International Dinner with Germany’s former ambassador to the UK

Botschafter a. D. Georg Boomgaarden

St Anne’s College is proud to welcome Germany’s former ambassador to the UK: Botschafter a. D. Georg Boomgaarden, as the speaker at our International Seminar 2014.

Mr Boomgaarden was Germany’s State Secretary of the Foreign Office from 2005 to 2008, when he became Germany’s Ambassador to the UK until 2013.He also worked for several years in the German Embassy in Moscow.

When and Where?

5.30pm – 6.30pm • Talk and Q&A session Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre

6.45pm – 7.15pm • Pre-dinner drinks reception Foyer B (Ruth Deech Building)

7.15pm – 9pm • German Formal Hall The Dining Hall


More details can be found here on the main St. Anne’s College website.


SDG Visit Culham Nuclear Fusion Laboratory

JET Control Room

JET Control Room

Today the SDG, well 10 members of it, visited the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy just south of Oxford. It was well worth the trip. We learned more about nuclear fusion, most of it similar to the SDG talk we had by Dr. James Buchanan last term, but also saw the reactors (MAST and JET) in the flesh so to speak. It really is an impressive operation! From a mere logistics point of view, managing such huge projects, building such complicated machines and coming up with the science that is not just innovative, but really works is just astounding.


What is Nuclear Fusion?


Here is some basic information about nuclear fusion and how it works. It will also help in understanding some of the terminology used below to describe the reactors.

Fusion, at least in its current form occurs when deuterium and tritium, two isotopes of hydrogen are combined together to form helium and a free neutron. The mass of helium is less than the sum of the deuterium and tritium parts, and through the E=MC² formula, this means that 17.6 MeV of energy is released per reaction. Pretty cool.

In order to create the environment for fusion, a very hot (over 23 million degrees Celsius) electrically charged gas, called a plasma needs to be sustained for a period of time, or what is termed a pulse. This plasma contains the deuterium and tritium parts and the high temperature environment enables fusion to occur.

The advancements in nuclear fusion have focused largely around being able to create enough heat so that fusion can occur whilst also having magnets strong enough to control the plasma and systems to take away the by-products of fusion. The end result will be an environment that can not only sustain the plasma for longer periods of time (from 0.5 seconds in MAST to 40 seconds in JET to hour in ITER to hours in DEMO) but will able to create temperatures that cause ignition, the point at which the plasma generates its own heat, just like the sun. It is envisaged that ITER will be the first reactor to achieve ignition, generating 10 times more energy than what is put in, adding a potential 500 MW to the grid. DEMO will hopefully generate >18 times more energy than put in with 1800-2100MW.


Anyway, enough of that. On to some facts and pictures about MAST and JET.

MAST – (Mage Amp Spherical Tokamak)

Some info about MAST:

  1. MAST is one of the world’s two leading spherical tokamak (ST) reactors alongside NSTX at Princeton, USA;
  2. It can sustain a pulse (the time plasma, electrically charged gas, is held in the reactor) for .5 seconds due to instabilities in the plasma field which has temperatures up to 23 million degrees celcius!
  3. It’s currently in maintenance phase to provide the technology to
    1. heat the plasma further;
    2. sustain the fusion length 10x longer than at present; and
    3. improve the exhaust which removes the helium by product of fusion.

Some pictures of the MAST parts can be seen here.

Learning about MAST and pulses

Learning about MAST and pulses

The transformer pole from the centre of MAST.

The transformer pole from the centre of MAST.

A model of how the new interior of MAST will look...not sure the colour scheme will hold true though.

A model of how the new interior of MAST will look…not sure the colour scheme will hold true though.

The pit MAST is meant to be in.

The pit MAST is meant to be in.



Some info about JET:

  1. When JET is running, it consumes 1000MWh, 600MW is from the UKs power grid (1% of the total grid capacity…pretty impressive). They have a direct line to the UK grid in case they are told not to switch on the reactor in periods of unexpected high demand.
  2. Two massive fly wheels are used to generate the additional 400 MW via kinetic energy. The rotor is 9 meters wide and weighs 775 tons.
  3. For each 40 second run of JET, up to 60GB of data is generated.
  4. It currently holds the world record for energy generated by fusion (5MW).
  5. At present it has a Q value (efficiency metric) of 0.67, meaning that it generates slightly .67 times less energy than put in. Still impressive and that value will be 10 for ITER – 10x more energy created than required to produce it.



MASCOT robot

MASCOT robot


MASCOT control room with lovely robot arms.

MASCOT control room with lovely robot arms.


Subscribe to the St. Anne’s MCR Mailing List

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SDG News

I hope term is going well for you so far and you’ve been enjoying the many events, talks and dinners the college has put on so far. From now on, the St. Anne’s Science Discussion Group will be blogging a few times a month to bring you news about science going on in Oxford and events you may be interested in and around the university. In this first release, we’d like to highlight what has gone on in the SDG so far this term and a scientific magazine that may be of interest to you all, called Bang!.

SDG so far

I think everyone who attended an SDG event so far will say that the talks have been really interesting. We’ve heard from: Dame Jocelyn Bell about Women in Science; Dr. Luca Melchiori about an extremely promising T-cell therapy for cancer; Prof. Michael Brand on neurogenesis and his work in investigating how cell regeneration could work for humans; Lord Robert May on scientific policy bringing in a lot of experience acquired during his time as chief science officer in the UK government; and this week we’ll be hearing from Howard Rogers when he’ll be discussing ‘fracking’, a topic which until recently was on everybody’s lips.

Bang! Magazine

The first thing we’d like to bring to your attention is the Bang! Magazine. The new issue has just been released and it’s a great way of finding out all the great science going on in Oxford at the minute, via a very aesthetically pleasing medium.

We look forward to seeing some of you this weeks SDG with Howard Rogers!

New website launched!

We’ve launched our new website!


Our aim in creating this site was two fold. First, to update the look of the site to something more fresh. Second, to provide editing facilities for all members of the MCR. In the previous site, we had problems caused by a bottleneck in the system…one person, the computer rep, had to manage all edits put forward by all members of the MCR committee. This is obviously a pain and a bit 90s in terms of technology. So now, we’ve upgraded, have a fully fledged CMS and will be adding to the site constantly over the coming weeks!


We aim to have the important content repopulated very soon, but the old site is still available for perusal at – if you have any comments, please email Eamonn at .