‘Most average town in England’ Didcot to house nuclear experiment hotter than the Sun

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Didcot in Oxfordshire was named as England’s most average town in 2017 but is now home to a machine that aims to recreate fusion energy more blistering than the Sun

Didcot Parkway Station
Didcot Parkway Station in England’s ‘most normal town’

The ‘most normal town in England’ is set to become the hottest place in the Solar System as the base of a new nuclear fusion experiment – more powerful than the Sun.

Didcot in Oxfordshire is home to machine that aims to recreate fusion energy as blistering as the star which heats the planet.

UK company Tokamak Energy’s reactor, called ST40, stands at four meters tall and 2.5 meters wide.

ST40 works by firing 140,000 amps of electricity into a cloud of hydrogen gas within the machine’s core, taking it up to 50 million degrees Celsius.

They want it make it 100 million degrees Celsius – the sun is 15 million C.

It says it hopes their base on an industrial estate in Oxfordshire could spark the start of a cheap, clean energy supply.

Didcot is in Oxfordshire
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Image:

Oxfordshire Live / Darren Pepe)

CEO Chris Kelsall told the BBC : ‘’We will crack it. The answer is out there right now with Mother Nature as we speak.

‘’What we have to do is find that key and unlock the safe to that solution. It will be found.”

Nuclear fusion is different from nuclear fission and its famous disasters.

The process occurs inside a ‘tokamak’ – a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to contain the swirling cloud of hydrogen gas.

Didcot is about to hot up
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Image:

Oxfordshire Live / Darren Pepe)

This prevents the superheated plasma from touching the edge of the vessel – as it would melt anything it comes into contact with.

If any errors occur the device just stops – so there’s no risk of a meltdown.

Dr Hannah Willett, a physicist at Tokamak energy, says producing power through fusion is ‘much cleaner, and a lot more efficient’.

She said: ‘’You get a lot more energy out of this reaction than out of just burning fossil fuels.”

Fusion energy is seen as possibly a way to a greener energy provision – alongside natural sources like solar, wind and tidal.

The hydrogen can be derived from seawater, meaning there is a limitless supply of fuel on Earth.

Fusion is the reaction happening in the sun and the stars – it is the way sun makes energy. It can create huge amounts of energy, without using greenhouse gases.

Tokamak Energy says 1 kilogram of fusion fuel produces as much as energy as hundreds of truckloads of coal.

Half a bath full of water and the lithium in a laptop battery would be enough to cover a person’s lifetime energy needs.

One of the co-founders of the company, David Kingham, told the New York Times ‘Nobody has a better plan to deal with the climate crisis.’

Tokamak’s next step is to produce more energy than is put in ST40, and eventually get the machine to reach 100 million degrees Celsius.

It says that amount of fusion energy will produce cheap and accessible global power, without harming Earth.

But they stress it is still a very new form of energy and little is known about its implications if implemented on a large scale.

Experts have been trying for five decades to make fusion work and it might be years before home can be powered using it.

In 2017 Didcot was named as England’s most average town.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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