Containing Nuclear Fusion

ORNL’s Summit supercomputer models heat load for a safer fusion reactor

A team at Princeton’s Plasma Physics laboratory used the Summit computer at the US DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to model heat load for a future fusion reactor.

Heat within a fusion reactor can achieve temperatures similar to the surface of the sun, which requires careful planning to ensure that the containing structures will have the capacity to provide safe and continuous support for the system. The experiment took data from smaller fusion devices and used the data to model heat effects on a full-scale production reactor – in this case, the ITER reactor, which is being built in southern France.

According to team leader C.S. Chang of Princeton’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, “In building any fusion reactor in the future, predicting the heat-load width is going to be critical to ensuring the divertor material maintains its integrity when faced with [the] exhaust heat. When the divertor material loses its integrity, the sputtered metallic particles contaminate the plasma and stop the burn or even cause sudden instability. These simulations give us hope that ITER operation might be easier than was initially thought.”

The results of the study were published in the Physics of Plasma journal.