France will get to host the project to build a 10bn-euro ($12bn)
nuclear fusion reactor, in the face of strong competition from Japan.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) will be
the most expensive joint scientific project after the International
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
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
Janez Potocnik, EU commissioner for science and research said that
Iter "marks a major step forward in international science
He added: "Now that we have reached consensus on the site for Iter,
we will make all efforts to finalise the agreement on the project, so
that construction can begin as s oonaspossible.
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
Prof Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, director of UK Atomic Energy
Authority's (UKAEA) Culham division, which is responsible for the
UK's thermonuclear fusion programme, called the decision "wonderful
"Rapid construction of Iter will be a major step in the development
of fusion as a potential large-scale source of electricity that will
not contribute to climate change," he added.
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
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.
* Origin: [adminz] tech, security, support (192:168/0.2)
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