ITER – the Next Step
ITER – which means ‘the way’ in Latin – is an international research and development project conceived to take the next major step in the development of fusion energy. Building on established physics and proven technology, ITER represents the first complete design of a fusion device of conventional power station size. Over the last ten years, ITER has been developed into a detailed engineering plan ready for construction for which models or prototypes of the major technological components have been built by industry, and fully tested. Based on this experience, industry has evaluated the construction costs in a comprehensive way.
The international collaboration involved in producing the design for ITER has broken new ground in bringing together geographically widespread, multicultural teams to coordinate this technically challenging project. This remarkable scientific achievement has been made possible by the leading scientists and engineers from research centres, universities and industrial firms all around the world, bringing together a team of several hundreds in a true project-oriented collaboration.
The task of constructing and running ITER will require a truly global partnership. Candidate sites have been proposed on three continents for its construction. The European Union, Canada, Japan, the Russian Federation and, since 2003, the United States of America, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea, are negotiating arrangements for implementation of the project. Other countries may be interested in participating, too.
The ITER negotiations comprise construction, operation and decommissioning of ITER, and include items such as cost sharing, management structure, intellectual property rights and site. Supporting technical activities continue to maintain the project’s integrity, review design adaptations for specific sites, and undertake preparations for setting up documentation for licensing.
Fusion power ITER will include most of the necessary technology for a future fusion power station.
The ITER tokamak, 24 metres high and 30 metres wide, will be smaller than a conventional power station. It will produce up to 500 MW of thermal power in a toroidal fusion plasma of 800m3 volume confined by strong magnetic fields. It will demonstrate prolonged power production aiming ultimately at steady-state operation.
ITER will produce between ten to five times more power than is necessary for maintaining the plasma at fusion temperatures (150 million degrees Celsius) thereby demonstrating the feasibility of fusion power and sustained ‘burn’, and allowing physicists and engineers to develop and optimise the technologies, components and control strategies for later fusion power stations.