The New Yorker: A Star in a Bottle

The New Yorker featured Brian Wirth, UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Computational Nuclear Engineering, in an article entitled “A Star in a Bottle.” The article is about the international collaboration to build a fusion reactor called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER. The article likens the reactor to imagesbottling up a star with promise to solve the world’s energy problems for the next thirty million years, and help save the planet from environmental catastrophe. Wirth spoke about the challenges of overcoming materials degradation in the machine. “If you told me that physicists could create a steady-state plasma device, I do not have the materials today to build that,” he said. “There are certainly harsh radiation conditions in space, but the particle flux—the rate of particles hitting the Space Station—is about twelve to fifteen orders of magnitude less than the rate that they are going to hit the first wall in a prototype reactor.”