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What a power station relying on fusion will look like

A power station based on the tokamak concept. Click to enlarge.

In the figure on the left, a future tokamak-based reactor concept is depicted. Because of its high probability and the (relatively) modest temperature it requires, the fusion of deuterium and tritium will in all likelihood fire the first fusion power plant. Just like the fuels, the energetic helium nuclei formed by the fusion reactions are charged and will be confined by the magnetic field. These particles will collide with other particles in the machine and thus gradually lose their excess energy, while heating up the plasma. Although the reaction it relies on is nuclear rather than chemical, the philosophy on which the fusion powered electricity producing plant is based is not more complicated than that of a traditional coal stove: part of the energy generated by the burn is used to warm up new fuel, which is helping to keep the fire alive. Contrary to the helium nuclei, the non-charged neutrons leave the reactor chamber. These neutrons are used to breed tritium in the lithium mantle around the vessel. Just like the helium particles in the plasma, the neutrons lose their energy by collisions. They hit the particles out of which the vessel mantle is composed, hereby heating the wall. The produced heat is evacuated via a primary cooling circuit. Adopting a heat exchanger, a second cooling circuit is heated. In the latter steam turbines allow to sap the (kinetic) energy of the particles and to produce electricity.