10 May 2007 | 11:45 | ITER

The long-term objective of fusion research is to harness the nuclear energy provided by the fusion of light atoms to help meet mankind´s future energy needs. This research, which is carried out by scientists from all over the word, has made tremendous progress over the last decades. The fusion community is now ready to take the next step, and have together designed the international ITER experiment. The aim of ITER is to show fusion could be used to generate electrical power, and to gain the necessary data to design and operate the first electricity-producing plant. In ITER, scientists will study plasmas in conditions similar to those expected in a electricity-generating fusion power plant. It will generate 500 MW of fusion power for extended periods of time, ten times more than the energy input needed to keep the plasma at the right temperature. It will therefore be the first fusion experiment to produce net power. It will also test a number of key technologies, including the heating, control, diagnostic and remote maintenance that will be needed for a real fusion power station. The current participants to the project are the European Union (represented by EURATOM), Japan, the People´s Republic of China, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA.

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15 April 2007 | 14:36 | ITER

The European Joint Undertaking for the ITER Fusion energy organization and the development of fusion energy has been established by the Council of the European Union at its meeting in Brussels on 27 March. The Joint Undertaking will form the European Domestic Agency that will manage the EU’s contribution to ITER. Switzerland is in the process of extending its accession to the ELE and ITER (via Euratom).

The preparation of the ITER site has started on 29 January. Until October 2007, a site of 180 hectares next to the Cadarache site will be prepared for the construction of ITER, under the supervision of the Agence ITER France.

The Director General (DG) of ITER is the Chief Executive Officer of the ITER Organisation. The DG is responsible to the Council for its efficient execution. The DG therefore supervises the appointment of its staff and their work, and works with the Council to obtain resources and resolve any problems. Currently, the ITER DG Nominee is Kaname Ikeda.

The Project Team is responsible for executing the project and coordinating the procurements, machine assembly and eventual operation. It consists of directly employed staff and staff seconded by the Parties. Staff are appointed on renewable five-year contracts, allowing the needs of the project to be adapted as it proceeds. The Project Team is mainly located at the Cadarache construction site. The DG heads major divisions for Safety, Licensing and QA, for Administration, and for Science and Technology, the latter being a major point of interaction for ITER’s future plasma physics and nuclear technology customers.

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History of ITER

5 April 2007 | 22:00 | ITER

While significant progress has been made with large fusion experiments around the world, most of which were constructed in the 80´s, it was clear from an early stage that a larger and more powerful device would be needed to create the conditions expected in a fusion reactor and to demonstrate its scientific and technical feasibility, and each of the fusion programmes around the world started to make their own design for it.

The idea for ITER originated from the Geneva superpower summit in November 1985 where Premier Gorbachov, following discussions with President Mitterand of France, proposed to President Reagan that an international project be set up to develop fusion energy for peaceful purposes. The ITER-project subsequently began as a collaboration between the former Soviet Union, the USA, the European Union (via Euratom) and Japan.


Site selection

The process of selecting a location for ITER took a long time, and was finally successfully concluded in 2005. Canada was first to offer a site in Clarington, in May 2001. Soon after, Japan proposed the Rokkasho-Mura site, Spain offered a site at Vandellos near Barcelona, and France proposed the Cadarache site in the South of France.

Canada withdrew from the race in 2003, and the EU decided in November 2003 to concentrate its support on a single European site, for which the French site Cadarache was chosen. From that point onwards, the choice was between France and Japan. On June 28, 2005 it was officially announced that ITER will be built in the European Union, at the Cadarache site.

As part of the deal over the siting, it was agreed that Japan would provide 20% of the staff for the ITER project, and Europe would make a fifth of its procurements in Japan. In addition, the head of the project would be proposed by Japan, and Japan and Europe would work together on a “broader approach” including the other programmatic items which would be necessary to build a demonstration power plant in Japan after ITER, such as materials qualification, advanced plasma experimentation, plasma simulation, and the design team itself.


The future for ITER essentially falls into four phases:

  • the phase prior to the granting of the construction license, in which the Joint Implementation Agreement is eventually signed or ratified and the ITER Organisation is set up;
  • the estimated seven year construction phase in which the first large hardware contracts are launched (some subcomponent procurements uncritical for licensing may even be launched earlier) and in which eventually all subsystems are assembled and coommisioned;
  • the estimated 21 year operation phase in which one year of integrated system commissioning is followed by 10 years of operation aiming primarlly at establishing the optimum physics of a power reactor and determining the best operating mode to obtain the most relevant tritium-breeding blanket testing, followed by a 10 year operation phase to exploit those conditions;
  • a decommissioning phase, the first 6 years of which being the final responsibility of the ITER project, to deactivate the plant by removal of tritiated materials, activated corrosion products and radioactive dust, as well as in-vessel components, followed by about 20 further years (minimum) under the responsibility of the host Party allowing for radioactive decay, and a further 6 year period of dismantlement and disposal of the remaining plant.
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