Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Iter : 35 years in Provence !

France Cadarache was awarded the 10 bn Euro ($12bn)
nuclear fusion reactor plant. Iter project will produce
the first sustained fusion reactions Final stage before
full prototype of commercial reactor is built.

In details :

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
(Iter) will be the most expensive joint scientific
project after the International Space Station. The Iter
programme was held up for over 18 months as parties
tried to broker a deal between the two rivals.

Nuclear fusion taps energy from reactions like those
that heat the Sun. Nuclear fusion is seen as a cleaner
approach to power production than nuclear fission and
fossil fuels.

Officials from a six-party consortium signed the deal in
Moscow on Tuesday, for the reactor's location in the
Cadarache site in southern France. The European Union,
the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China
are partners in the project. Japan earlier withdrew its
bid, after a deal was worked out for the "runner-up" to
receive a generous concessions package.

According to the package, Japan will get 20% of the
project's 200 research posts while providing only 10% of
the expenses, and host a related materials research
facility - of which half the construction costs will be
shouldered by the EU. "It is a big success for France,
for Europe and for all the partners of Iter," said a
statement issued by the office of French President
Jacques Chirac.

In terms of the physics and huge amounts of energy
involved, the Iter project would be akin to building a
star on Earth. It would be the first fusion device to
produce thermal energy at the level of conventional
electricity-producing power stations, and would pave the
way for the first prototype commercial power station. In
a fusion reaction, energy is produced when light atoms -
the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium - are fused
together to form heavier atoms. To use controlled
fusion reactions on Earth as an energy source, it is
necessary to heat a gas to temperatures exceeding 100
million Celsius - many times hotter than the centre of
the Sun. The technical requirements to do this, which
scientists have spent decades developing, are immense.
But the rewards, if Iter can be made to work
successfully, are extremely attractive. One kilogram of
fusion fuel would produce the same amount of energy as
10,000,000 kg of fossil fuel.

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