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As global demand for electricity is increasing, scientists are making steady progress in developing nuclear fusion reactors that will be driven by the Sun’s power generation technology. Fusion reactors will generate energy with less high-level nuclear waste compared to the currently operating fission type reactors.
The most advanced current research program, ITER, aims at demonstrating fusion’s scientific and technological feasibility. In a next phase, it will be succeeded by DEMO, an electric power plant prototype. DEMO is then expected to lead to full-scale commercial fusion power stations. The development path will take several decades.
Developing fusion based reactors remains one of the biggest technological challenges of our times. Fusion takes place under extreme conditions within a
confined environment with sufficient temperature, pressure and confinement time to create a plasma discharge. Therefore, delivering fusion technology on a commercial scale will rely on successful fusion materials research programs.
Materials for commercial fusion reactors will require qualification at high exposure fluence with fast spectrum and dedicated helium production to mimic fusion operational conditions. While the dedicated neutron sources are under development, the complementary fast spectrum reactor irradiation will become critical in 2030-2050, as the world is currently running out of fast research reactors.
MYRRHA as a fast neutron reactor will generate irradiation conditions close to those anticipated in DEMO, while sustaining high exposure flux. A dedicated fusion neutron channel at MYRRHA will contribute to the European programme of DEMO materials towards qualification as well as to post-irradiation examination (PIE) studies.
PIE investigations will be carried out by an international team of researchers at
nuclear facilities from SCK CEN and other countries who already did or are willing to join the Fusion Material Research Program. These studies will involve a variety of interdisciplinary research including chemistry, physics, engineering and material production routes.