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Virtual Nuclear Fusion Plant Takes Shape In UK

Welcome to the new nuclear Metaverse, where a virtual prototype of a nuclear power plant set to operate sometime during the 2040s is underway.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), Dell Technologies, Intel, and Cambridge will team up on the project, a virtual environment dubbed the “Industrial Metaverse”.

The virtual nuclear fusion plant will be used by the UKAEA to determine whether its Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) project is feasible before undertaking such a massive project in the real world—a lesson perhaps learned by the massive ITER project.

Concept design for the new project is expected by next year.

The UK has embraced nuclear power, and has aspirations to have one-quarter of its energy needs come from nuclear by 2050, unlike some other countries in Europe that insist nuclear power—nuclear fission, at least--isn’t clean, shouldn’t be considered as part of low carbon projects, and as such, should be given up on.

Countries such as France, which rely heavily on nuclear power for its energy needs, have insisted that nuclear power in its country is here to stay and a non-negotiable item when it comes to Europe’s disagreement over the role nuclear power will play in a new low-carbon world. France currently relies on nuclear power for nearly three-quarters of its energy.

Other countries, like Germany, have decided to quit all nuclear power within its borders by 2038. Germany, however, is still on board with the nuclear fusion megaproject known as ITER.

A virtual setup like the one the UK is proposing could potentially help stave off at least some of the significant cost overruns and delays that the ITER project has suffered since its inception. But many of the project’s hiccups came in the form of Covid delays and the death of ITER’s director general—incidents that a virtual world couldn’t possibly seek to avoid. ITER’s costs have ballooned by as much as 10 times its original estimate due to supply chain disruptions and faulty parts.


By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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