||This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2011)|
|Major radius||2.96 m|
|Minor Radius||1.25–2.10 m|
|Plasma volume||100 m3|
|Magnetic field||3.45 T (toroidal)|
JET, the Joint European Torus, is a magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment located in Oxfordshire, UK. It is currently the largest facility of its kind in operation. Its main purpose is to open the way to future nuclear fusion experimental tokamak reactors such as ITER and DEMO.
The JET facilities are situated on a retired Navy airfield near Culham, Oxfordshire – RNAS Culham (HMS Hornbill), in the UK: the construction of the buildings which house the project was undertaken by Tarmac Construction, starting in 1978 with the Torus Hall being completed in January 1982. Construction of the JET machine itself began immediately after the completion of the Torus Hall, with the first plasma experiments in 1983.
The components for the JET machine came from manufacturers all over Europe, with these components transported to the site.
Because of the extremely high power requirements for the tokamak, and the fact that power draw from the main grid is limited, two large flywheel generators were constructed to provide this necessary power. Each 775 ton flywheel can spin up to 225 rpm. One generator provides power for the 32 toroidal field coils, the other for inner poloidal field coils. The outer field coils draw their power from the grid.
In 1970 the Council of the European Community decided in favour of a robust fusion programme and provided the necessary legal framework for a European fusion device to be developed. Three years later, the design work began for the JET machine. In 1977 the construction work began and at the end of the same year a former Fleet Air Arm airfield at Culham in the UK was selected as the site for the JET project. In 1978 the "JET Joint Undertaking" was established as a legal entity. Only five years later the construction was completed on time and on budget. On 25 June 1983 the very first JET plasma was achieved and on 9 April 1984 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened this European fusion experiment.
In the history of fusion research the year 1991 is particularly significant: on the 9th November a Preliminary Tritium Experiment achieved the world’s first controlled release of fusion power. Six years later, in 1997, another world record was achieved at JET: 16 mega watts of fusion power were produced from a total input power of 24 mega watts – a 65% ratio. This is equivalent to a release of 22 mega joules of energy.
A “Remote Handling” system is, in general, an essential tool for any subsequent fusion power plant and especially for the future experimental reactor, ITER. In 1998 JET’s engineers developed a remote handling system with which, for the first time, it was possible to exchange certain components using artificial hands only.
In 1999 the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) was established with responsibility for the future collective use of JET. With the turn of the millennium the "Joint Undertaking" ended and the JET Facilities commenced operating under contract by CCFE(at that time UKAEA). From then, JET’s scientific programme was determined by EFDA. The sturdiness and flexibility of JET’s original design has made it possible for the device to evolve with the interests of the fusion community and meet the requirements of ITER. JET was converted to Divertor configuration in 1993 and started operation with ITER-like magnetic configurations in 2006. From October 2009 to May 2011 the ITER-Like Wall was installed.
JET was originally set up by Euratom with a discriminatory employment system that allowed non-British staff to be employed at more than twice the salaries of their British equivalents. The British staff eventually had this practice declared illegal, and substantial damages were paid at the end of 1999 to UKAEA staff (and later to some contractors). This was the immediate cause of the ending of Euratom's operation of the facility.
In December 1999, JET's international contract ended and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) then took over managing the safety and operation of the JET facilities on behalf of its European partners. From that time (2000), JET's experimental programme was then co-ordinated by the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) Close Support Unit.
JET operated throughout 2003, with the year culminating in experiments using small amounts of tritium. For most of 2004, JET was shut down for a series of major upgrades, increasing its total available heating power to over 40 MW, enabling further studies relevant to the development of ITER to be undertaken. In late September 2006, the C16 experimental campaign was started, with the objective of studying ITER-like operation scenarios.
In October 2009, a 15-month shutdown period was started, and improvements were made to the tokamak, including replacing carbon components in the vacuum vessel with tungsten and beryllium ones, to bring JET's components more in line with those planned for ITER. Heating power was also increased by 50%, bringing the neutral beam power available to the plasma up to 34MW, and diagnostic and control capabilities were improved. In total, over 86,000 components were changed in the torus during the shutdown.
JET is equipped with remote handling facilities to cope with the radioactivity produced by deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel, which is the fuel proposed for the first generation of fusion power plants. Pending construction of ITER, JET remains the only large fusion reactor with facilities dedicated to handling the radioactivity released from D-T fusion. The power production record-breaking runs from JET and TFTR used 50–50 D-T fuel mixes.
During a full D-T experimental campaign in 1997 JET achieved a world record peak fusion power of 16 MW which equates to a measured gain Q, of approximately 0.7. Q is the ratio of fusion power produced to input heating power. In order to achieve break-even, a Q value greater than 1 is required. A self-sustaining burning plasma requires at least Q=5 (since the alpha particles carry one fifth the fusion energy) and a power plant requires at least Q=10. As of 1998, a higher Q of 1.25 is claimed for the JT-60 tokamak; however, this was not achieved under real D-T conditions but extrapolated from experiments performed with a pure deuterium (D-D) plasma. Similar extrapolations have not been made for JET, but it is likely that increases in Q over the 1997 measurements could now be achieved if permission to run another full D-T campaign was granted. Work has now begun on ITER to further develop fusion power.
Scientists at Oxfordshire are preparing for the fusion testing set to begin in 2015. They hope to break their own record of 16 megawatts of fusion power.
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