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Focus on Fusion

Partners Complete Design Activities for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)

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The long-term goal of harnessing the energy of nuclear fusion has moved a bit closer following commemoration of a landmark scientific achievement at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. Meetings were held to mark the completed design of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), designed as the world's biggest fusion machine by teams of scientists and engineers around the world. Further talks are set in months ahead to determine ITER's future, including selection of the construction site.

ITER

  • Main parameters and dimensions: Total fusion power: 500 MW Fusion power/auxiliary heating power: ≥ 10 Average (14 MeV) neutron wall loading: 0.57 MW/m2 Plasma major radius: 6.2 m Plasma minor radius: 2.0 m Plasma current: 15 MA Toroidal field at 6.2 m radius: 5.3 T Plasma volume: 837 m3 Auxiliary heating and current drive power: 73 MW

Layout of the ITER device. Courtesy of ITER, Garching, Germany

A report on the July meetings follows:

During the week 16-20 July 2001, several meetings related to the ITER Engineering Design Activities (EDA) took place at the IAEA. The ITER Council held its final meeting to discuss the arrangements for the closing of the EDA, which had been conducted by the ITER Joint Central Team and the ITER Parties' National Teams during the period 1992-2001.

During the EDA, hundreds of leading scientists and engineers from many countries participated in the scientific research, development and design, aimed at having the engineering design of the ITER machine completed. These results provide for the first comprehensive design of a fusion reactor based on well-established physics and technology. The ITER design documents would be sufficient -- when complemented by site-specific adaptation of the design -- to provide the necessary technical basis for a construction decision.

ITER is a multi-billion dollar fusion energy research and development experimental facility, planned by a unique international collaborative, with the goal of taking the next major step in the development of fusion energy as a safe, clean and sustainable energy source.

Speaking at the closing ceremony to commemorate the successful completion of the ITER EDA, the Chairman of the ITER Council, Academician E. Velikhov of the Russian Federation, reviewed milestones in global fusion cooperation. He noted that the work on the development of an international thermonuclear reactor had started under the auspices of the IAEA in 1978 as the INTOR (International Toroidal Reactor) Project, had then continued during 1988-1990 as ITER Conceptual Design Activities and, finally, upon the Agreement of the four initial ITER Parties (the European Union, Japan, Russian Federation, and United States), was followed by the ITER EDA. He thanked the IAEA for the constant support of the research and development in the field of plasma physics and fusion energy.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei commended ITER's progress as an "excellent demonstration of international collaboration". The completion of engineering design activities through the work of scientists and engineers worldwide represents "no small achievement," he said, adding that he was pleased to note the Agency's longstanding association with ITER and its predecessor projects.

In the months ahead, there will be intergovernmental discussions (called "Negotiations" by ITER Parties) towards the realization of the joint implementation of the ITER Project, including the decisions on sharing the costs and the site selection for the construction of ITER. Canada has already offered a site located near the Darlington Nuclear Power Station on the shore of Lake Ontario, and sites at Cadarache, France, and in Japan may also be offered. The construction costs would be in the range of US $4 to $5 billion and construction may start in 2003. The ITER machine, if built, would test the plasma burning and demonstrate the feasibility of using energy generated by nuclear fusion, its safety and environmental acceptability to the decision makers and to the public at large.

In preparation to the construction of ITER, the current ITER Parties (Canada, the European Union, Japan, and Russian Federation) will be involved, under the auspices of the IAEA, in the Coordinated Technical Activities (CTA) until the end of 2002.

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