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article imageInternational nuclear fusion project 50 percent completed

By Karen Graham     Dec 7, 2017 in Technology
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), an international effort to prove that fusion power can be produced on a commercial scale and is also sustainable, has now reached the 50 percent completion milestone
Almost 30 years ago, an international group of nations agreed on a project to develop a new, cleaner and more sustainable source of energy. The project was set in motion in 1985 after it was proposed by General Secretary Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union to US President Reagan.
It took many years for all the details of such an enormously complicated agreement to be worked out by all the nations involved, but in a ceremony hosted by French President Jacques Chirac and the President of the European Commission M. José Manuel Durao Barroso, the ITER Agreement was officially signed at the Elysée Palace in Paris on 21 November 2006 by Ministers from the seven ITER nations.
Seven ITER member nations signed the ITER Agreement  including China  the European Union  India  Jap...
Seven ITER member nations signed the ITER Agreement, including China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
Halfway to first plasma
In order to determine the 50 percent completion milestone had been reached, stringent metrics that measure project performance were assigned to every activity involved in the ITER project. For example, Design accounts for 24 percent; buildings construction and manufacturing for 48 percent; and assembly and installation for 20 percent.
After compounding the percentages of the work completed, everyone can get a picture of the totality of the work done on through to the launch of operations. Needless to say, ITER is the most complex science project in human history and the passing of this highly symbolic milestone is no small achievement.
"The passing of this milestone reflects the collective contribution and commitment of ITER's seven Members," writes Director-General Bernard Bigot in a top-level communication to officials in the governments of the participating nations.
With 95 percent of design work  53 percent of manufacturing and construction  and 17 percent of ship...
With 95 percent of design work, 53 percent of manufacturing and construction, and 17 percent of shipping and deliveries completed for work scope related to initial operation, the project has passed an important milestone.
Despite being hit with delays and a surge in costs to about 20 billion euros ($23.7 billion), Bigot said the project is on track to begin superheating hydrogen atoms in 2025, a milestone known as first plasma. "We have no contingency plan," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Paris.
Nuclear fusion and not nuclear fission
Nuclear fusion is basically the same reaction that takes place in our sun in a process that merges atomic nuclei to form heavier nuclei. Being able to create this process has long been the goal because fusion reactions generate far more energy than burning fossil fuels do.
For example, a pineapple-size amount of hydrogen atoms offers as much energy as 10,000 tons of coal, according to a statement from the ITER project. ITER will use a doughnut-shaped device called a tokamak to trap hydrogen that's been heated to 150 million degrees Celsius (270 million degrees Fahrenheit) for long enough to allow atoms to fuse together.
Reactors went into meltdown at Fukushima after a huge tsunami swamped cooling systems  sending a plu...
Reactors went into meltdown at Fukushima after a huge tsunami swamped cooling systems, sending a plume of toxic radiation over a large area of Japan, in the globe's worst nuclear accident in a generation
With a nuclear fission plant, large atoms are split into smaller ones, and a by-product of this reaction is the generation of radioactive waste. A nuclear fusion plant would not have radioactive waste, and unlike a fossil fuel power plant, a fusion plant would not produce the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide or other pollutants.
And unlike a fission reactor, fusion plants will be very safe. If a fusion reaction is disrupted, the fusion reactor just shuts down without any need for external assistance. And even better, fusion reactors only use a few grams of fuel at a time so there is no chance of a meltdown like in a fission reactor.
U.S. funding of ITER is still questionable
While Bigot has done an excellent job of getting the ITER project back on track, after a meeting in Washington D.C. with the U.S. administration on Wednesday, he said the U.S. 2017 contribution had been cut from a planned $105 million to $50 million and it's 2018 contribution from a planned $120 million to $63 million, reports Reuters.
Eighteen  D -shaped toroidal field magnets will surround the torus-shaped vacuum vessel to confine t...
Eighteen "D"-shaped toroidal field magnets will surround the torus-shaped vacuum vessel to confine the plasma particles. Measuring 17 metres in height, 9 metres in width, and weighing in at 310 tonnes each, these coils rank among the largest components of the ITER machine.
Much of the 9 percent of the budget the U.S. funds go to suppliers in the member states—in the case of the U.S. that includes General Atomics, which is building the central solenoid, an 18-meter (59-foot) electromagnet that's powerful enough to lift an aircraft carrier. However, Bigot said that after Trump cut the Energy Department's budget, the department reduced funding for the U.S. companies making ITER components.
It is hoped that Trump will reconsider and stay onboard with the ITER project. "All countries including the United States know that their energy supply is not sustainable beyond this century," said Bigot, who was previously France's nuclear energy chief.
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