campaign with Ionized plasma containing deuterium and tritium nuclei. More than 300 scientists have participated in these experiments, and the knowledge they have acquired will play a fundamental role in the development not only of ITER, but also of DEMO, which will be the demonstration fusion reactor that will precede the first commercial fusion power plants.

There are many reasons why this test campaign with the same fuel that ITER will use is very important. One of the most relevant is that these tests have allowed scientists to better understand how fusion conditions change by modifying the fuel and scaling the size of the reactor.

They have also allowed us to refine the administration of tritium, which is a radioactive isotope, and have also helped technicians to understand more precisely the interaction of the high-energy neutron (14.1 MeV) that transports the energy of the fusion reaction outside. of the plasma with its environment. This is how JET spends it and in some way anticipates what ITER has in store for us.