History of 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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