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A fusion power plant — why not

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Talks on nuclear fusion power tend to focus on the possibilities and the promise: a safe, sustainable, non-intermittent, carbon-neutral energy supply. This one will not. Instead we will take a deep dive into the limitations of our own understanding, exploring how what seems to be a classical physics problem has resisted a $60 billion international R&D effort. We will encounter many difficulties. Some will be elegant and pure, like isolated plasma turbulence in a magnetic field, while others will involve the engineering technicalities of fields such as material science and applied superconductivity. Yet, when we intermix all these difficulties and constraints in trying to design a magnetic confinement fusion power plant, we’ll arrive at a conclusion that just might merit some optimism.

About the speaker: Justin Ball is an American scientist studying theoretical plasma physics and nuclear fusion energy. He works at the Swiss Plasma Center, a fusion laboratory within the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. His research primarily focuses on the effect of plasma shaping on turbulence in tokamaks. Additionally, he is an avid fusion science communicator via magazine articles, lectures, and podcasts. In 2019, he and Jason Parisi published a popular science book titled The Future of Fusion Energy.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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