Why Technical English

Fuel cycle in fusion reactors

May 25, 2011
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

Common notes

The basic concept behind any fusion reaction is to bring two or more nuclei close enough together, so that the nuclear force in nuclei will pull them together into one larger nucleus. If two light nuclei fuse, they will generally form a single nucleus with a slightly smaller mass than the sum of their original masses (though this is not always the case). The difference in mass is released as energy according to Albert Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2. If the input nuclei are sufficiently massive, the resulting fusion product will be heavier than the sum of the reactants’ original masses. Due to it the reaction requires an external source of energy. The dividing line between “light” and “heavy” nuclei is iron-56. Above this atomic mass, energy will generally be released by nuclear fission reactions; below it, by fusion.

Fusion between the nuclei is opposed by their shared electrical charge, specifically the net positive charge of the protons in the nucleus. In response to it some external sources of energy must be supplied to overcome this electrostatic force. The easiest way to achieve this is to heat the atoms, which has the side effect of stripping the electrons from the atoms and leaving them as nuclei. In most experiments the nuclei and electrons are left in a fluid known as a plasma. The temperatures required to provide the nuclei with enough energy to overcome their repulsion is a function of the total charge. Thus hydrogen, which has the smallest nuclear charge, reacts at the lowest temperature. Helium has an extremely low mass per nucleon and therefore is energetically favoured as a fusion product. As a consequence, most fusion reactions combine isotopes of hydrogen (“protium“, deuterium, or tritium) to form isotopes of helium.

In both magnetic confinement and inertial confinement fusion reactor designs tritium is used as a fuel. The experimental fusion reactor ITER (see also The Project ITER – past and present) and the National Ignition Facility (NIF) will use deuterium-tritium fuel. The deuterium-tritium reaction is favorable since it has the largest fusion cross-section, which leads to the greater probability of a fusion reaction occurrence.

Deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel cycle

D-T fusion

Deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion


The easiest and most immediately promising nuclear reaction to be used for fusion power is deuterium-tritium Fuel cycle. Hydrogen-2 (Deuterium) is a naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen and as such is universally available. Hydrogen-3 (Tritium) is also an isotope of hydrogen, but it occurs naturally in only negligible amounts as a result of its radioactive half-life of 12.32 years. Consequently, the deuterium-tritium fuel cycle requires the breeding of tritium from lithium. Most reactor designs use the naturally occurring mix of lithium isotopes.

Several drawbacks are commonly attributed to the D-T fuel cycle of the fusion power:

  1. It produces substantial amounts of neutrons that result in induced radioactivity within the reactor structure.
  2. The use of D-T fusion power depends on lithium resources, which are less abundant than deuterium resources.
  3. It requires the handling of the radioisotope tritium. Similar to hydrogen, tritium is difficult to contain and may leak from reactors in certain quantity. Hence, some estimates suggest that this would represent a fairly large environmental release of radioactivity.

Problems with material design

The huge neutron flux expected in a commercial D-T fusion reactor poses problems for material design. Design of suitable materials is under way but their actual use in a reactor is not proposed until the generation later ITER (see also The Project ITER – past and present). After a single series of D-T tests at JET (Joint European Torus, the largest magnetic confinement experiment currently in operation), the vacuum vessel of the fusion reactor, which used this fuel, became sufficiently radioactive. So, remote handling needed to be used for the year following the tests.

In a production setting, the neutrons react with lithium in order to create more tritium. This deposits the energy of the neutrons in the lithium, for this reason it should be cooled to remove this energy. This reaction protects the outer portions of the reactor from the neutron flux. Newer designs, the advanced tokamak in particular, also use lithium inside the reactor core as a key element of the design.

PS: I strongly recommend to read the article FUSION(A Limitless Source Of Energy). It is a competent technical text for studying Technical English. Consequently it offers absorbing information about the topic.


The Project ITER – past and present

April 30, 2011
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Composed by Galina Vitkova


The logo of the ITER Organization

The logo of the ITER Organization


„We firmly believe that to harness fusion energy is the only way to reconcile huge conflicting demands which will confront humanity sooner or later“

Director-General Osamu Motojima,  Opening address, Monaco International ITER Fusion Energy Days, 23 November 2010


ITER was originally an acronym for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, but that title was dropped in view of the negatively popular connotation of “thermonuclear“, especially in conjunction with “experimental”. “Iter” also means “journey”, “direction” or “way” in Latin, taking into consideration ITER potential role in harnessing nuclear fusion (see also The ViCTE Newsletter Number 28 – SVOMT revising/March 2011 Nuclear power – fission and fusion) as a peaceful power source.

ITER is a large-scale scientific project intended to prove the practicability of fusion as an energy source, to prove that it can work without negative impact. Moreover, it is expected to collect the data necessary for the design and subsequent operation of the first electricity-producing fusion power plant. Besides, it aims to demonstrate the possibility to produce commercial energy from fusion. ITER is the culmination of decades of fusion research: more than 200 tokamaks (see also The ViCTE Newsletter Number 29 – Easy such and so / April 2011 Nuclear power – tokamaks) built over the world have paved the way to the ITER experiment. ITER is the result of the knowledge and experience these machines have accumulated. ITER, which will be twice the size of the largest tokamak currently operating, is conceived as the necessary experimental step on the way to a demonstration of a fusion power plant potential.

The scientific goal of the ITER project is to deliver ten times the power it consumes. From 50 MW of input power, the ITER machine is designed to produce 500 MW of fusion power – the first of all fusion experiments producing net energy. During its operational lifetime, ITER will test key technologies necessary for the next step, will develop technologies and processes needed for a fusion power plant – including superconducting magnets and remote handling (maintenance by robot). Furthermore, it will verify tritium breeding concepts, will refine neutron shield/heat conversion technology. As a result the ITER project will demonstrate that a fusion power plant is able to capture fusion energy for commercial use.

Launched as an idea for international collaboration in 1985, now the ITER Agreement includes China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States, representing over half of the world’s population. Twenty years of the design work and complex negotiations have been necessary to bring the project to where it is today.

The ITER Agreement was officially signed at theElyséePalaceinParison21 November 2006by Ministers from the seven ITER Members. In a ceremony hosted by French President Jacques Chirac and the President of the European Commission M. José Manuel Durao Barroso, this Agreement established a legal international entity to be responsible for construction, operation, and decommissioning of ITER.

On24 October 2007, after ratification by all Members, the ITER Agreement entered into force and officially established the ITER Organization. ITER was originally expected to cost approximately €5billion. However, the rising price of raw materials and changes to the initial design have augmented that amount more than triple, i.e. to €16billion.

Cost Breakdown of ITER Reactor

Cost Breakdown of ITER Reactor


The program is anticipated to last for 30 years – 10 for construction, and 20 of operation. The reactor is expected to take 10 years to build with completion in 2018. The ITER site in Cadarache, France stands ready: in 2010, construction began on the ITER Tokamak and scientific buildings. The seven ITER Members have shared in the design of the installation, the creation of the international project structure, and in its funding.

Key components for the Tokamak will be manufactured in the seven Member States and shipped to Franceby sea. From the port in Berre l’Etang on the Mediterranean, the components will be transported by special convoy along the 104 kilometres of the ITER Itinerary to Cadarache. The exceptional size and weight of certain of the Tokamak components made large-scale public works necessary to widen roads, reinforce bridges and modify intersections. Costs were shared by the Bouches-du-Rhône department Council (79%) and theFrenchState (21%). Work on the Itinerary was completed in December, 2010.

Two trial convoys will be organized in 2011 to put the Itinerary’s resistance and design to the test before a full-scale practice convoy in 2012, and the arrival of the first components for ITER by sea.

Between 2012 and 2017, 200 exceptional convoys will travel by night at reduced speeds along the ITER Itinerary, bypassing 16 villages, negotiating 16 roundabouts, and crossing 35 bridges.

Manufacturing of components for ITER has already begun in Members industries all over the world. So, the level of coordination required for the successful fabrication of over one million parts for the ITER Tokamak alone is daily creating a new model of international scientific collaboration.

ITER, without question, is a very complex project. Building ITER will require a continuous and joint effort involving all partners. In any case, this project remains a challenging task and for most of participants it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to such a fantastic endeavour.



How XML has been arising

May 14, 2010

Composed by G. Vitkova

Dear colleagues,

The following text about XML is intended to remind basic knowledge about integrating tool over Internet. Our aim is to prepare a platform for a discussion further improvement of users´comfort introduced and implemented in last versions of Windows based on XML. Enjoy the text and discuss. Galina Vitkova


XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a set of rules for encoding documents electronically. XML design goals emphasize simplicity, generality, and usability over the Internet. It issues from SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language – ISO 8879).

By the mid-1990s some practitioners of SGML gained experience with the then-new World Wide Web, and believed that SGML offered sufficient solutions to WEB functioning. Nevertheless, as the WEB grew, some new problems appeared, which the Web was to face. So, an XML working group of eleven members, supported by an approximately 150-member Interest Group was established. Technical debates took place on the Interest Group mailing list and issues were resolved by consensus or, when that failed, majority vote of the Working Group.

The members of the XML Working Group never met face-to-face; the design was accomplished using a combination of emails and weekly teleconferences. The major design decisions were reached in twenty weeks of intense work between July and November 1996, when the first Working Draft of an XML specification was published. Further design work continued through 1997, and XML 1.0 became a W3C Recommendation on February 10, 1998.


Most of XML accrues from SGML unchanged. For example, the separation of logical and physical structures (elements and entities), the availability of grammar-based validation (DTDs – Document Type Definition), the separation of data and metadata (elements and attributes), mixed content, the separation of processing from representation (processing instructions), and the default angle-bracket syntax comes from SGML. XML has a fixed delimiter set and adopts Unicode as the document character set.

Other sources of technology for XML were the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), which defined a profile of SGML for use as a ‘transfer syntax’; HTML, in which elements were synchronous with their resource, the separation of document character set from resource encoding, and the HTTP notion that metadata accompanied the resource rather than being needed at the declaration of a link. The Extended Reference Concrete Syntax (ERCS) project of the SPREAD (Standardization Project Regarding East Asian Documents) followed later.


There are two current versions of XML. The first (XML 1.0) was initially defined in 1998. It has undergone minor revisions since then, without being given a new version number. Currently it is in its fifth edition, which was published on November 26, 2008. The version is widely implemented and still recommended for general use.

The second (XML 1.1) was initially published on February 4, 2004, the same day as XML 1.0 Third Edition, and is currently in its second edition, as published on August 16, 2006. This version contains features (some contentious) that are intended to make XML easier to use in certain cases. The main changes are to enable the use of line-ending characters used on EBCDIC platforms, and the use of scripts and characters absent from Unicode 3.2. XML 1.1 is not very widely implemented and is recommended for use only by those who need its unique features.

Prior to its fifth edition release, XML 1.0 differed from XML 1.1 in having stricter requirements for characters available for use in element and attribute names and unique identifiers: in the first four editions of XML 1.0 the characters were exclusively enumerated using a specific version of the Unicode standard (Unicode 2.0 to Unicode 3.2.) The fifth edition substitutes the mechanism of XML 1.1, which is more future-proof but reduces redundancy. The approach taken in the fifth edition of XML 1.0 and in all editions of XML 1.1 is that only certain characters are forbidden in names, and everything else is allowed, in order to accommodate the use of suitable name characters in future versions of Unicode. In the fifth edition, XML names may contain characters in the Balinese, Cham, or Phoenician scripts among many others which have been added to Unicode since Unicode 3.2.

Almost any Unicode code point can be used in the character data and attribute values of an XML 1.0 or XML 1.1 document, even if the character corresponding to the code point is not defined in the current version of Unicode. In character data and attribute values, XML 1.1 allows the use of more control characters than XML 1.0. But for “robustness” most of the control characters introduced in XML 1.1 must be expressed as numeric character references. Among the supported control characters in XML 1.1 are two line break codes that must be treated as whitespace. Whitespace characters are the only control codes that can be written directly.

There has been discussion of an XML 2.0, although no organization has announced plans for work on such a project. XML-SW written by one of the original developers of XML, contains some proposals for what an XML 2.0 might look like: elimination of DTDs from syntax, integration of namespaces, XML Base and XML Information Set into the base standard.


Are you afraid of nuclear energy?

May 31, 2009
By Martin Wolny

I selected this topic because I always wanted to know something about nuclear technologies, nuclear energy and its application in modern equipment such as power plants and submarines. Many people are afraid of Temelín and nuclear power plants as they still brightly remember the explosion in the Russian nuclear power station in Chernobyl and the consequences that have had an impact on east European nations to this day. People all around the world wouldn’t be so afraid of nuclear energy.

The fuel for nuclear fission is a special isotope of metal uranium called U-235, which has 235 nucleons in its core. When a neutron hits such an atom of uranium, it splits the atom into two smaller ones. Within this process, two or three neutrons “fly” speedily out of the dissociated nucleus, dissociate other atoms and unleash more neutrons and energy from their cores. Thus the procedure goes on. This is how the chain reaction works.

And how does it all work in a nuclear power plant? The reactor, wherein the chain reaction runs, is cooled by cold water. The water flows through the pile, vaporizes into steam and then reels the turbine that drives the generator. After that the steam condenses and as water flows back into the reactor’s core. Adjusting rods, which are mostly manufactured out of cadmium or boron, regulate the speed of the nuclear reaction.

The greatest advantage is that electric current generated by nuclear reaction is extremely effective. Up to now, there has been no more efficient way discovered. One kilogram of dissociated uranium unleashes the amount of energy equal energy acquired by burning 25 tons of top black coal. Just imagine that! It’s 25,000 times more! Not to mention the devastated landscape and highly polluted air after coal mining. Another advantage, which is perhaps just plain fact, is that there’s still enough uranium to use. As we all know, the resources of both black and brown coal are decreasing and soon, all of the mines will be exhausted. And regrettably, there aren’t many places where you could effectively utilize solar energy, geothermal energy, waterpower or airpower. All the same, the effectiveness of such resources of power is relatively insufficient. So for the time being, the nuclear power plants are the only usable solution. Nor is the fact that nuclear power stations do not pollute air and produce minimum of unwanted spillover products in contradistinction to other power facilities omissible.

An average nuclear power plant produces just some 60 kilograms of highly radioactive toxic waste per year. Which is, on the other hand, rather disadvantageous. In fact, that’s a big problem. Approximately 2 per cent of these materials, such as plutonium, are frightfully dangerous substances. They need up to 1000 years to decompose, so that they aren’t radioactive and don’t ruin our health (by the way, if you inhale just one-millionth gram of plutonium, you are taken ill with cancer). The only available and reasonable solution is to store this fall-out in highly secured places. The last important negative is that despite thorough protection against radioactivity from the uranium used in a reactor, the small amount of radiance still gets out from a power plant. But since this radiance represents less than one-hundredth part of the natural sources of radioactivity such as minerals or rocks, this emission is completely imponderable.

I myself am for nuclear power plants because they are very efficient and they have almost no effect on the environment. Even though the running of them can be quite dangerous in a way, it’s still the only solution for generating a sufficient amount of electric energy after we have exploited all stocks of coal, petroleum and natural gas.

NOTE: We study English discussing current technical issues. Join us! Just answer the question: Are you afraid of nuclear energy? G. Vitkova

Discussion – The Digital Pen

November 12, 2008

Dear friends of Technical English,

Nowadays high technologies are everywhere around us. Even a well-known pen, which everybody uses, is supposed to serve us better when becoming digital. The main idea of the wireless digital pen is to capture handwriting and convert it from a graphical form into text, and then transmit it to a nearby digital device for storage or further transmission.

As everything the digital pen has its advantages and drawbacks. We have started to discuss the topic concerning the digital pen in the course of English lessons at the Technical University in Prague. The students´ positions, above all else regarding to the pen necessity and its applicability maybe its practicability, differ from each other very much. Below you will find two students´ positions, which are at opposite ends of the opinion spectrum.

In the beginning the digital pen seemed to me quite needless. However, I gradually took the position that it could be beneficial. Now it is your turn to signify your attitude.

And first of all answer please the question:

Do we really need the digital pen?

The detailed description of the digital pen is given on http://www.flyworld.com/whatis/index.html


Enjoy the texts and put your opinion into comments. Thank you in advance.Good luck!

Galina Vitkova

Mightier than the Pen

By Vít Bejček

From the course of history we can see what an important invention is the pen. Maybe it is the greatest invention ever made. It’s logical that we are trying to develop a more sophisticated device than a usual ink pen. I agree with the idea of improving the current pen, but I am afraid this research is running in wrong direction. The most of the world is now advanced and a very large percentage of population is connected to the Internet or at least have own computers. It might seem that the digital pen is a necessary technology in present days and life without it would be beyond imagination. But if we really think about it, could you imagine at least one practical thing for which the pen could be used? I cannot do so.

What is expected from the pen? It has to be cheap to avoid fear of losing it, small and easily movable and always ready for use in any circumstances. This digital pen seems to be a mobile device, but the truth is different. We cannot use it without proper connection to the computer system. The price is another disadvantage. I am afraid that the digital pen cannot meet requirements of common users. In my opinion the technology like the digital (electronic) pen is not ready to be released.

Digital Pen

By Robert Arzumanov

Anoto comes from Sweden. It is an invention of Swedish engineers. Anoto is a unique pen that can convert human’s handwriting into a digital form. It also has a unique design. The pen looks like the normal one, but in fact it isn’t. Anoto uses wireless technologies to transmit handwriting to a computer. It has the Parker patented golden nib and wooden body and weighs only 30 grammes.

The meaning of that outstanding pen is to enable a user to transmit the written text to a computer and also save it in its normal form – on a paper. The paper is not usual – it’s special paper with a pattern of almost invisible dots, 0.1 mm across that are printed on its surface. The pen is equipped with a tiny camera that scans the pattern of dots in order to see where the pen is going. The pattern consists of two areas – one for making notes and the other for ticking the box that says “Send this note as an e-mail” or “Send this note as a fax”. Anoto developers predict that, one day, consumers will look at adverts in newspapers and magazines, and tick Anoto – patterned boxes on them saying “Buy this” or “ Send more information”.

The pen can be useful for school and university teachers, in some scientific laboratories, for mass media workers: reporters, editors and so on.

Anoto can be used by students at schools and universities for writing tests or essays as class work. It is more comfortable to solve mathematical problems, count something and write essays on paper than on a computer, but its incomparably easier to correct tests in digital form. So teachers can solve their time problem – they don’t need so much time to „encode“ what is written on a paper. People can share messages internationally – they don’t need to have a computer or PDA or even a mobile with them. They are only to write it down on a sheet of paper and choose ”send as E-mail”. Anoto can solve a lot of problems and help to increase the world’s integration, can break barriers in human communication.

Anoto is better than conventional products because it has elegant unique design, it is more comfortable in use, it allows customers to send written messages as e-mail or a fax, it has a very comfortable body and the unique Parker patented golden nib. Don’t hesitate and order your Anoto through the Internet on AnotoDigitalPenor call 00123456789. You also will get 50 sheets of our special paper absolutely for free!

Students´ opinion (8)

November 8, 2008
1 Comment

Dear colleagues,

Find below another student´s distinctive opinion about importance of English for technical studies. Enjoy it and have comments. Thank you in advance for them.

All the best

Galina Vitkova

The importance of English

By Petr Rys

I think that English is well-nigh certainly the most important world language. It has probably happened due to the large area where people speak English. I like English because it is simple, and I find it nice to listen to.

For me as a potential future electrical engineer English is very important because in the “world of technicians” English is absolutely everywhere. Internationally used names of computer parts, world’s best web pages, or shortcuts in programming languages, that is all English, or it comes from it.

Moreover, in my personal life I need English as well. It is the best language for me to speak abroad, on holidays or in connection with my sport activities – playing young evolving sport – floorball – or refereeing it. Furthermore, I play computer games, which are originally in English. Besides I play some games on the Internet international servers. Thus I have many e-friends not only from the Czech Republic and I need English to communicate with them.

So these would be my main personal reasons why to learn English. Maybe I “must” like English, and if this was the only reason why to like English, I would like it.

About presentations again

October 23, 2008
1 Comment

By Galina Vitkova

These days the students have had first presentations. Some of them deserved praise, whereas the others were not good enough. For this reason I have decided to sum up the main activities, which should be made for preparing and having a high-quality presentation (see detailed recommendations in “Prepare and have a good presentation” in the fold Computer English on the FEL intranet).

Step 1: Study materials concerning the topic you have chosen. Start with the appropriate text in Computer English or Internet English and follow hyperlinks that attract their interest or attention.

Step 2: Prepare an outline of your future presentation. Look through the gathered materials and order them in accordance with the outline.

Step 3: Prepare a list of main technical terms and acronyms you are going to use in your oral presentation.

Step 4: Draw a scheme of your presentation based on the outline and ordered materials (see examples of such schemes on this blog in

https://techenglish.wordpress.com/brief-microprocessors-history/, https://techenglish.wordpress.com/search-engines/, https://techenglish.wordpress.com/www-function/

Step 5: Try to have the presentation using the scheme at home. Remember it should take about 5-6 minutes not more.

When presenting before the audience:

  • draw your scheme on the blackboard,
  • present the topic following the scheme,
  • while speaking follow the recommendations in



Do not forget: your presentation should be clear and interesting for your audience. Be prepared to take issue with your colleagues and to answer all questions. Keep the length of the presentation, i.e. 5-6 minutes.

Moreover, contribute to building the vocabulary concerning computers and the Internet. Put into the comments to the post words and expressions you meet and use when writing and speaking technical texts or preparing presentations.


Students´ opinion (7)

October 16, 2008
1 Comment

Summer holidays are away and the winter semester is running. Students are writing essays again, some of which are remarkable and worth being published. Make sure of it yourselves.

Galina Vitkova

Me and My English

By Robert Arzumanov

Nowadays English is an international language used by a lot of people all over the world. It is also the most important instrument of understanding in such fields as economy, banking, mass media, television and so on. So, in my opinion English is very important for everybody. A person could not get a good work without having at least basics of English, it is impossible to communicate with people from different countries, even to ask for some important information when you are on vacation somewhere abroad.

That’s why I’ve been learning English hard. I’ve bean learning it for eleven years at Primary School and High School. I like English and I like to read in English. So, I would say my knowledge of it is at a rather good level. I try to increase my vocabulary by finding new words in dictionaries and I also try to make my pronunciation better by listening to native speakers. For these reasons I consider these points to be the best ways of learning foreign languages.

Basically – the most important thing is to actively use the language, i.e. to communicate in it. It is absolutely the best way to learn language needed for normal social life. Certainly you have to read books in the language you want to learn in order to build your vocabulary and make your knowledge more wide-ranging. Further, you have to write something to train your spelling. Watching television in a foreign language is also a good way. I, for example, get my basics of Czech in this way. And I know that it is a rather popular way among people, who move abroad to live and don’t know the language.

For an engineer or scientist the English of their own sphere is more important because it is extremely significant for their work. These people are to study different manuals, functions and technical specifications of the matter they are working with, so they need technical English. As for me, the best way to study technical English is to read different technical or scientific texts to held discussions about them, watch scientific programs on TV. Also one can use computer programs in English instead in his/her native language, try to understand manuals for some basic gadgets that the one uses at home – a TV Set, computer, DVD-player and others. But I think that it somehow comes in a natural way – when people are interested in something – they always try to explore it and of course they have to read something in English, which is used in this particular field. So they get used to applying not only common English.

I’m also interested in computer technologies and electronics used in the musical industry, so I’m familiar with special terms that are used in the field. My technical English is not remarkable, so that’s why we are to study it at the University.

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