In DepthEUROPE

Brexit casts pall on fusion

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Science  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1376
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6292.1376

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Summary

If the United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union on 23 June, fusion research may be particularly hard hit. Europe's largest fusion facility, the Joint European Torus (JET), is sited near Oxford, U.K.; a vote to leave would put it in a legal limbo that could halt vital research supporting the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), now under construction in France. JET is the world's largest fusion reactor; its innards have been coated with the same beryllium and tungsten that will line ITER; and its heating power boosted to make it as ITER-like as possible. JET researchers are testing how the machine behaves when filled with individual hydrogen isotopes before attempting burns with deuterium and tritium—the fuel for fusion—in 2019. A Brexit could halt those experiments.

  • * in Cambridge, U.K.