NUCLEAR PLANT IN FRANCE STARTS ASSEMBLE OF GIANT MACHINE TO REPLICATE THE WORKINGS OF THE SUN TO CREATE SAFE & CLEAN ENERGY
The world’s largest nuclear fusion project that will replicate reactions in the sun to create the ultimate clean energy source has begun assembly in France. Located in Provence, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor — or ITER, for short — is expected to start delivering energy in the year 2035.
Fusion power works by colliding heavy hydrogen atoms to form helium — releasing vast amounts of energy in the process, as occurs naturally in the centre of stars.
In such stellar furnaces, it is gravity that overcomes the tendency of the charged hydrogen atoms to repel away from each other — like two positive ends of a magnet. In ITER, however, this will be done by creating a ring of charged, super-hot gas called a plasma — reaching some 270,000,000°F — which will be held in place by magnets.
For the same amount of fuel, fusion produces around four time the energy of a conventional nuclear power station — which uses atom-splitting, fission, reactions.
Fusion — dubbed a ‘miracle for our planet’ — uses easy-to-source fuel and provides cheap, clean and safe energy without radioactive waste, or the risk of meltdown.
Seven main international partners are collaborating to bring ITER’s practical fusion power to reality — including China, Europe, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US. The ITER project was launched in 2006 and had originally planned to conduct its first test run this year, to reach full fusion by 2023.
However, the project has faced assorted delays as a result of financing issues, budgetary overrun and, most recently, set-backs due to COVID-19. At the end of 2016, ITER director general Bernard Bigot reported that the new schedule would aim to see so-called ‘first plasma’ — to prove the reactor concept works — by December 2025, and full operation reached by the year 2035.