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No CO2 emissions, 32 million Euro spent on the ITER project in Padua

Thursday, March 24 2016

An end to exhaust emissions, no more pollution and goodbye to the mist in the Po Valley. Clean air, low cost energy and an end to our dependence on fossil fuels. All pipe dreams? Maybe not, and you’ll find out why by reading this interview.
Photo credit Matteo Francioni @ Flickr

First, let’s take a step back.

This June, the Padua Congress Centre will be hosting the twentieth edition of the “IEEE Real time conference – RT2016”, an event dedicated to the latest developments in real time measuring techniques in the fields of plasma and nuclear fusion, particle physics, nuclear physics and astrophysics, space science, accelerators, medical physics, nuclear power instrumentation and other radiation instrumentation.

We interviewed the conference organiser, engineer Adriano Luchetta, who is also in charge of the control systems for the ITER project experiments being constructed in Padua – and we discovered some very interesting things about the nuclear fusion project that’s underway in our town.

What impact could a nuclear fusion power plant have in terms of CO2 reduction and diminishing our dependence on fossil fuels?

A nuclear fusion power plant would represent the definitive solution to these problems, as no CO2 emissions are produced when generating energy in this way. There is an abundant natural supply of the fuel used in the process, meaning that fusion could completely replace fossil fuels for the production of electrical energy. For every hour that an average gas power plant (500MW) is inactive, there’s a corresponding reduction of CO2 emissions equal to around 200 kg.

How long might it take to complete the project?

The implementation of fusion power plants is expected in the second half of the century. A large experimental device called ITER is currently being built in order to study the most critical technological aspects. The ITER project is based in the South of France and involves the technical, scientific and financial collaboration of the European Union together with China, South Korea, Japan, India, Russia and the United States. Padua’s Consorzio RFX is also involved with the ITER project, being entrusted with the development of ITER’s most important component: the neutral beam injector, representing the main device to heat the plasma – the “heart” of ITER (NBTF Project).

How much money has the EU invested in this project in Padua?

The European Union and the scientific community heading up ITER believe in this initiative and are investing more than 200 million euro in the neutral beam injector project being built in Padua. Almost half of that money is coming from the European Union. In addition, many Italian research bodies have also contributed resources with regard to Consorzio RFX (CNR, University of Padua, ENEA, INFN), with further contributions of around 10 million Euro per year being made by the European Union, together with the Member bodies of the Consorzio RFX, towards personnel costs.

What impact is this project currently having on our local area?

It is of great scientific interest for Italian institutions and for our research centre, which is becoming the world’s leading laboratory in the development of these technologies. Consorzio RFX’s contribution to the project involves applying the local skills and know-how of CNR, which has a wide area of research in Padua, the University of Padua, and the INFN through the National Laboratories of Legnaro. Furthermore, being involved with the NBTF project also provides a positive stimulus for the local economy and for the country as a whole. In fact, domestic industry has won commissions for more than 32 million euro, equal to more than 80% of the amount allocated up to now. Industry in our region is very active and diversified, demonstrated by the fact that local companies were involved in a number of tenders for the construction of the neutral beam injector, above all in the fields of precision engineering, automation and IT.

Can you tell us something about the neutral beam injector?

It’s an accelerator that produces a high-energy, powerful beam of neutral hydrogen atoms. The atoms can reach a speed of over 10km/s and the beam’s power can reach 16 Megawatt, around 16 thousand times greater than the power deposited by the sun on a square metre of land on a sunny day.

Can school and university students come to visit?

Absolutely, they’re more than welcome! In 2015, around twenty guided tours of Consorzio RFX were organised, involving around 800 high school and university students. Every year, the laboratory also takes part in the European Researchers’ Night initiative, when anyone interested can come and visit the laboratory. Schools and university faculties interested in visiting our laboratory can arrange this by giving us a call. All information is available on the laboratory’s website www.igi.cnr.it.

Photo Credits: Ferruccio Zanone401kcalculator.org

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