The International Thermonuclear Experiment Reactor (ITER), is a project of the world’s most complex machine having many countries as its scientific partners and one of them is India. The machine’s manufacturing has a motive to prove that the fusion power can be produced on a commercial scale and on Wednesday it has been announced that 50 per cent of it has been built successfully.
ITER is the most complicated science project in the history and as useful to humanity because it is a carbon-free and environmentally sustainable fusion, the same energy source with which the sun provides light and warmth to the earth.
It will produce massive heat energy for bigger uses with the help of hydrogen fusion, controlled by superconducting magnets. This heat will drive turbines to produce electricity in the upcoming commercial machines having 500 megawatts production of thermal power.
The ITER facility is a scientific partnership of 35 countries, being built in Southern France. The ITER’s complexity increases as each of the seven ITER members —- the European Union, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US — is fabricating a significant portion of the machine.
The European Union has a contributing share of 45 per cent of the total cost while China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US each contribute 9 per cent equally in the ITER’s technology. They all possess equal access to the intellectual property and innovation received from the resultant ITER.
It is being said that a pineapple-sized amount of hydrogen can create fusion energy equals to 10,000 tonnes of fossil fuel coal.
ITER is an assembling of around 10 million specialised components that are being manufactured in industrial facilities around the globe and will be shipped to the ITER work site for making a final output.
On December 1, the recent report came from the top-level officials in ITER member-governments that 50 per cent of the “total construction work scope through First Plasma” has been completed. December 2025 has been scheduled for first Plasma to operate the functional machine for the first time.
ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot writes, “The stakes are very high for ITER.”
“When we prove that fusion is a viable energy source, it will eventually replace burning fossil fuels, which are non-renewable and non-sustainable. Fusion will be complementary with wind, solar, and other renewable energies.”
“Our design has taken advantage of the best expertise of every member’s scientific and industrial base. No country could do this alone. We are all learning from each other, for the world’s mutual benefit.”
The concept of ITER was conceived between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1985 Geneva Summit. The ITER agreement was signed in 2006 with the support of leaders like French President Jacques Chirac, US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
About $22 billion, which is more than 80 per cent of the cost of the ITER, is contributed in the form of components manufactured by the partners. Each component need to be prepared on time to fit into the master schedule for machine assembly.
The size of the plant is appropriate for studying largely self-heating plasma which takes most of the heating from the fusion reaction itself. A commercial fusion plant will have 10-15 times more electrical power; for instance, 2,000-megawatt fusion electricity would supply two million homes.
Scientists predict that the commercial fusion plant is likely to get stage by 2040 but the accurate timing will depend upon the level of public urgency and financial investment.