Russia and Italy have entered into an agreement to build a new fusion reactor outside Moscow that could become the first such reactor to achieve ignition, the point where a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy.
The design for the reactor, called Ignitor, originated with MIT physics professor Bruno Coppi, who will be the project’s principal investigator.
The concept for the new reactor builds on decades of experience with MIT’s Alcator fusion research programme, also initiated by Coppi, which in its present version (called Alcator C-Mod) has the highest magnetic field and highest plasma pressure of any fusion reactor, and is the largest university-based fusion reactor in the world.
Ignitor would be about twice the size of Alcator C-Mod, with a main donut-shaped chamber 1.3m across, and have an even stronger magnetic field. It will be much smaller and less expensive than the ITER (with a chamber 6.2m across), currently under construction in France. Although originally designed to achieve ignition, the ITER reactor has been scaled back and is now not expected to reach that milestone.
The Ignitor reactor, Coppi said, will be ’a very compact, inexpensive type of machine’, and unlike the larger ITER could be ready to begin operations within a few years.
Coppi plans to work with the Italian ministry of research and Evgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, to develop the machine, the core of which is to be built in Italy and then installed in Troitsk, near Moscow, on the site of that institute’s present Triniti reactor.