Process of assembling world's largest fusion reactor starts in France

Process of assembling world's largest fusion reactor starts in France

On 26 May, the first major component of the nuclear fusion reactor was installed, making it the first of many elements that will enter the so-called "Tokamak Pit" over the next few years.

The celebration was hosted virtually by President Emmanuel Macron.

The €20bn ITER project to build a nuclear fusion reactor has officially begun its assembly stage, decades after it was first envisioned.

Nuclear fusion has always been seen as the "holy grail" of energy production as it could create a near-limitless, cheap and clean source of electricity.

Director-General of the ITER organisation Bernard Bigot speaks in front of the lower cyclinder of the cryostat, which provides the high vacuum, ultra-cool environment for the vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets during the launch of the assembly stage of nuclear fusion machine "Tokamak" of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southeastern France, on July 28, 2020.

It demonstrates the willingness of the 35 partner countries of the ITER worldwide research project to join together in an enduring way in their common fight against climate change.

"I heartily congratulate the ITER Project", said Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan.

Fusion provides clean, reliable energy without carbon emissions.

Fusion is safe, with minute amounts of fuel and no physical possibility of a run-away accident with meltdown.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a statement read by the Indian ambassador to France, called global collaboration "a ideal symbol of the age-old Indian belief".

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The fuel for fusion is found in seawater and lithium.

"A pineapple-sized amount of this fuel is the equivalent of 10,000 tonnes of coal", the partners said.

The cost of building and operating a fusion plant is expected to be similar to the cost of a nuclear fission plant, but without the large costs and long-term legacy of waste disposal.

When ITER is finished, it is expected that it will demonstrate that fusion power can be generated sustainably on a commercial scale, it added.

In recent months huge components, many weighing several hundred tonnes each, have begun to arrive in France.

The chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) Prof Ian Chapman told BBC News that the project is now on a "hugely exciting phase" as most of the project partners aim to change the world with fusion for the future generations.

The facility is meant to produce about 500 megawatts of thermal power, translating into about 200 megawatts of electric energy if operated continuously, or enough to power some 200,000 homes.

Despite slight delays due to the coronavirus lockdown, ITER was still on track to start up in full power mode in 2035, an ITER spokeswoman said.

Simson noted that the ITER represents the determination of the European Union in the fight against climate change.

The aim is to extract massive energy and see whether it can be used as a new carbon-free energy source.

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