News / Nuclear Power

International Fusion Project Makes Progress

Aug. 7, 2020–Pursuing continuous technological breakthroughs, applying the science that will allow mankind to progress both economically and socially, has always been a key element of the American System of Economics, beginning with founder Alexander Hamilton. For that reason, I want to update my readers on the advances being made by the international thermonuclear fusion project (ITER) underway in France. Thermonuclear fusion represents the next generation of energy production, promising abundance, safety, and cost reductions many orders of magnitude greater than any source at present. Unfortunately, although the United States is a key participant in the project, I was unable to find a U.S. statement on the landmark event. The following report comes from the Facebook page of the France-based reporter Karel Vereycken. For more details on the project, see https://iter.org.– Nancy Spannaus

ITER Fusion Power Project Unites World Leaders around Peaceful Cooperation

Paris, July 30, 2020 (Nouvelle Solidarité) – On July 28, the presidents and political leaders of China, Russia, Japan, India, South Korea, France, and others greeted the participants of the ceremony, which was dedicated to launching the assembly of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The event took place July 29 at the mega-project’s construction site in Cadarache, Southern France.

International  Fusion Project Makes Progress

The ceremony launching the assembling of the fusion reactor in France on July 29, 2020. (ITER)

While up till now, many powerful fusion machines have individually succeeded in obtaining one or some of the numerous criteria required (temperature, density, duration, etc.) to induce break-even conditions in a magnetic confined plasma, ITER, by its scope and design, ambitions to achieve not one but all the required conditions (“Lawson criteria”) in one single giant machine, that even if it fails reaching its target, will teach us a lot.

As recounted on its website, the ITER project (initially proposed by Russian and U.S. scientists) was one of the results of the Geneva November 1985 ”fireside summit,” between Ronald Reagan and Gorbachov, which calmed down war tensions and opened a new era in the US-Soviet relationship. At that time Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachov and President Ronald Reagan “emphasized the potential importance of the work aimed at utilizing controlled thermonuclear fusion for peaceful purposes and, in this connection, advocated the widest practicable development of international cooperation in obtaining this source of energy, which is essentially inexhaustible, for the benefit of all mankind.”

Eleven months after the initiative in fusion was launched at the Geneva Summit it was confirmed at the Reykjavik Summit. A Quadripartite Initiative Committee was formed with EURATOM and Japan, and “The Big Machine” was on track. Soon, it would be called ITER. The machine is to weigh 23,000 tons and will have a plasma volume of 830 cubic meters, far higher than the Tokamaks operating today which have maximum plasma volume of 100 cubic meters. The 35 partner countries, that have pooled their vast expertise and resources, are the EU (plus the United Kingdom and Switzerland), China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.

JAPAN: “I heartily congratulate the ITER Project,” said Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan. “I believe disruptive innovation will play a key role in addressing global issues including climate change and realizing a sustainable carbon-free society.”

CHINA: In his message, Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua, stressed that “the active explorations and practices through the past over 10 years have fully proved that open exchanges are a key route for exploring scientific frontiers.” Noting that “science is not bound by national borders” and “innovation is an endless endeavor,” Xi said international scientific and technological cooperation “is critical to addressing global challenges.” “The ITER project embodies the human desire for the peaceful use of fusion energy,” Xi said. “As the world is tackling severe challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity needs now more than ever to forge partnerships and overcome hardships,” stressed the Chinese president.SOUTH KOREA: The project “seeks to create an artificial sun,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “An artificial sun is an energy source of dreams.”

International Fusion Project Makes Progress

The ITER reactor being constructed in France.(ITER)

INDIA: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a statement read by the Indian ambassador to France, called international collaboration “a perfect symbol of the age-old Indian belief … (that) the world is one family.”

RUSSIA: On the Kremlin’s website, Vladimir Putin noted that “Despite the coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions, it was possible to preserve the required pace of works. This makes it possible to expect that the project’s goals will be achieved in the previously determined time span, and that, in foreseeable perspective, we will get a source of energy of unique power and safety, which will, undoubtedly, help solve the tasks of sustainable economic development and improve the quality of lives of millions of people”. Putin also noted that ITER is the largest international scientific and technical project, which is a shining example of efficient and mutually beneficial multilateral cooperation. “As you know, Russia as one of the founding countries of this initiative, aimed at making an important contribution to the humanity’s energy security, plays an active role in this initiative’s implementation,” the message runs. Putin underscored that the project is based on the Tokamak device concept, invented in Russia.

FRANCE: In both a video and written message on the Elysée website, Macron, more enthusiastic than usual, stressed that “ITER is a promise of peace (…) There are moments when the nations of the world choose to overcome their differences to meet a particular moment in history. The decision to launch ITER, was one of these moments,” he added, a moment where nations cooperate for the “common good.”

International Fusion Project Makes Progress

Celebrants at the ITER ceremony July 29, 2020 (ITER)

“Imagine, if the experience works, he said, “If it can find industrial applications, we will have developed a non-polluting, carbon-free, safe and almost waste-free energy, that will simultaneously meet the needs of all areas of the globe and meet the climate challenge and preserve natural resources,” he said. “With fusion, nuclear energy can be an industry of the future, even more so than it is already today. ITER is clearly an act of confidence in the future,” he added.

From the U.S. side, there was no statement so far, but AP noted “There was no sign of the acute discord currently roiling ties between the U.S. and China, and India and China.”

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