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Non-nuclear energy

The Next Step: ITER

Fission and radiation protection
Fusion
   

Fusion has the potential to play a key role in providing base-load electricity production by about mid-century.

The European fusion programme occupies a leading position in world fusion research. The JET facility has demonstrated the scientific feasibility of producing fusion power at the multi-megawatt level for a period of several seconds. Further work is still required to guarantee the technical and economic viability of commercial fusion reactors, however the potential of fusion as a baseload sustainable energy source, together with the significant progress achieved so far, justifies taking the next step in fusion reactor development now.

This next step requires building a machine that can achieve considerably higher fusion power and longer containment time than JET, in order to demonstrate the practicability of a full-scale fusion reactor design. Due to the high costs and global rewards involved in such a next step, it is highly desirable to achieve truly global co-operation in this project.

ITER: a global project

ITER: a global project

International co-operation is strong with the focus on the ITER to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power. With a similar magnetic geometry as JET ITER will be much bigger and have in addition a number of key technologies essential for a future power station. These include superconducting technology, first wall tritium breeding blanket modules, steady-state plasma heating systems, tritium closed cycle, and full remote handling. ITER will also be able to operate for long periods (burning plasma pulses of over 15 minutes). More about the objectives and mission of ITER can be accessed here.

The realisation of ITER is being negotiated by China, the EU, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States of America. The current ITER Transitional Arrangements are implemented under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A movie introducing the realization of ITER is available on the website of the project. More details on the international collaboration can be found here.

In Latin ITER means “the way” – more information on the current status of the project can be accessed here.

ITER in the 6th Research Framework Programme (FP6) - Euratom

The priority in FP6 will be to make progress towards demonstrating the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy and assessing its sustainable qualities.

FP6 will continue activities in preparation for the construction phase of ITER by demonstrating the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion in conditions comparable to those of an energy-producing reactor. In addition, an accompanying programme of work will:

  • Further exploit the JET device in the framework of the European Fusion Development Agreement;
  • Continue research into fusion physics and technology, including the study of other magnetic confinement geometries (in particular the construction of the Stellarator Wendelstein 7X) which are aimed at optimising the demonstration reactor after ITER;
  • Continue operation of existing fusion devices through a coordinated programme that will further support the international programme and, in addition, provide valuable training to ensure that Europe can exploit the operation of the ITER device for the full benefit of European researchers and industry;
  • Continue research into advanced fusion materials that exhibit low activation; and
  • Investigate socio-economic aspects related to the operation of a future fusion power plant.

The ITER homepage is http://www.iter.org

ITER in the 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7) – Euratom

In its proposal for the seventh Euratom Framework Programme, which will run from 2007 to 2011, the Commission has stated that the long term goal remains "the creation of prototype reactors for power stations which are safe, sustainable, environmentally responsible, and economically viable". The specific goals for FP7 are to develop the knowledge base for this long term aim, and to realise ITER as the next major step towards it.

The programme proposed for FP7 consists of:

  • the realisation of ITER;
  • R&D in preparation of ITER operation;
  • technology activities in preparation of DEMO;
  • R&D activities for the longer term.

The realisation of ITER will involve site preparation, establishing the ITER Organisation and the European Joint Undertaking for ITER, management and staffing, general technical and administrative support, construction of equipment and installations and support to the project during construction.

To prepare for ITER operation, a focused physics and technology programme will exploit the facilities and resources in the fusion programme, including JET. It will assess specific key ITER technologies, consolidate ITER project choices, and prepare for ITER operation through experimental and theoretical activities.

Preparation of DEMO entails the vigorous development of fusion materials and key technologies for fusion, and the establishment of a dedicated project team to prepare for the construction of the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) to qualify materials for DEMO. It will include irradiation testing and modelling of materials, studies of the DEMO conceptual design, and studies of the safety, environmental and socio-economic aspects of fusion energy.

Activities directed towards the longer term needs include further development of improved concepts for magnetic confinement schemes with potential advantages for fusion power stations (focussed on the completion of the construction of the W7-X stellarator device), theory and modelling aimed at a comprehensive understanding of the behaviour of fusion plasmas.

In view of the immediate and medium term needs of ITER, and for the further development of fusion, there will also be initiatives aimed at ensuring that adequate human resources will be available in the future, in terms of numbers, range of skills and high level training and experience.

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