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Fusion megaproject confirms 5-year delay

Fusion megaproject confirms 5-year delay thumbnail

The ITER fusion reactor will fire up for the first time in December 2025, the €18-billion project’s governing council confirmed today. The date for “first plasma” is 5 years later than under the old schedule, and to get there the council is asking the project partners—China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States—to cough up an extra €4 billion ($4.5 billion).

“It is expected, if there are no objections, that we can approve [the schedule] by November and then we can move forward,” says ITER director general Bernard Bigot.

ITER aims to show that it is feasible to fuse hydrogen nuclei together to form helium and thereby release enough excess energy to make a viable source of power. To achieve that requires heating two hydrogen isotopes—deuterium (D) and tritium (T)—to temperatures above 100 million degrees Celsius. ITER will feature an enormous vessel to contain the D-T plasma, powerful superconducting magnets to confine it, and elaborate particle accelerators and microwave generators to heat it.

The international consortium that is building the reactor has parceled out the construction work to hundreds of companies across the globe. But the sheer complexity of the effort has led to delays and cost increases as researchers sought to finalize the design, maintain standards, and get the million-plus components delivered on time to the reactor site at Cadarache, France.

Bigot was brought on in March 2015 to get the project back on track. He presented a revised schedule to the council last November, pushing back the first plasma from 2020 to 2025 and asking for an additional €4.6 billion for staff and equipment. The council asked an independent panel to review the schedule and asked ITER management to cut costs. The panel declared in April that the 2025 goal is technically feasible but warned that there was no slack in case of unexpected problems.

The council meeting yesterday and today rubberstamped the 2025 target and accepted a price tag of slightly under €4 billion, down by €600 million. Managers shaved off some of the cost of reaching first plasma by delaying the construction of some components—ones that aren’t needed for early experiments—until later dates. ITER staff is now working on a staged approach in which a few years of experiments are followed by upgrades, then more experiments and more upgrades, and so on. Early studies will use only hydrogen or deuterium for simplicity, leaving the radioactive tritium for later.

That may end up delaying the first D-T experiments and increasing the overall cost, but “it reduces annual cost for the partners and it was supported by all of them,” Bigot says. “They all feel more comfortable and there is no rush.” The partners have agreed to the approach in principle while management works out the schedule in more detail. The final decision will be made at the next council meeting in November.

The council also approved a boost in staff by 350 to 1050 and the domestic agencies—bodies in each partner that handle the industrial contracts to build components—will contribute 100 more. The council also agreed to a proposal from the United States for more regular independent reviews of key project aspects, because of considerable opposition to ITER in U.S. Congress. Bigot says these may occur every 6 months and will be tightly focused, covering topics such as the project’s risk assessment and mitigation strategy or whether production of a critical component is moving fast enough.

With agreement coming together on the schedule and cost, “the atmosphere is much more positive now compared with a year ago,” Bigot says. “There is a common will to make this project a success.”

sci mag

22 Comments on "Fusion megaproject confirms 5-year delay"

  1. jjhman on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 2:28 pm 

    .Maybe fusion research is as good a way to spend money as any other. It keeps a bunch of smart people thinking and solving problems, apparently meaningless problems, but they get to stay sharp in case they get asked to do something useful. It also keeps a lot of regular folks busy. They build things and buy things, they put things together and take them apart, turn knobs and chat with their co workers. Better than shooting at them. then they get to buy iPhones and go to Disneyland.

    There is this small issue that there are real problems that need to be solved like climate change, poverty, war, crazy mass murderers and such that hardly anyone seems to be working on.

    But it keeps the economy going and that’s the important thing.

    Isn’t it?

  2. Davy on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 3:02 pm 

    Yea, JJ, at this point in the game it does not matter. We are in dangerous deflation so keeping activity going has a benefit. We are not going to benefit from fusion even if they figure it out becuse we are no longer able to scale it to solve our other problems.

    It is one of those topics techies love to think about because it is the ultimate in tech. The sheeples don’t understand it but it sounds great to them if it will provide security for their status quo lives. It is a colossal waste but most everything about modern man is so WTF have at it.

  3. John on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 4:29 pm 

    Pity it went to the slow & twitchy finger strike minded French…

  4. penury on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 4:30 pm 

    Both comments have said it all. Nothing to add.

  5. yoshua on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 5:02 pm 

    “Scientists detect oxygen in galaxy 13.1 billion light years from earth.”

    Obviously they have figured it by now that it wont work since they are looking for a way out this hole.

  6. onlooker on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 5:17 pm 

    meantime in the land of reality Siberia reaches 95F , checkout the beach goers in bikinis hehe, seriously we are just like the dinosaurs clueless just before the Meteor hits

  7. ghung on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 5:39 pm 

    Pahleeeze. Five years out and always will be?

  8. makati1 on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 6:39 pm 

    $4.5 Billion = 1/2 percent of the US Military/Security budget for 2016. Better we have 200 of these money sinkholes being built and never used, than the bombs and death from the other investment.

  9. JuanP on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 7:38 pm 

    Siberia and Alsaka are hotter than Miami!

  10. JuanP on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 7:40 pm 

    Investing in nuclear fusion is irrefutable proof of humanity’s lack of intelligence. If stupid is as stupid does, we are unbelievably stupid!

  11. Davy on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 7:59 pm 

    Good eye for the hot girls, Looker!

  12. Apneaman on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 8:20 pm 

    John, who should they have given the mega project to, Americans?


    Nuclear fail: New reactor took 43 years to build, shut down after 2 days

    “By Craig Morris on 16 June 2016
    Print Friendly
    Renewables International

    More than four decades after construction began, the Watts Bar-2 reactor was finally connected to the grid on 3 June 2016. However, two days later, while operating at 12.5 percent power, the reactor automatically shut down.

    According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the reactor tripped when a high pressure turbine valve failed to open. As of 8 June 2016, the reactor has not restarted and no restart schedule has been fixed yet, according to a spokesperson for plant owner the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).”

    The French could strike for 30 fucking years and still complete any mega project before today’s merica.

    At least Jean sixpack still has the balls to stand up for his rights and to feed his family.

  13. makati1 on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 8:42 pm 

    Ap, The US has been trying for over 14 years, and hundreds of billions of dollars, to develop a fighter plane to replace the old F15 which still out performs the F35. After 10 years of flight testing, it still fails.

    All the facts can be found at the above web site. Failure in capital letters! lol

  14. dissident on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 9:29 pm 

    Private contractors are engaged in their usual rape of the taxpayer. But we will spend our time posting about those “misguided” scientists. Sheesh, talk about barking up the wrong tree.

    BTW, fusion research has produced new insight into nonlinear plasma dynamics and is being used for nuclear-ion propulsion design by a Russian company:

  15. Anonymous on Sat, 18th Jun 2016 9:31 pm 

    Most complex, or high-tech mericant projects end up either over budget, not on schedule, or simply cancelled after huge amounts of time and money spent with little to show for it.

    Feature, not a bug.

  16. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 19th Jun 2016 3:17 am 

    Juan, presuming if you are smart, go get a nice $165,000 annual salary working as a researcher at ITER. Oh might be another 5 or 50 year delay on fusion, but the researcher paychecks will continue right on schedule.

  17. JuanP on Sun, 19th Jun 2016 7:24 am 

    Go speed, I am afraid my education didn’t go that far. I might be smart enough, but I am a high school dropout. LOL! I guess for that I should have gone to college instead of spending that decade having fun.

  18. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 19th Jun 2016 7:34 am 

    Nowadays the college grads are 200,000 in debt
    and working at Starbucks. Don’t know that college is worth it anymore.

    Rolling Stone explains what went wrong with college
    and debts.

  19. John on Sun, 19th Jun 2016 9:16 am 

    Currently the French are mucking up simple holidays others save all year for to enjoy with air traffic control strikes…even if your holiday is some other county you can’t use their airspace…not long ago the farmers blocked the ports with burning tyres cos of disagreements on their free money handout others pay for…now civil servants are protesting cos they might have to work harder for our money….Euro socialism on last legs

  20. makati1 on Sun, 19th Jun 2016 10:00 am 

    John, coming to a neighborhood near you in the not too distant future. Stop the food stamps and see how quickly America burns.

  21. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Jun 2016 11:07 am 

    3 cheers for the French worker for fucking up BAU and stupid fat peoples carbon spewing corporate vacations.

  22. John on Sun, 19th Jun 2016 11:46 am 

    Everyone, whether fat, slim, average, tall, short, rich, poor, young, old, midlife crisis, big corporations, small corner stores…. could turn off their computers, stop using the Internet, stop recharging and throw away their mobile phones…could save more spewing carbons

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