The fusion research reactor “International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor” – in short: Iter – already has a long history. The construction of such a plant was first suggested by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. However, work was finally started in 2007. The goal is to generate clean energy through the so-called nuclear fusion.
Within a reactor, a hydrogen plasma with a temperature of 150 million degrees Celsius is generated. This plasma in turn is surrounded by surpassing magnets. In theory, this ensures that the hydrogen isotopes deuterium (D) and tritium (T) fuse within the plasma, releasing energy. In the context of Iter, this is to be tested for the first time on a large scale in practice.
Russia, China and the USA are working together on the project
The corresponding reactor will be built in southern France near the Cadarache Nuclear Research Center. It is by no means a purely French project. Instead, a total of 35 states are involved in the construction of the plant. Besides the European Union and Switzerland, these are India, Russia, the United States, Japan, South Korea and China.
This is also noteworthy from a diplomatic point of view: It is likely to be one of the few projects worldwide in which Russia, the USA and China work together without conflict. So far, the fact that the costs will probably be much higher than planned changes nothing. Instead of the $ 5.5 billion originally targeted, the United States is currently calculating in a worst-case scenario about three times the amount.
In 2025, the construction should be completed
But there are also good news to announce. Because the lower part of the cryostat – the cooling and vacuum chamber of the plant – has now been completed and inaugurated. As a result, it is now possible to begin building the actual fusion chamber called Tokamak. Production also has an international division of labor.
Thus, the upper part of the cryostat is currently still manufactured in India. The Tokamak in turn is to be assembled in the south of France on site. The experts involved assume that in 2025 the first plasma can be generated within the plant. However, it will take another ten years for the fusion reactor to reach its full potential.