The 5th of February 2007 was a decisive day in the race towards fusion energy with the signing of the Broader Approach Agreement between the European Union and Japan. This technological research programme, which complements the international large-scale ITER project (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), served as the basis for three large projects: the validation and engineering design of a parallel accelerator prototype for fusion materials irradiation (IFMIF/EVEDA); a plasma confinement device of Tokamak type (STP – JT-60SA); and a series of activities (IFERC) related to the future reactor of fusion demonstration-DEMO.
The Broader Approach was signed in Tokyo by representatives of the Japanese Government and of EURATOM. It is key in the race towards nuclear fusion and the development of the DEMO power plant, the facility that will follow ITER. The work, coordinated by Fusion for Energy (F4E), is being conducted between Japan and a number of European countries.
The three projects contemplated in the Broader Approach have the aim of compiling the necessary information in the fields of physics and technology for the design and construction of DEMO, by constructing an advanced fusion device, researching long-lasting materials that will be used in future fusion facilities, and completing the preliminary work for the construction of the DEMO reactor.
The IFMIF project (the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility) aims at generating a neutron flux similar to that in the DEMO rector with Li(d,xn) nuclear reactions using a parallel deuteron accelerator. The ultimate purpose is to study the behaviour of fusion materials under irradiation conditions.
In its current phase, EVEDA (Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities) aims at validating the technical feasibility of the IFMIF facility. It will elaborate a complete detail engineering design for IFMIF and validate the continuous and stable operation of the prototypes of the different subsystems, such as:
- the Accelerator Prototype (LIPAc) in Rokkasho (Japan),
- the Lithium Test Loop in Oarai (Japan), complemented by corrosion experiments performed at the LIFUS6 lithium loop in Brasimone (Italy),
- the High Flux Test Module, irradiated in a fission reactor and tested in the helium loop HELOKA (Germany), complementing the Creep Fatigue Test Module manufactured and tested in full scale in Villigen (Switzerland)
This fusion experiment is being developed in Naka (Japan). It is a Tokamak device similar to ITER but smaller in size that will operate as a ‘satellite’ experiment. Its role will be key to optimize the operation of fusion power plants that will be built after ITER. It will investigate new operation regimes that will be used in commercial reactors, for which ITER does not have the flexibility, the response time, or the adequate costs structure.
The activities related to the future demonstration fusion reactor-DEMO are developed by IFERC (International Fusion Energy Research Center) in Rokkasho (Japan). It is implemented through the following three subprojects:
- DEMO Design and R&D Coordination Centre (DEMO Design and DEMO R&D), to implement the scientific and technological activities required for DEMO design,
- Computational Simulation Centre (CSC), to provide the supercomputing environment necessary to perform large-scale simulations on plasmas and materials, predict ITER performance and design of DEMO.
- ITER Remote Experimentation Centre (REC), to be used as a remote centre for experiment preparation, real-time monitoring, and data analysis for ITER campaigns.
During the implementation of the Broader Approach, and complementing this agreement, other activities have continued for the validation of the engineering design developed under the scope of this agreement.
Since 2015, and while this important international agreement between Europe and Japan is being implemented, another international project is being run, addressing the design of an irradiation power plant, relatively more modest but with the possibility to be upgraded to a full IFMIF. This power plant was named IFMIF DEMO Oriented Neutron Source (IFMIF-DONES). It aims at progressing in the obtaining of the necessary information of the irradiated materials for the design and construction of DEMO.
This change from IFMIF to DONES was originated in the strategy to build DEMO, with a reduction in the specifications and in the level of radiation in materials. Upgrading DONES to a full IFMIF in the future (with two accelerators instead of one) to provide the necessary information for the design and construction of a commercial reactor would be possible.
This project is being developed within the framework of European activities, promoted, coordinated, and funded by EUROfusion, for achieving fusion energy. EUROfusion recognises IFMIF-DONES and ITER as the main pillars on which the European strategy should be developed to achieve fusion energy. The main purpose of the DONES project, within the framework of EUROfusion, is to develop a mature engineering design for the preparation of the technical specifications of contracts with the industry sector for the fabrication of components and the construction of buildings and auxiliary systems.
At the national level, there are Spanish actors equally important, as the Regional Government of Andalucía and the Ministry of Science and Innovation, who support, complement, and contribute to the implementation of this European initiative. The design of DONES has reached in recent years the sufficient maturity to also consider the site where it will be built, including the safety, seismic and construction requirements, among others. Since 2018 the site of reference for the design of the power plant is Granada, thanks to the effort of the Regional Government of Andalucía and the Spanish Government to prepare an attractive candidacy, with the support of Croatia and other European partners. There is no doubt that the power plant will be sited in Granada if it is finally constructed.
THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
Finally, as the tip of the iceberg originated and supported by the 2007 Broader Approach, it should be noted that the IFMIF-DONES Granada project has been considered a strategic research infrastructure for Europe’s R&D. It has also been included in the Roadmap 2018 of the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), which makes the assignment of funds easier. The implementation of the IFMIF-DONES Preparatory Phase project started in 2019, funded by Horizon 2020-EURATOM. The aim is to prepare a draft agreement to define the partners, the governance model and to prepare the construction and operation activities of the facility, including environmental impact and radiological studies, as well as the licensing of the facility. In this regard, in May 2020 the Consortium between the Spanish Government and the Regional Government of Andalucía was authorized, who will manage the Spanish contribution and representation.