The ITER project of an industrial scale fusion reactor paves the way for the production of clean energy, and requires also a unique international collaboration
This presentation, by Laban Coblentz, Head of communication at ITER, discusses the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, a massive international collaboration aimed at advancing fusion energy, exploring the convergence of basic and applied science, and addressing global energy challenges.
The ITER project is showcased as a unique endeavor where basic and applied science intersect. The project involves constructing a fusion power device that aims to harness nuclear fusion, a fundamentally different energy source compared to the fission-based nuclear reactors currently in use. The project stands out due to its international collaboration, with contributions from various countries, highlighting the common goal of achieving sustainable and clean energy.
Magnets for fusion
The presentation delves into the science behind fusion, emphasizing its importance in the universe and how it powers the Sun. The core idea of magnetic confinement fusion, specifically a tokamak, is introduced. In a tokamak, a magnetic field confines ionized hydrogen isotopes (deuterium and tritium), raising their temperature to 150 million degrees, where they collide and fuse, releasing energy. The benefits of fusion include an abundant fuel supply, minimal long-lived radioactive waste, and inherent safety features compared to fission.
Unique international effort
The international collaboration in the ITER project is highlighted through the manufacturing and assembly of components from different countries. The text mentions that components from multiple continents are shipped and assembled to create the fusion device, emphasizing the unique and shared nature of this project.
The ITER project’s has its genesis in 1985, during discussions between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. The project saw the involvement of several countries over the years, and the agreement was officially signed in 2006 with USA, Russia, Japan, Europe, China, Korea and India. The project is open to additional countries willing to contribute and meet specific criteria, emphasizing its global and cooperative nature.
There are many challenges to assemble such a complex device, using high-precision components built in various countries. The importance of maintaining international intellectual property sharing is highlighted to foster further scientific advancements.
The presentation ends by addressing the question of whether fusion can help combat climate change. The speaker acknowledges the complexity of achieving this goal within the desired timeframes. While fusion might not be deployed on a large scale by 2050, it remains a crucial part of the solution, especially given the growing global demand for energy, with fusion complementing other clean energy sources.
The potential impact of private sector initiatives in fusion is also discussed. While private ventures may focus on commercial deployment, ITER serves as a research and collaboration hub, inspiring and supporting these initiatives. The combined efforts of both public and private sectors are expected to drive the progress of fusion energy.