In the Summer term 2011 Mr Hardiman and Mr Keeley took 11 Year 12 students to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy near Abingdon. The centre houses the world’s largest Nuclear Fusion Reactor and we were lucky enough to have a good look around it. Fusion power is seen by many as the answer to the world’s energy problems as it provides clean and safe energy. Physicists working at Culham were optimistic that fusion power could be up and running within the next 50 years.
The scale of the operation was incredible. When the JET fusion reactor is running, it draws in 2% of the entire capacity of the National Grid. And even this isn’t enough. In the hour or two prior to the machine being fired up, enormous concrete flywheels weighing several tons are spun at high speed. It’s been calculated that if they came loose, they wouldn’t stop rolling until they reached Newbury! The enormous power consumption means that if the reactor was used after Eastenders or Coronation Street there would be a risk of there not being enough power to boil your kettles!
The students (and teachers) found the whole experience fascinating and apart from a slight minibus breakdown on the way home, the trip was a great success.
We hope to return to Culham next year to spend the whole day at the centre.