In pictures: Inside the race for nuclear fusion power © EUROfusion Consortium

In pictures: Inside the race for nuclear fusion power

Take a look inside the fusion reactors around the world that are bringing us closer to achieving the dream.

Nuclear fusion, the ‘holy grail’ of energy, has long eluded scientists. In a fusion reaction, hydrogen plasma fuses to become helium under enormous heat and pressure, and releases huge amounts of clean, renewable energy in the process. However, this virtually limitless source of energy faces technical challenges that have thus far been insurmountable.

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Scientists have said for decades that generating power from nuclear fusion is only a few decades away – this time, could it be true? Take a look inside the fusion reactors around the world that are bringing us closer to achieving the dream.

Alcator C-mod reactor, MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, USA

A cylindrical column plated in metal inside a doughnut-shaped chamber. A person in a full-body white suit is inside the chamber © Bob Mumgaard/Creative Commons
Inside the doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber of the Alcator C-mod reactor at MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center © Bob Mumgaard/Creative Commons

Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor, China

The team at China’s EAST reactor inspect and adjust the device ahead of its record-breaking demonstration in June 2021 © Shutterstock
The team at China’s EAST reactor inspect and adjust the device ahead of its record-breaking demonstration in June 2021 © Shutterstock
China's EAST reactor © Shutterstock
In a world-first, China’s EAST reactor managed to maintain plasma at 120,000,000°C for 101 seconds © Shutterstock

National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX-U), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, USA

Two people working on the chamber inside the NSTX-U reactor © Elle Starkman/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
The NSTX-U reactor has been designed to create a spherical plasma, in contrast to the toroidal (doughnut-shaped) plasmas of other tokamaks © Elle Starkman/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, France

A view from above of ITER under construction © ITER Organisation
35 nations have invested in the ITER, which is being built in France © ITER Organisation
The doughnut-shaped chamber at the heart of ITER. It is a large metal construction © ITER Organisation
The doughnut-shaped chamber at the heart of ITER © ITER Organisation

Joint European Torus reactor, UK

Inside the chamber of the JET reactor © EUROfusion Consortium
The Joint European Torus (JET) reactor in the UK is working on deuterium-tritium fusion reactions intended to sustain higher power outputs for longer © EUROfusion Consortium
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