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Climate Polluters Collaborate on Nuclear Fusion

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by Sunny Lewis,

PARIS, France, December 17, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The breakthrough Paris Climate Agreement approved December 12 commits all countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

Now, the world is focused on finding clean sources of energy to replace the coal, oil and gas that, when burned to generate electricity, emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

All the countries that top the greenhouse gas emissions list are among those cooperating on a long-term energy project that some say is also a long shot – nuclear fusion.

The opposite of the nuclear fission that splits atoms to power all current nuclear generating stations, fusion is the process that powers the Sun and the stars.

When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, abundant and environmentally responsible energy source.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, which in Latin means the way, is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today. Like the Paris Climate Agreement, ITER is also a first-of-a-kind global collaboration.

In Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in the south of France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest Tokamak. This magnetic fusion device is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.

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Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985.

The seven ITER Members – China, the European Union (plus Switzerland, as a member of EURATOM), India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States – are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.

ITER is financed by the seven Members. Ninety percent of contributions will be delivered “in-kind.” That means that in the place of cash, the Members will deliver components and buildings directly to the ITER Organization.

The ITER Organization estimates the cost of ITER construction for the seven Members at roughly €13 billion, if all the manufacturing were done in Europe.

But each Member State is producing its contributions in its own country. “As production costs vary from Member to Member, it is impossible to furnish a more precise estimation,” says the ITER Organization.

Europe is contributing almost half of the costs of ITER construction, while the other six Members are contributing equally to fund the rest.

Organizers say the ITER project is “progressing well despite delays.”

On Monday, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics said they have reached a milestone in the quest to derive energy from nuclear fusion.

They started up one of the world’s largest nuclear fusion machines for the first time and briefly generated a super-heated helium plasma inside a vessel, a key point in the experimental process.

The 16-meter-wide machine is the Wendelstein 7-X, a type of nuclear fusion device called a stellarator. Scientists have been talking about the enormous potential of stellarators for decades, but this is the first time a team has shown that it can produce and control plasma.

The first plasma in the machine lasted one-tenth of a second and reached a temperature of around one million kelvins. “We’re very satisfied,” said Hans-Stephan Bosch, whose division is responsible for the operation of the Wendelstein 7-X. “Everything went according to plan.”

At its 17th Meeting, held on November 18-19, the ITER Council reviewed the progress made by the ITER Organization Central Team and the Members’ Domestic Agencies from the ITER design and early construction phase to the current phase of full construction.

The Council recognized the “tangible progress” made during the past eight months on construction and component manufacturing.

Onsite, in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, the European Domestic Agency has completed the framing of the Assembly Hall and the platform for the first level of the Tokamak. There has also been progress on magnets, the neutral beam injector, remote handling, and other ITER components.

India has completed the fabrication, pre-assembly, and shipment of the initial components of the ITER cryostat, for assembly in the already completed cryostat building onsite, as well as the first cooling water piping for ITER’s chilled water and heat rejection systems.

Four 400kV transformers procured from the United States have been shipped and installed onsite, and the U.S.-procured drain tanks for the cooling water and neutral beam systems have arrived onsite.

China has completed the manufacturing and testing of the first batch of pulsed power electrical network equipment. China also has reached qualification milestones in the manufacturing of magnet feeders, correction coils, and the blanket first wall.

Japan has started the series production of the toroidal field coils. Full-tungsten prototypes of plasma-facing components for the ITER divertor have been manufactured and shipped, and required performance for ITER has been demonstrated.

Russia has fully met its obligations for delivery of superconductor cable for ITER magnets. At Russia’s Divertor Test facility, high heat flux testing is also underway for divertor plasma-facing components from Japan, Europe, and Russia. Beryllium fabrication has begun, and the gyrotron complex prototype facility has passed its acceptance tests.

In Korea, manufacturing is ongoing for the ITER vacuum vessel and thermal shield, and design milestones have been achieved for many of the purpose-built tools ITER will need for assembly.

The Council noted the completion of superconductor production, which has been a coordinated effort involving laboratories and companies of ITER Members in 12 countries.

This complex process involves the multinational harmonization of design attributes, production standards, quality assurance measures, and testing protocols.

The Council recognized “the substantial benefit this will create for all ITER Members, positively impacting the capacity for cross-border trade and innovation, not only in energy industries but also in fields such as medical imaging and transportation applications.”

If ITER is successfully completed, it will be able to claim many firsts. ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time.

And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

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Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Visualization of the completed ITER Tokamak courtesy of Jamison Daniel, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Lab, United States
Image 01: Construction is underway at the 42-hectare ITER site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in southern France, where building began in 2010.
Image 02: A technician at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics works inside the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator.

China Plans World’s Largest Carbon Market to Curb Climate Change

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By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, October 7, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Within two years China will open a national market-based cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions from some of its largest industrial sectors, President Xi Jinping announced late last month during his visit to the United States.

Carbon emission levels will be capped and companies will have to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate-warming greenhouse gas.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the top oil importer after the United States and is struggling with a public health crisis caused by severe air pollution in its largest cities.

China’s new carbon emissions trading system will cover key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making and nonferrous metals.

The carbon market – similar to the European Union’s and also similar to two regional markets in the United States – is part of an effort to help China meet its climate targets and move toward energy supplies based on nuclear power plants and renewables.

President Xi said China will implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid.

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In a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change issued on September 25, the two nations describe a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris this December. It is scheduled to take effect from 2020.

President Xi said, “We have decided to continue to work together to tackle global challenges and provide more public good for the international community. We, again, issued a joint announcement on climate change. We have agreed to expand bilateral practical cooperation, strengthen coordination in multilateral negotiation, and work together to push the Paris climate change conference to produce important progress.”

President Obama said, “When the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come together like this, then there’s no reason for other countries – whether developed or developing – to not do so as well. And so this is another major step towards the global agreement the world needs to reach in two months’ time.”

The Joint Statement builds on last November’s historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi of ambitious post-2020 climate targets.

In their Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed a concrete set of shared understandings for the Paris agreement. On mitigating the impact of climate change, they agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome.

First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. They agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition.

Second, the two presidents underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the goal that world leaders agreed at the UN’s 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels.

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Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

These announcements complement the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.

Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. Besides destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, HCFCs are greenhouse gases many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

China’s government has been planning to implement a carbon trading market for years.

The cap-and-trade system will expand on seven regional pilot carbon trade programs that China began in 2011.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and special envoy for climate change, has been working closely with China in providing technical support to the pilots.

“As China began to pilot through different ways of creating emissions trading systems or emissions reductions systems, we have, through what is called a partnership for market readiness, provided a mutual platform for techno-crafts from different economies in the world to share their experiences of introducing emissions trading systems so that we can all learn from each other,” she said in an interview with China’s state news agency Xinhua on September 30.

“An emissions trading system has existed in Europe for some time. Now we have an auction in California. We have pilots in China. We have a trading system in Korea. Some countries are putting carbon taxes in place,” Kyte said. “We provide a mutual technical platform to let these experiences be exchanged.”

“China is ready to learn from those pilots and move to a national system,” Kyte said, “This will immediately create the largest carbon market in the world. Other carbon markets in the world will want to link with China. This does put China in a leadership position in helping the global economy move to low-carbon growth.”

To ensure a successful carbon trading system, Kyte emphasized the importance of setting the right prices.

“The prices must be set in such a way that the prices reflect the ambition, that the emissions are reduced, that the poor people are treated fairly, that they are transparent and that they can be understood by the consumer,” she said.

China says it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions when its next five-year plan comes into force in 2016.


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 01:Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama meet with the press after their talks in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 02: This parabolic solar-thermal power plant is adjacent to a large-scale wind farms in China’s north central Shanxi Province. It came online in 2011. (Photo courtesy Shanxi International Electricity Group Co Ltd.)
Image 03: The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is under construction in China’s Guangxi Province. Operated by China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd., it is expected to come online in 2016. (Photo courtesy China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd.)