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Nuclear Fusion Reactor in France 55 Percent Complete

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There may be lingering disagreements among China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States, but there is one complex project these seven entities have in common that is on track for success – the world’s largest nuclear fusion facility.

This first global collaboration on building a nuclear fusion reactor is taking place at Cadarache in the south of France.


Aerial view of the ITER fusion reactor site in thet south of France, April 2018 (Photo by EJF Riche / ITER Organization)

Construction of the reactor began in 2017 and is now more than 50 percent complete. It is scheduled to achieve first plasma in December 2025. This means that the reactor will be able to generate a molten mass of electrically-charged gas, known as plasma, inside its core.

Deuterium-tritium fusion experiments are scheduled to begin in 2035.

Director-General Bernard Bigot of France said the passing of the 50 percent milestone reflects “the collective contribution and commitment of ITER’s seven members.”

The seven participants in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, ITER, are building the 500 megawatt tokamak fusion device designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy that is safe, abundant and environmentally responsible.

Fusion is the process that powers the Sun and the stars; when light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released.

At its 22nd meeting on June 20 and 21, the ITER Council reviewed in detail the latest reports and indicators covering organizational and technical performance.

ITER Council Members jointly reaffirmed the importance of the mission and vision of the project.

The ITER Council evaluated the most recent reports of manufacturing, construction and installation progress for the fusion reactor, including the latest measures of performance.

The Council approved refinements to the construction strategy proposed by the ITER Organization to optimize equipment installation in the Tokamak Complex Building.

With this strategy in place, the project remains on track for first plasma in 2025.

The Council agreed that substantial progress has been made on the fabrication of technologically challenging components such as vacuum vessel sectors and toroidal field magnets, as well as on installation of the cryoplant, site service building and magnet power supply and conversion. Based on the latest performance metrics, project execution to achieve first plasma is over 55 percent complete.

Since January 2016, ITER has achieved 33 scheduled project milestones, including the recent commissioning of the first experiment of the SPIDER Neutral Beam Test Facility in Padua, Italy.

The specialized components – some 10 million parts in total – are being manufactured in industrial facilities all over the world. Then they are sent to the Cadarache worksite to be assembled into the final machine.

Europe is contributing almost half of the costs of construction, while the other six members: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States, are contributing equally to the rest.

Construction costs are expected to be around €20 billion (US$22 billion), with components contributed by the ITER members on an “in-kind” basis.


Summit, the latest, fastest supercomputer from the United States’ Oak Ridge National Laboratory, June 2018 (Photo courtesy ORNL)

Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer, recently launched at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States, will be instrumental in accelerating fusion research.

The new supercomputer takes computing powers to new heights. Summit can perform 200,000 trillion calculations per second – or 200 petaflops – that is 200 quadrillion calculations, eight times more than the previous record-holder at the Oak Ridge National Lab, Titan.

The massive machine, weighing more than a commercial aircraft, is also the world’s largest computer equipped with artificial intelligence – a machine whose software will write new software.

Harnessing Summit’s capabilities in machine learning and simulation as well as in artificial intelligence and deep learning will allow researchers to accelerate scientific discovery in nuclear fusion.

At the close of its June meeting, the ITER Council stated, “The ITER Project is sustaining its strong performance and rapid pace; the ITER Organization and Domestic Agencies continue to work as an integrated team to meet the challenging schedule and demanding technical requirements, anticipating and mitigating risks to stay on track for success.”


ITER Council at its 22nd meeting, June 21-22, 2018 (Photo courtesy ITER)


15 Comments on "Nuclear Fusion Reactor in France 55 Percent Complete"

  1. Anonymouse1 on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 4:29 pm 

    I think you would hard-pressed to find a better example, of misguided prioritizes and thinking, than ITER. To be sure, there are plenty of other equally misguided institutions and organizations, that currently waste far more money and resources than ITER ever could. In terms of resources and money wasted, ITER is almost pocket change by comparison to some out there. That is not the point.

    However, as an example of, trying to fix the wrong problem with the wrong machine,(or idea), ITER is textbook example of what ‘we’ should *not* be doing.

    On the plus side, anyone that does not actually expect ITER (or fusion) broadly to ‘save civilization’, or something, will not be disappointed. Those that actually DO expect fusion to ‘save’ the world, however, will probably end up feeling fairly foolish and likely insist if they only had another century or two, or five, it might have panned out.

  2. Antius on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 6:09 pm 

    For reasons already discussed; unless some unexpected breakthrough occurs that increases the strength of superconducting magnets by at least an order of magnitude, then the Tokamak will never achieve the power density needed to be a practical energy source. Whether they reach breakeven or not is practically irrelevant.

    If that were the end of the problems of the tokamak, it would be bad enough. Compound it with the sheer amount of rare earth’s and technology needed to make the thing work and the fact that most of the energy is released as fast neutrons and the problem of developing a power producing plant is squared.

  3. Makati1 on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 6:15 pm 

    You are correct, Antius. It is nothing more than an expensive dream and a waste of resources.

  4. onlooker on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 6:16 pm 

    The prolonged delays and lack of progress of this venture along with ridicule from those who seem to know something about this process convinces me that this is a Boondoggle

  5. Antius on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 6:47 pm 

    “You are correct, Antius. It is nothing more than an expensive dream and a waste of resources.”

    There are many fusion concepts. They don’t all work the same way. It is not a foregone conclusion that all of them are hopeless. The z-pinch for example, can produce magnetic pressure a million times greater than the tokamak. Laser driven inertial confinement is also a possibility. Within another decade, there is potential for femtosecond lasers capable of breaking the quantum vacuum. These will be far more efficient at generating the x-rays needed to drive compression.

    But in the time remaining, fast breeder fission reactors would be a better bet. We already know how to build them and we know that they can be made to work. It is time to cut the red tape and bullshit politics holding this back.

  6. Anonymouse1 on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 6:54 pm 

    Notice how this little article pads itself by dropping that supercomputer into the conservation? Great that they have that machine on tap (they are going to need it to be sure), but no amount of super computing power by itself, will ever produce a working fusion reactor. Or even a sort-of-working one. It does matter how many calculations per second their supercomp can perform.

    I like how they said it has ‘AI’. No it does not. It likely running what is known an a expert system of some sort or another, which nothing remotely like AI. It is not an intelligent machine that can create new software on request. Such a thing, is sci-fiction, not science fact. In any event, software is only a small slice of the hurdles fusion faces, most of which are grounded in reality. Things like materials, resources, dollars, endless technical hurdles that have little to do with software, or computer hardware.

    Just think though, with computing power like that, you could run one hell of an MMO, or something along those lines. Maybe real-time MPEG rendering on the fly, who knows. You might even be able to make money doing something like that with that machine.

    OR, you could model plasma physics for years on end, which at the end of the day, are still just simulations. All for a project that will likely never produce one watt of net power in decades, if ever.

  7. MASTERMIND on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 7:17 pm 

    American eyes, American eyes….
    View the world from American eyes
    Bury the past, rob us blind
    And leave nothin behind

    Just stare
    Relive the nightmare.

  8. Duncan Idaho on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 7:26 pm 

    “Soldiers[/police] are dumb, stupid animals for the conduct of foreign[/national/local] policy.”
    ~ Henry Kissinger

  9. Antius on Wed, 4th Jul 2018 7:29 pm 

    “OR, you could model plasma physics for years on end, which at the end of the day, are still just simulations. All for a project that will likely never produce one watt of net power in decades, if ever.”

    The idea is to be able to predict the conditions leading to plasma instability ahead of time and determine and execute corrective action, I.e cold fuel injection to dampen the plasma. It is a clumsy approach; one that is only workable for slowly growing instabilities. But since magnetic field strength is fixed by the achievable current density of superconductors; the only option available to tokamak designers is to increase beta (the ratio between plasma pressure and magnetic pressure). As you correctly state, it probably won’t work. There are literally dozens of different plasma instabilities.

  10. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 5th Jul 2018 12:34 am 

    Fusion is bullshit.
    Yet another swindle, by the
    pieces of dog poop we are
    required to call them
    “Leaders”. But they are just
    mentally disturbed pieces of
    poop like seizure-Hillary
    and nursing-home Pelosi.

    4 more years! Donate now to
    Trump in 2020. You know for
    damn sure Trump would just
    assume prefer to shut down
    this absurd fusion project.
    And blow it up with MOAB ordinance.

  11. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 5th Jul 2018 12:35 am 

    … with all the welfare professors in
    the building.

  12. Sissyfuss on Thu, 5th Jul 2018 9:18 am 

    55% complete and 100% non-viable.

  13. Dave Thompson on Thu, 5th Jul 2018 5:12 pm 

    Even if this fusion contraption can get off the ground and produce some electricity just how in the hell will enough of them ever be built to make any difference?

  14. Jerome Purtzer on Thu, 5th Jul 2018 6:50 pm 

    The perfect fusion reactor already exists at a nice safe distance from the earth. The Sun. All we need is another Nicola Tesla to walk among us to show us how to extract electricity from it.

  15. Outcast_Searcher on Sat, 7th Jul 2018 1:29 pm 

    “Deuterium-tritium fusion experiments are scheduled to begin in 2035.”

    So if nothing goes wrong, EXPERIMENTS are scheduled to begin in 17 years.

    Why is this even “news”?

    It’s merely the oft-repeated promise that we’ll have fusion in several decades.

    Be sure to get back to us IF that happens.

    In the mean time, building out things that we know work safely and last a long time like solar, wind, geothermal, and batteries (if they’re managed properly re fire risks) can do a lot and will be needed before several decades expire.

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