Solar power with a difference as ITER nuclear fusion assembly starts


Work has begun to assemble giant components to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor in France that is expected to start up in 2035 and deliver energy in a process inspired by the sun, the ITER project said on Tuesday.

Launched in 2006 and based in southern France, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) had planned to test its first super-heated plasma by 2020 and achieve full fusion by 2023.

But it has suffered massive budget overruns and multiple delays as the seven partners - Europe, United States, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea - struggle to coordinate financing and technological cooperation.

At the end of 2016, ITER chief Bernard Bigot told reporters he expected first plasma in December 2025 and full power by 2035, although he said that schedule was challenging.

"Constructing the machine piece by piece will be like assembling a three-dimensional puzzle on an intricate timeline," he said in a statement on Tuesday. "We have a complicated script to follow over the next few years."

ITER confirmed that when assembly is completed in December 2025, it will launch first plasma, which should prove the reactor concept works.

Despite slight delays due to the coronavirus lockdown, ITER was still on track to start up in full power mode in 2035, an ITER spokeswoman said.

In recent months huge components - many weighing several hundred tonnes each - have begun to arrive in France.

These have been produced by ITER consortium member states, who contribute to the project mainly in kind, by manufacturing components in national factories and laboratories before shipping them to France for assembly.

Unlike existing fission reactors, which produce energy by splitting atoms, ITER would generate power by combining atoms at a temperature of 150 million degrees Celsius in a process similar to the nuclear fusion that produces the sun's energy.

© (Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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You know, I heard about this when France was selected to have this fusion reactor. Because the only other competitor was Japan, and they decided against Japan, because of the risk of earthquakes. I guess the Fukushima disaster really proved that point full well.

Well it’s nice to see that it’s now finally being built, and that we’re a lot closer to this fusion plant becoming reality. Because when I heard about when these fusion plants could be up and running back then, in 2006, I really thought it was a long way away. But now that were in 2020, we obviously don’t have to worry about waiting so long anymore, considering that we may be within 15 years of it happening. We’re a lot further along in this progress from when it was announced, obviously, that’s what I’m trying to say.

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Fusion has been 20 yrs away for 40 yrs. Don't think that will change in my lifetime. it will always be 20 yrs away. Something always happens that wasn't taken into account. 1 second of fusion isn't something that will replace fission reactors or all the solar, wind, wave, geothermal, coal plants needed today.

Fission nuclear reactions have been found in nature. only 100kW but it ran for a few hundred thousand years.

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ITER will at most show proof of concept at huge cost, if we are lucky it might reach over unity but will not run continuously or produce power for the grid. If all goes well they may be in a position to design a generating reactor, which will then need to be built. Fusion is much like the early days of Fission power generation when it was hyped as going to be so cheap they would be giving it away! Instead it is so expensive it has needed subsidies to this day. Fusion reactors on the ITER model will be huge and hugely expensive.

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