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It's Official - France Gets ITER - Nuclear Fusion

by Oui Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 06:01:38 AM EST

Promoted by Sirocco.

This amazing nuclear fusion project will be located in France, it has been officially announced today.


A long and bitter dispute about where to site the world's largest nuclear fusion reactor looks all but certain to end in favour of France.

Countries have been arguing since 2003 over whether to site the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) at Rokkashomura in Japan or at Cadarache in France. The French bid has been backed by the European Union, China and Russia, while Japan has been supported by the US and South Korea.

More below the fold »»

Recent reports that Japan has accepted that the reactor will be built in France are accurate, UK government sources have told New Scientist. But officials are nervous about publicly confirming the agreement in case it falls apart at the last minute.

The European Union stressed that no final decision would be taken until ministers from all six parties meet in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday 28 June. "We are optimistic that we will reach a decision on the site then," said the EU's science spokeswoman, Antonia Mochan.


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US DOE ITER Program from 1985 to the Present
ITER began with an initiative at the 1985 Geneva Summit between the US and the USSR. President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachov began a process that led to a collaboration among the European Union, Japan, Russia (initially the Soviet Union) and the US. Project to design and carry out the supporting research and development for ITER, whose programmatic objective is 'to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes'.

From the beginning of the formal collaboration in 1988, through the completion of the initial six-year agreement for ITER and the Engineering Design Activities (EDA), the United States was an equal party, carrying out significant tasks in design and supporting R&D. In 1998, Congress directed the DOE to conduct an orderly closeout of its ITER activities, which was implemented during FY1999.

The European Union, Japan and Russia continued to complete the extended EDA in July 2001. Now, with Canada and also China, formal negotiations have begun aimed at the decisions on construction of an ITER facility, which is reduced in cost and in some detailed technical objectives, but with the same overall programmatic objective.


  • Cadarache - France

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    This scientific possibility always offered some Jules Verne ingredients when it was mentioned as a project.

    Looking forward to catch up on some reading about the project, international cooperation and political landscape to award the location to Uncle Sam's enemy state: France. CERN Geneva has been a prior project for major advance in Nuclear Particle Physics and International cooperation. I'm very anxious to see how ITER develops.

    EDF - Lancer la vidéo - France Thermo-Nuclear Plants  

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    'Sapere aude'

    by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 01:47:23 AM EST
    BBC article

    But now they need to get to work and make the old joke untrue (fusion has been 25 years away for the past 40 years)...

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 01:56:09 AM EST
    was about the last time I seriously took a look at the stage of development of Nuclear Fusion. So I do need to catch-up on the laboratory experiments of the recent years and the political fact a lot of money is to be invested.

    When human kind starts to work together, there may be a possibility of success.

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    by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 02:17:10 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    There are some recent "cold fusion" experiments that are suspect, i.e. no one could repeat the researchers' experiment.

    However, there is some great research going on.  I have to go out shortly, but when I'm back, I'll be able to give you some references.  You can e-mail me as well, if you're really into this;  I think I can dig up a whole bunch of references.

    I love this stuff.

    by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 07:23:49 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    The "cold fusion" is either a hoax or an illusion at best, with still lots of $$$ invested in some projects. I consider these experiments at the "willy wortel" inventor level with a lot of hours invested, chasing a mirage when some electronic scopes indicate there may have been a spike of some current flow. Not worth a dime of my money to pursue cold fusion experiments.

    It's very different from the International community committing itself to the ITER project worth €10-12bn. Next phase expected to be a working scale nuclear fusion plant in 2050. Although still much research needed and economic feasibility yet to be proven, I'm very excited about this new adventure.

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    by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 09:25:22 AM EST
    [ Parent ]

    Your statement is not entirely accurate. As the article you linked to shows, there have been recent, repeatable experiments that demonstrated cold fusion. True, they haven't reached the break-even point yet, but there's still some very interesting progress in the area. It is still a laboratory thing, and "hot" fusion is probably the best bet economically, but...

    by Egarwaen on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 04:11:30 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Would this be one of the things you were talking about?
    by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 11:42:37 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I am more inclined to bet on
    Sonic Fusion (03/18/2002)

    Especially since those results have been replicated.
    Sonic compression fusion results replicated (01/20/2005)

    by Dale Read (dale43211-at-hotmail.com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 07:25:05 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    BBC News - Consortia combine to run Galileo
    June 27, 2005 -- The rival consortia bidding to run Europe's satellite-navigation system Galileo, have joined forces to win the multi-billion euro concession. The two groups, iNavSat and Eurely, were awarded the contract by the Galileo Joint Undertaking, the body set up to drive the project's early phases.

    A constellation of 30 spacecraft should be in orbit by the decade's end. Galileo's technologies are designed to bring greater accuracy and reliability to navigation and timing signals.

  • SpaceDaily.com Portal
  • EU Commission - Galileo
  • GPS JPO Rethinks GPS III Strategy, Galileo Talks Continue

    ESA - Founding Partner in Galileo Project

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  • by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 03:56:33 AM EST
    Galileo is actually likely to have a bigger strategic impact in the medium term than ITER. Galileo bringd the end of the monopoly of the Pentagon-controlled GPS for localisation services, which are bound to grow massively in coming years, and the irony is that the Europeans are doing it via a private consortium and a commercial service, something that was never doen with GPS.

    Europe is not yet completely irrelevant in the technology wars...

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 06:59:07 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Europe is FAR from irrelevant in the technology wars. The whole Linux thing was driven by a combination of European enthusiasm for Unix, the famous Finn Linus Torvalds, GPL licensing from MIT (well, that's not Europe exactly, but it's close), and America's lousy anti-trust laws that let Bill Gates own everything.

    Not to mention cell phones. My one technology "win" over my daughter is my cool Nokia phone. And small automotive diesels where Europe is ahead of both America and Japan. And high speed trains where Europe leads (we had to discontinue our Acela "high speed" trains recently because of fear of the wheels falling off).

    by asdf on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 02:29:20 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    This is very good news. I have long waited for ITER project to go forwards. I belong to optimists in this subject.

    Most scientific kinks have been solved separately yet the common research reactor necessary to carry out engineering work (and scaling it to industrial scale) has been waiting until ITER. So yes, this is excellent news for fusion researchers.

    It was also natural that it would be set in Europe.

    by Nikita on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 05:18:29 AM EST
    I'm optimistic too.  Maybe I never caught the cynical anti-science bug that set in here in the USA in the '70's.  I've always believed that we can make the world a better place.  Even if it fails it is better to try and fail than to never try!
    by rast (deavod (at) hotmail (dot] com) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 06:21:47 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    innovation in Europe is a good thing...(imho)

    "Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
    by whataboutbob on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 06:58:51 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Jeez.  How does one apply for citizenship to France?  I'm tired of this idiot trap.

    Seriously, I'll work for cheese, I don't care.

    "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?" -de Gaulle. We have one, American, and I don't think it comes from the same place on the cow.

    by palladiate (palladiate@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 07:15:04 AM EST
    Again the U.S. cannot get it's way.
    Japan is not a good site, since the chance of earthquakes makes this unsuitable in my opinion. I guess Bush had his science team determine that earthquakes are not real.
    I hope that this reactor is a success, we need alternatives to oil more than ever.
    by pabos on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 07:17:47 AM EST
    ? Fusion reactors can't blow up like fission ones, so there is at most the danger of damage to equipment.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.
    by DoDo on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 10:16:11 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    i haven't really been following this story in the least, but i did hear somewhere that one of the big environmentalist talking points against ITER was the french site is on a known fault line as well.
    by jtc244 on Wed Jun 29th, 2005 at 02:13:43 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    France won the right to seek fusion,
    Despite Bush's terror allusions.
    Seems he wanted Japan,
    For the over all plan.
    Just another diplomatic contusion.

    "Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"
    by dood abides on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 07:21:51 AM EST
    Sorry about the temporary "3" rating. That was a typo, now corrected.

    Good stuff...

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 30th, 2005 at 10:50:52 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    That's quite the propaganda poster :-)  happy white people reaching for the bright future of fusion:  this reactor is so safe and cuddly, a little kid would want it for a play toy and a loving father would approve.  it's as clean and benevolent as the sun!

    Sorry, but this kind of manipulative PR imagery always sours me on the project.  I figure it wouldn't need this kind of Mad Ave emotional sell if it was sound technology.  This may be a personal bias and not justified -- after all the Mad Ave virus has infected everything these days, the most reputable scientific projects think they have to have a spiffy logo and some kind of 4-colour offset, claycoat corporate style brochure.  But really, ick.

    The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

    by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 09:48:44 AM EST
    Sometimes I just want to be the scientist, an explorer of fundamentals and new ideas. In memory the call by JFK to put a man on the moon within a decade. Most probably a very irresponsible request at the time, but the US realized the project before 1970.

    I consider nuclear fusion still an idea with high content of Jules Verne in it, but aren't we allowed to be boys and girls, dreaming of the possibilities when a breakthrough could be achieved? Next phase will not be before 2050, so do not fear just yet, still lots of research to be done and up to 10,000 jobs will be created by the ITER project.

    So for now, I'm just happy the International community has decided to explore the feasibility and ITER has many clear advantages to conventional nuclear fission reactors being used today, and the waste it produces.

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    by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 10:19:05 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I agree it is an ugly piece in uninspired company propaganda style.

    So some basics on fusion, fusion in a tokamak [doughnut-shaped reaction room in which plasma is controlled by magnetic fields]. First, it can't blow up: the fission reactors we have today can blow up because fission is a runaway process, i.e. it needs to be controlled to not run hot; but fusion needs the control to run, i.e. if control is lost the conditions for fusion end. (That's why it is so damn hard to make it a working technology.) Second, the radioactive isotopes produced in a fusion reactor aren't ones that have half-lifes of thousands, millions or even billions of years, but break down in minutes to days.

    Now on the low side. First, there are extremely stong magnetic fields involved in the control I mentioned, which alone can be a source of EM radiation pollution. Shielding is needed. Second, while the reaction products break down fast, the neutrons raining out of the reaction field irradiate the material of the tokamak's walls (=turn some atoms in them into radioactive isotopes), which can have longer half-lifes. This has been a problem with the experimental tokamaks so far, one of the challenges ahead is to develop materials that stand the heat but don't contain atoms that can be turned into longer-half-life isotopes.

    These are serious problems to address, but I'm rather certain they can be solved. As for finally producing energy this way, the JET experiments already reached a fusion gain (fusion energy produced /energy spent to heat the plasma) of 63%. (JET is currently upgraded.) Some recent experiments successfully tested a new way to increase energy density by 100%.

    But again on the low side, I think ITER is nowhere ambitious enough. Research should have gone straight for a commercial prototype, for one giant project is still cheaper and faster than the two-three successive ones now envisioned. But, maybe technological developments like the one I quote above (which potentially increases ITER's energy output from 400 to 800 MW) will lead to unplanned moves ahead.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 11:04:24 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    BTW I just checked; JET will be re-started ten days from now, and there will be a first high-power research campaign in January to March 2006.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.
    by DoDo on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 11:10:18 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    After some more reading-around, I see I'm not up-to-date: testing of iradiation-prone tiles for tokamaks is long underway, JET did such experiments in the last season. And apparently, now radioactivity is a lesser problem (the possible materials long identified) than minimising structural damage caused by destroyed chrystal structure, modified chemistry and bubbles of gas from light reaction products.

    (Also, half-life of fusion-relevant isotopes is up to years, not just days - that was merely a mess-up.)

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 12:22:07 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Fission reactors can't blow up either. You have to moderate the neutrons or you don't have critical mass. If it gets too hot the water boils off and you lose moderation.
    by asdf on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 02:36:12 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    No plutonium, some radioactivity
    ITER would have an advantage over current nuclear reactors because it would be cleaner. It would not rely on enriched uranium fuel and it would not produce plutonium, which is a concern from a terrorism point of view.

    Fusion reactors would, however, still pose some radiation danger. "In the course of the reaction it produces a lot of neutrons and they get into the actual fabric of the machine and over years it becomes radioactive, so there is still a problem of decommissioning," said Fells.

    "The technology of this is the science of the hydrogen bomb," Fells added. "You take a couple of hydrogen atoms and you squeeze them together, you fuse them together, and they turn into an atom of helium and produce a great burp of energy."

    Scientists know it could work because they know the hydrogen bomb works. But the problem they face is trying to do it in a controlled manner so the heat can be used to generate electricity.

          NOTICE the size - human figure to scale!


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    by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 01:07:25 PM EST
    My interpretation:
    "Clean energy from the sun bestowing blessings on families."

    Some caution is advised as well.

    However, although fusion generates no radioactive fission products or transuranic elements and the unburned gases can be treated on site, there would a short-term radioactive waste problem due to activation products. Some component materials will become radioactive during the lifetime of a reactor, due to bombardment with high-energy neutrons, and will eventually become radioactive waste. The volume of such waste would be similar to that due to activation products from a fission reactor. The radiotoxicity of these wastes would be relatively short-lived compared with the actinides (long-lived alpha-emitting transuranic isotopes) from a fission reactor.

    There are also other concerns, such as those first raised in 1973 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). These include the hazard arising from an accident to the magnetic system. The total energy stored in the magnetic field would be similar to that of an average lightning bolt (100 billion joules, equivalent to c 45 tonnes of TNT). Attention was also drawn to the possibility of a lithium fire. In contact with air or water lithium burns spontaneously and could release many times that amount of energy. Safety of nuclear fusion is a major issue.

    But the AAAS was most concerned about the release of tritium into the environment. It is radioactive and very difficult to contain since it can penetrate concrete, rubber and some grades of steel. As an isotope of hydrogen it is easily incorporated into water, making the water itself weakly radioactive. With a half-life of 12.4 years, tritium remains a threat to health for over one hundred years after it is created, as a gas or in water. It can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested. Inhaled tritium spreads throughout the soft tissues and tritiated water mixes quickly with all the water in the body. The AAAS estimated that each fusion reactor could release up to 2x1012 Bequerels of tritium a day during operation through routine leaks, assuming the best containment systems, much more in a year than the Three Mile Island accident released altogether. An accident would release even more. This is one reason why long-term hopes are for the deuterium-deuterium fusion process, dispensing with tritium.

    While fusion power clearly has much to offer when the technology is eventually developed, the problems associated with it also need to be addressed if is to become a widely used future energy source. Much will change before fusion power is commercialised, including the development of new materials.

    Main Sources:

    Key M.H., 2001, Fast track to fusion energy, Nature 412, 775-6.
    Ongena J. et al, Euratom, 1999;
    Hammond Allen L. et al, Energy and the Future, AAAS, 1973, 79-85.
    Nature 6/2/03.
    www.itereu.de, www ofe.er.doe.gov, www.fusion-eur.org, www.fusion.org.uk, www.jet.efda.org

    To thine ownself be true. W.S. CANADA
    by sybil on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 01:14:10 PM EST
    My interpretation:
    "Clean energy from the sun bestowing blessings on families."  

    My understanding is man tries to harness the sun's nuclear fusion of abundant energy by a man-made small scale ITER reactor. In the "photo" engraved is the principle of plasma in a tokamak, creates fusion of atoms as shown on the right. Saying no more and no less than taking the sun's principle as source of energy for mankind.

    Not seen as blessing on families! There is no family shown, but the next generation will hopefully make use of its inexhaustible supply, as all present fossil fuels will be depleted for future generations.

    How the Sun shines
    Nuclear fusion is the energy source of stars - just like our own Sun.
    It has a nuclear fusion reactor at its core.
    The immense pressure and a temperature of 16 million °C force atomic nuclei to fuse and liberate energy.
    About four million tonnes of matter is converted into sunlight every second.

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    by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 01:55:56 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

    There is no family? What about the "father and his little boy?" or is that a kidnapper and a victim? ;-)

    It's too environmentally risky compared with other alternative energy sources and conservation measures. That's my non-scientific conclusion from reading about its waste problems.

    To thine ownself be true. W.S. CANADA

    by sybil on Tue Jun 28th, 2005 at 03:30:40 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I recall back in the late 1980's hearing a talk about using cold muons as a catalyst in fusion reactors. Has there been any progress on this front.
    by core halo on Wed Jun 29th, 2005 at 02:50:47 AM EST
    This is what I could find:
    Muon catalyzed fusion holds promise as a much safer form of fusion reactor if its problems can be solved. Electrolytic cold fusion holds even more appeal because it requires far less energy to operate and would be much safer and simpler. Due to the controversy the term "cold fusion" has become unpopular and researchers now generally refer to it as either chemically assisted nuclear reactions (CANR) or low energy nuclear reactions (LENR). Given its appeal as a safe simple way to harness energy, it is no surprise that cold fusion continues to draw interest despite controversy and thousands of papers on the subject have been published since the furor in the late 1980s.

          Muon catalyzed D-T Fusion

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    by Oui (Oui) on Wed Jun 29th, 2005 at 03:46:44 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Fusion energy - if it would ever operate - would create a serious waste problem, would emit large amounts of radioactive material and could be used to produce materials for nuclear weapons. A whole new set of nuclear risks would thus be created.

    "Governments should not waste our money on a dangerous toy which will never deliver any useful energy," said Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace International. "Instead, they should invest in renewable energy which is abundantly available, not in 2080 but today."  

    Greenpeace investigating climate change effects in Arctic.

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    by Oui (Oui) on Wed Jun 29th, 2005 at 03:33:21 AM EST
    It's nuclear, so it's bad. Well known fact.
    by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 29th, 2005 at 04:31:38 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Absolutely ridiculous.

    Greenpeace has gone completely overboard. They're so far out of touch with reality they are losing their credibility for their projects that still make sense. Patrick Moore, who practically founded Greenpeace, has expressed many times in the press how he disagrees with the current vision Greenpeace today holds. There couldn't be a clearer sign on the wall.

    Well found post, though. It is always good to hear what all the parties say.

    by Nomad on Wed Jun 29th, 2005 at 04:40:10 AM EST
    [ Parent ]

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