The road to fusion electricity
In 2012 EFDA has published a roadmap which outlines how to supply fusion electricity to the grid by 2050. The roadmap to the realisation of fusion energy breaks the quest for fusion energy down into eight missions. For each mission, it reviews the current status of research, identifies open issues, proposes a research and development programme and estimates the required resources. It points out the needs to intensify industrial involvement and to seek all opportunities for collaboration outside Europe.
A long-term perspective on fusion is mandatory since Europe has a leading position in this field and major expectations have grown in other ITER parties on fusion as a sustainable and secure energy source. China, for example, is launching an aggressive programme aimed at fusion electricity production well before 2050. Europe can keep the pace only if it focuses its effort and pursues a pragmatic approach to fusion energy. With this objective EFDA has elaborated the present roadmap.
Focussing on the research and engineering activities needed to achieve fusion electricity, the roadmap shows that these can be carried out within a reasonable budget. The amount of resources proposed are of the same level as those originally recommended for the seventh European Research Framework Programme – outside the European investment in the ITER construction.
The roadmap covers three periods: The upcoming European Research Framework Programme Horizon 2020, the years 2021-2030 and the time between 2031 and 2050.
ITER is the key facility of the roadmap as it is expected to achieve most of the important milestones on the path to fusion power. Thus, the vast majority of resources proposed for Horizon 2020 are dedicated to ITER and its accompanying experiments. The second period is focussed on maximising ITER exploitation and on preparing the construction of a demonstration power plant DEMO, which will for the first time supply fusion electricity to the grid. Building and operating DEMO is the subject of the last roadmap phase.
In the course of the roadmap implementation, the fusion programme will move from being laboratory-based and science-driven towards an industry- and technology-driven venture. ITER construction already generates a turnover of about six billion euro. The design, construction and operation of DEMO requires full involvement of industry to ensure that, after a successful DEMO operation, industry can take responsibility for commercial fusion power.