Japan fires up world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor

The JT-60SA nuclear fusion reactor has begun operations in Japan and marks a significant step towards sustainable energy solutions

The world’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion reactor has kicked off operations, thanks to a joint venture between the European Union and Japan.

The development of the JT-60SA reactor began on December 1st 2023 in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture – and aims to leverage the next-generation energy source.

Although still in its experimental phase, scientists believe it could hold promise for addressing humanity’s sustainability needs, presenting nuclear fusion as a clean – and almost limitless – energy source.

National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology/ Monty Rakusen / Getty

National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology/ Monty Rakusen / Getty

Deputy project leader for the JT-60SA, Sam Davis, said the device will ‘bring us closer to fusion energy.’

Whilst plasma physicist Arthur Turrell – unaffiliated with the project – hailed the success as a ‘moment of history’ that could ‘define a new era of energy.’

Nuclear fusion replicates natural reactions within the sun, potentially providing a solution to our sustainability challenges and the ongoing fossil fuel crisis. Therefore, the JT-60SA reactor requires zero fossil fuel consumption and generates zero high-level hazardous or radioactive waste.

One scientist of the project commented: ‘Because of these characteristics, fusion qualifies as one of the next-generation energy sources that simultaneously addresses energy supply and environmental challenges.’

Following the prior success of achieving net energy gain with nuclear energy, a year earlier at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, JT-60SA has advanced the data – achieving an ‘even greater net energy gain than the first time.’

National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology/ Monty Rakusen / Getty

National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology/ Monty Rakusen / Getty

Situated in a hangar in the northern Naka region of Tokyo, the six-storey-high JT-60SA reactor uses a ‘tokamak’ vessel to contain heated swirling plasma up to 200 million degrees Celsius. Researchers of JT-60SA said the fusion reaction is ‘intrinsically safe’ as it ‘stops when the fuel supply or power source is shut down.’

Fusion energy differs from fission energy – the common method used in nuclear power plants – in that it combines two atomic nuclei rather than splitting one. Although it was first recognised in the 1950s, only recently have scientists discovered its potential to scale ‘within the next decade.’

‘The generation of fusion energy does not produce carbon dioxide, making it an important technology in the path to net zero emissions,’ the EU’s directorate-general for energy said.

JT-60SA precedes its big brother reactor – ITER – which stands for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Currently undergoing construction in France, the next nuclear fusion reactor is expected to open in 2025. However, with concerns its costs going over budget, it may lead to delays.

 

Footage of the biggest nuclear explosion ever seen was kept top secret for decades, until it was finally released by Russia three years ago.

The footage depicts the horrifying devastation that a nuclear bomb can cause.

Check it out here:

Most powerful nuclear bomb ever
Credit: Росатом
0 seconds of 3 minutes, 17 secondsVolume 90%

The full 40-minute video, that was previously classified, was released in August 2020 by the country’s state-run nuclear division ROSATOM.

The huge device was detonated on 30 October 1961 at Mityushikha Bay on the deserted Novaya Zemlya island.

It was called the Tsar Bomba, or Tsar Bomb, in the West – the king of bombs. It’s a hydrogen bomb with 50 megatons – or 50 million tons – of explosive.

To put that into context, it was 3,800 times more powerful than the bomb that killed 140,000 when it was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

It was also far more destructive than the largest hydrogen bomb the United States had ever set off back in 1954, a 15 megaton device.

The shocking footage was released three years ago on 20 August 2020 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Russia‘s nuclear industry, with a large portion of the video depicting the country’s journey to the top of the nuclear tree.

The weapon itself was huge, weighing a massive 27 tons and about eight meters in length. In order for it to be dropped, some of the fuel tanks had to be removed from the Tu-95V Soviet bomber.

It was detonated at around 4,000 metres above ground.

The explosion was so powerful the blast was visible from an incredible 997km (620 miles).

The mushroom cloud stretched 67km (42 miles) into the air, making it about seven times higher than Mount Everest, and reports claim it destroyed buildings within 55km (35 miles) of it.

The explosion was so powerful the bomber was hit by the shockwave about 70 miles away.

ROSATOM

It was also later found that the Tsar Bomb could, potentially, have been even more powerful than it was. It was originally designed to deliver a colossal 100-megaton blast, but was scaled down in order to protect the wider population from the explosion.

This also wasn’t the only powerful detonation Russia carried out during this time. Throughout the early 1960s, the Soviet Union completed several other tests with forces ranging between 20 and 24 megatons.

The Tsar Bomb, however, was one of the last above ground nuclear tests ever carried out as the US, UK, and the Soviet Union signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which stated that all future tests had to be carried out beneath ground.

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