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ITER: international research to tackle a global issue

Over the next 50 years the global demand for energy may double, as large developing nations consume more and more energy for their growing economies. At the same time, reserves of fossil fuels are likely to become scarcer, while their use will be restricted to avoid severe climate change. The world needs new large-scale sustainable energy sources for its base load supply of electricity.

© ITER I.O.

Fusion could be one possible source of safe, sustainable and abundant energy.

However, fusion is technically very challenging. Such is the challenge and opportunity for fusion that the major world political powers have decided to work together to make fusion energy a reality.

The next step in this process is the international fusion experiment: ITER.

The agreement to jointly implement ITER was signed by representatives of all Parties to the project in November 2006 at the Elysée Palace in Paris. This ceremony saw the birth of the ITER organisation.

The Parties developing ITER are China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Russian Federation, South Korea and the USA. The project brings together nations representing more than half of the world's population to co-operate in developing this major research facility that will be of potential benefit to all.

ITER is being built in Cadarache, with Europe the host party and France the host state.

ITER aims to prove the feasibility of fusion power through a full exploration of the relevant science and by allowing the testing of key technology components for future fusion power plants.

ITER is the world biggest energy research project. It is an example of international scientific collaboration on an unprecedented scale that will provide the link between plasma physics and engineering and future commercial fusion-based power plants.

What is ITER?

Essentially ITER is a tokamak fusion experimental reactor with superconducting magnets and other systems that will enable the generation of 500 megawatts of fusion power continuously for at least 400 seconds. Its plasma volume will be close to the size of future commercial reactors.

The project is expected to cost more than 10bn€ over its 35-year lifetime to build, commission, operate and decommission.

ITER's tokamak will be 24 metres in diameter and 15 metres high, with a plasma volume of 850 cubic metres.

Scientists and engineers from around the world working at ITER will for the first time study burning plasma - plasma heated by hot alpha particles (i.e. Helium nuclei) generated by fusion reactions rather than by external heating. ITER will demonstrate and refine key technologies, as well as generate ten times more power than is required to produce and heat the initial hydrogen-tritium plasma.

Please follow this link for EU updated information on the ITER project.