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ITER, A STEP CLOSER TO REALITY

Energy is the key that move the world. During the last 50 years its consumption has doubled (EIA, 2011) and it is expected to increase by 70% until 2030 (WETO, 2003). However, energy rose is not the only problem, but its consumption on a world scale will increase CO2 emissions more than double over the 1990-2030 period, from 21 to 45 Gt of CO2 (WETO, 2003). These are alarming figures, since CO2 emissions are the main contributor to climate change. For more than 200 years humanity has depended on fossil fuel and the idea that oil reserves are reaching the “peak” are no longer predictions. For many years, scientists and governments have been working in new energy technologies looking for better alternatives to tackle resources depletion and global warming. Today, science ensures that is possible to reproduce the energy of the stars, that just one gram of fusion fuel has the potential to produce more energy than burning 10 tonnes of coal (MAGPIE, 2008). Fusion energy is “the holy grail” of the energies. This is because fusion-based nuclear power offers the potential for a clean and almost limitless supply of energy (The Economist, 2008). For over half a century scientists have been working towards developing fusion energy, but this is difficult because of the high temperatures and pressures involved.

Brief History In order to understand the complexity of this technology a brief history is important. In 1905, Einstein provided the first clues on how the Sun works with his E=mc² equation. This simple equation predicted that the conversion of a small amount of mass could yield a very large amount of energy (ECRI, 2010) However, it was not until 1920 when the chemist Francis William Aston took precise measurements of the masses of atoms. Subsequently, an astrophysicist Sir Arthiur Eddington recognized the importance of Aston's work, who realised that by burning hydrogen into helium, the Sun would release around 0.7 % of the mass into energy. In 1939, the physicist Hans Bethe completed the picture with a quantitative theory explaining the generation of fusion energy in stars (ECRI, 2010). Several experiments have been conducted, however some unsuccessful as the one in the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge, UK during 1930s (Oliphant, Harteck, & Rutherford, 1934). Later on, an original large-scale experimental fusion device called ZETA was built in the late 1940s at Harwell in the UK. This machine worked from 1954 to 1958 showing initial findings and useful results for later devices (ECRI, 2010). After this successful case, research in fusion technology became of interest in France, Germany, the Soviet Union and the US. In 1958, at the Atoms for Peace conference in Geneva this countries formally
Veronica Rojas U ESD 500

two Russian Tamm and Sakharov constructed the tokamak. which is located in Oxfordshire. some other projects were carried out as the Joint European Torus (JET).2 sealed an agreement to start a truly international collaboration that would in time lead to today's ITER experiment in southern France. Nowadays. After more than 50 years of experiments and disappointments. Ten years later.7 MW from controlled nuclear fusion. 2010). JET produced for the first time in the world a significant amount of power 1. ITER is an acronym for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Two isotopes of hydrogen. there are more than ten nuclear fusion projects around the world (CBS. 2011). 2012) Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) in the USA and the Japanese tokamak JT-60 in 1985. deuterium (composed of a hydrogen nucleus containing one neutrons and one proton) and tritium (a hydrogen nucleus containing two neutrons and one proton). this is the most basic form of energy in the universe. According to Mayte Pascual. a device able to run at temperatures ten times higher than other current experiments. The sun and all other stars produce energy through thermonuclear fusion reactions. ITER Design and Technology In order to understand ITER. Nonetheless. Nevertheless. provide the most energetically favorable fusion reactants. gases need to be heated to enormously high temperatures about 100 millions ºC to produce a plasma which then needs to be contained for a sufficiently long period for fusion to occur (F4E. some of the mass of the original nuclei is lost and transformed to energy in the form of high-energy particles (MAGPIE. is fundamental to comprehend what is fusion. However. as previous experiences shown this is extremely complicated to recreate on earth. 2010) trying to reach “the holy grail”. The scientific goal of ITER is to deliver ten times the power it consumes (ITER. In the fusion process. in 1991 (ECRI. 2008). during the visit to the National Grid and according to Paul Cassel fusion processes in the UK consume more energy than they produce. Nuclear fusion is the process by which nuclei of low atomic weight such as hydrogen combine to form nuclei of higher atomic weight such as helium. ITER is currently the most important scientific project in the world (Pascual. Today. 2012). Therefore. devices use it same principle. In 1968. a new project called ITER is being carried out in France. this is the case of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE).

is a major international experiment with the aim of demonstrating the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion as an energy source (F4E.3 Graphic 1. 2012). This massive device is based on the 'tokamak' concept of magnetic confinement. forming a hot plasma. Source ITER The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). 2012). two isotopes of hydrogen—is heated to temperatures in excess of 150 million°C. ITER will allow scientists and engineers to develop the knowledge and technologies needed to proceed to a next phase of electricity production through fusion power stations. 2012). that means "the way" in Latin. which is a mixture of deuterium and tritium. strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the walls. these are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel. The ITER tokamak will measure 24 metres high and 30 metres wide (F4E. ITER aims to produce a significant amount of fusion power of 500MW for about 7 minutes or 300MW for 50 minutes (F4E. 2012). 2012) Graphic 2. in which the plasma is contained in a doughnut-shaped vacuum vessel (ITER. The fuel. Moreover. ITER will attempt to recreate the necessary conditions on earth to generate energy from fusion. and by an electrical current driven through the plasma (ITER. Source ITER Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 .

the concept of “breeding” tritium within the fusion reaction needs to be taking into account for the future needs of a large scale fusion power plant. energy is the major problem of this century. While both are being constructed. For instance. with no possibility of “meltdown” or “runaway reactions” 2. is important to highlight that Deuterium can be distilled from all forms of water. According to Fusion for Energy (F4E) this form of energy presents a number of advantages. In addition. is a fundamental step. Nevertheless. and putting fusion power into the grid as early as 2040 (ITER. tritium is produced or 'bred' when neutrons escaping the plasma interact with lithium contained in the blanket wall of the Tokamak (ITER. including CO2 and its impact to the environment is very low Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . 2012).4 In fusion processes different isotopes of light elements can be paired to achieve fusion. ITER will use the deuterium-tritium (D-T) reaction that has been identified as the most efficient for fusion devices. Tritium can be produced during the fusion reaction through contact with lithium. ITER will test this essential concept of tritium self-sustainment (ITER. harmless and virtually inexhaustible resource. a conceptual design for such a machine could be done by 2017. complementary research is being carried out around the world in order to support ITER. 2012). On the other hand. 1. Technical and Socio Economical Aspects As stated before. There is no emission of greenhouse gases. After ITER and as part of the same project a Demonstration Power Plant. A future fusion plant producing large amounts of power will be required to breed all of its own tritium. 2012). ITER is not the final project. DEMO will lead fusion into its industrial era. beginning operations in the early 2030s. However. Power Stations would be inherently safe. According to the information in the website of ITER. and in order to sustain life on earth any kind of technology that preserve the environment needs to be considered and should be open to the benefit of the world and future generations. is widely available. in a litre of seawater. described below. At this point. If the project succeed. or DEMO is the next pace. Fusion energy is “a dream” for humanity and in theory a solution to most of present problems that the world is facing. there are 33 milligrams of deuterium and it is regularly produced for scientific and industrial applications. tritium is a fastdecaying radioelement of hydrogen which occurs only in trace quantities in nature. The ITER construction work began in 2010 and is expected to be finished in 2019. The basic fuel (sea water) is abundant and available everywhere 3.

However. economic factors. 2010). 2011). which generates energy by splitting atoms. Beside. and the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 (Time. China has 25 nuclear power reactors under construction. fission nuclear energy has been demonised for some accidents that includes the Chernobyl disaster (1986). nuclear fusion works on the principle that energy can be released by forcing together atomic nuclei (PE. but decays very quickly. Moreover. the basic fuels. with plans to build many more (WNA. According to William Nutall this waste have been called the “Archilles Heel” of the nuclear industry (Nutall. This necessitates treatment. 2008) At this point is important to emphasize that fusion energy is different from fission energy which is a current related practice today.5 4. 2006). Nuclear fission energy has been used successfully over 60 years ago. Pollit. Nowadays. Japan's 2011Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster provoked a rethink of nuclear energy policy in many countries (Dahl. 2011). There is no high activity nuclear waste that must be considered for the future generations 5. Consequently. high-level radioactive waste requires sophisticated treatment and management to completely isolate it from the biosphere. nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity (WNN. followed by a long-term management strategy involving permanent storage. the main disadvantages of fision energy are waste disposal and safety. Beta radiation. Moreover. 2006). disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form (Ojovan & Lee. the intermediate fuel. 2010) while in the US the licenses of almost half its reactors have been extended to 60 years (WNA. In air.000 to millions of years (APS. deuterium. 2010) However. 2005). 2012) and plans to build another dozen are under serious consideration (The New York Times. tritium is radioactive.000 metric tons of high-level spent nuclear fuel each year (Sovacool. In contrast to fission energy. Fusion has the potential to fuel the entire the entire world for relatively low cost compared to today’s fuels (Silver. producing a very low energy electron. lithium and the reaction product helium are not radioactive. Unlike nuclear fission. 2012). the timeframes required when dealing with radioactive waste range from 10. “There is very little fuel in the reaction chamber at any given moment (about 1g in a volume of 1000 cubic metres) and if the fuel supply is interrupted. However. this electron can only travel a few millimetres and cannot Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . Day-to-day-operation of a fusion power station would not require the transport of radioactive materials 6. 2012). Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011). Any malfunction of the device would cause the reactor to cool and the reactions would stop” (F4E. the reactions only continue for a few seconds. & Jamasb. 2011). The world's nuclear fleet creates about 10. fusion energy is totally safe as stated by Energy for Fusion.

extensive safety and environmental studies have led to the conclusion that a fusion reactor could be designed in such a way to ensure that any in-plant incident would not require the evacuation of the local population (F4E. spread over more than 30 years between the parties. this represents over one half of the world’s population and a diverse range of economies. The idea is pretty. For the construction of the ITER device. collectively. with no greenhouse gas or other polluting emissions.6 even penetrate a piece of paper. rather than financing them. generating about 7 billion kWh. fusion can only occur at extremely high temperatures. 2012). Japan. 2012). 2012). 2012)." (Kaku. A 1 GW fusion plant will need about 100 Kg of deuterium and 3 tons of natural lithium to operate for a whole year. said. such as the walls of the container. but a careful choice of the materials for these components will allow them to be released from regulatory control and possibly recycled about 100 years after the power plant stops operating (ITER. tritium would be harmful if it entered the body. the cost of the project. USA. South Korea. The countries that support ITER are: India. it is less than the budget for the effort in the renewable energies (ITER. 2012). In the European Union for example. Russia. there are no issues regarding the transport of radio-active materials (F4E. and that will not release GHG. we don't know how to make the box. and it is modest compared to research expenditure in each party. Therefore. so the facility will have very thorough safety systems and procedures for the handling and storage of tritium. Nevertheless. According to ITER and F4E there are not major environmental impacts. fusion energy has some disadvantages. For this reason. According to Fusion for Energy. The EU as host Party will contribute up to about 50% of the construction costs and the other parties will each contribute up to 10% (F4E. The problem is. On the other hand. most of the components will be provided by the members. In contrast to this a coal-fired power plant (without carbon sequestration) requires about 1. In addition.5 million tons of fuel and produces about 4-5 million tons of CO2 to generate the same amount of energy (F4E. arguing that the fuel consumption of a fusion power station will be extremely low. 2008). For instance. 2012). "we say that we will put the sun into a box. as the French Nobel Laureate in Physics Pierre-Gilles de Gennes. 2012). The neutrons generated by the fusion reaction cause radioactivity in the materials containing the reaction. ITER is an international program that will cost around $10 billion dollars and it is supported for seven big nations that will bear together the costs of it. Second. the energy Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . waste from fusion plants will not be a threat for future generations. which make it difficult to contain. China and the European Union (ITER. First. As the tritium is produced in the reactor chamber itself.

There are many who argue that the project confront several technical challenging problems as mentioned before. This organisation believes that money should have been invested in renewable and existing energy sources. A member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms. Relating to costs only in the US. 1998). & Ogawa. ITER and its supporters have defended constantly the project. 2006). 2005) as argued by others. Okano. However. 2005). said: "In the next 50 years nuclear fusion will neither tackle climate change nor guarantee the security of our energy supply". and that this could be neglected because of ITER.7 required to make it work could be greater than the output of energy by fusion itself. people and economy. such as Robert Bussard and Eric Lerner. In 2005. Just using these figures as example. This investment should be viewed as an attempt to earn future gains for the environment. Moreover. Most of criticisms often turn around claims of the unwillingness by ITER researchers to face up to potential problems. Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . claimed that ITER was a hazard because scientist did not yet know how to manipulate the high-energy deuterium and tritium hydrogen isotopes used in the fusion process (Deutch Welle. Shinya. Another. which in theory are solved by ITER. both technical and economic (Bussard. fusion is intrinsic safe.9 billion (UNEP. a French Association Sortir du nucléaire (Get Out of Nuclear Energy) and more than 700 anti-nuclear group. Greenpeace International issued a press statement criticizing governments funding ITER. Asia's electricity sector attracted US$93 billion in private investment between 1990 and 1998 (EIA. 2008). The ITER project is not supported for everyone. like wind energy (Greenpeace International. 2006). However. 2005). "This is not good news for the fight against the greenhouse effect because we're going to put ten billion euros towards a project that has a term of 30-50 years when we're not even sure it will be effective (EurActiv. Finally. 1998). a number of fusion researchers working on non-tokamak systems. and more important current research and experiments are costing and will cost billions of dollars. He stated. In particular the allegations of its "inherent danger”. electricity accounts for US$210 billion in annual sales (EIA. Moreover. have criticized ITER for diverting funding that they believe could be used for their potentially more reasonable and/or cost effective fusion power plant designs (Bussard. Asaoka. scientist of ITER assure that researchers in Japan guarantee that a fusion generator should be viable in the 2030s and no later than the 2050s (Hiwatari. a worldwide investment into ITER of less than $1 billion per year is not incompatible with current research into other methods of power. French Green party Noël Mamère claims that is important to fight present issues as global warming. 2005). Later on. which in 2007 totaled US$16. explaining that unlike fission.

that will cost at least $10 billion dollars and as any research project. In addition. I believe that either way this project will contribute to the future of fusion energy. so when? Many argue that the money should be spent in renewables technologies. and that humanity is facing today. Furthermore. This is a long way to go yet. according to ITER if it works we will have to wait at least 20 years more to have energy produced in fusion reactors. Today. However. however both must go together. such as. this is not only about energy security. this is not new for them. Together the aim is to find a solution for future energy issues. who knows if nuclear fusion will become on time to help us to tackling with climate change roots. Moreover. renewable energies are feasible and a good option. The community need to be aware of fusion advantages. the parties should spread a clear and transparent message to the world and especially to the communities directly involved in ITER. a safety controlled nuclear fusion that will not produce waste for future generations as other projects in France. this technology will help to reduce environmental and social impacts. climate change. This is the only way to make it compatible with the current economic situation. Although this are not good enough to confront the energy issues and all the indirect consequences that this entails. This is an expensive project. its success is not guarantee. energy security.8 This nations are committing themselves to solve a global challenge. According to Osamuy Motojima ITER General Director this transparency is essential for both project and community. The project is being constructed in Cadarache – Southern France. and according to Roger Pizot the Major of Saint Paul Lez Duranze this is a good project and its community is aware of both advantages and disadvantages. assuring sustainable energy resources. Therefore. extensive informational effort must be done in order to reassure the community that this is a different process from fission. water scarcity. poverty. Nevertheless. harnessing fusion would provide an environmentally friendly and almost limitless source of energy. This could be one of the biggest and useful discoveries of human history. so even if the project is unsuccessful any progress will be achieved. Personally. resource depletion. the economic risks these nations are taking are completely justified taking into consideration that is imperative to find real solutions to sustain life on earth. Besides. This investment goes beyond from a political period of four years. but in my view if the money is not invested now. the current crisis. They believe that is important to work in a new way of nuclear energy. Since in France nuclear fission energy has been used for many years. Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . support to the project has not decreased according to Carlos Alejaldre General Director of ITER in Spain. However.

However. Furthermore. most of its barriers presented above are technical. This will help to tackle climate change. the world needs urgently new energy resources. Besides. So. current energy technologies that use non. it would provide limitless and clean energy to the world. it is forecasted by some scientists that oil reserves may run out eventually. This new technology will save an indefinite amount of GHG released to the atmosphere. resources depletion and giving people a better quality of life. there is a big probability. but either way it will contribute with some progress for future generations.9 Conclusions According to the information presented above. in the short-term is necessary to combine efforts in the short-erm investing and developing other renewable energies. even more in a project of this magnitude that uses new technology. Looking back to history.renewable resources could be replaced for other similar nuclear reactors devices. and it is too complex to conceive. If ITER succeed. Fusion energy is a fact. There are uncertainties as in every project. However. In the long-run term fusion may be feasible and the best option. ITER and its fusion energy technology is a sustainable practice. Additionally. beside this and economics factors that in my view are fully justified all are advantages. Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . that this project does not achieve its aims. but more experiments and studies are needed for it development and further deployment.

S. F4E.aps.. Mixed reactions to ITER. EurActiv. Asaoka. really)" (Flash video). Retrieved 23 December 2007. Deutch Welle. (Jaunuary de 2006). (28 de June de 2005).europa.. nuclear power (no.. France Wins Nuclear Fusion Plant.iter. Fusion for Energy. A. (2012). "Should Google Go Nuclear? Clean. Ten Serious Nuclear Fusion Projects Making Progress Around the World. D.gov/cneaf/electricity/chg_str_fuel/html/frontintr. Scientific American. (June de 2005).europa. ITER. (2011). http://205. R. Google. cheap.7/forecasts/ieo/pdf/0484(2011).eu/understandingfusion/ Greenpeace International. Entrevistador) CBS. R. Nuclear fusion reactor project in France: an expensive and senseless nuclear stupidity. Y. (2005). Research and Innovation. ITER. Recuperado el 14 de March de 2012. Okano. Shinya.htm l EIA.pdf Einstein. IAEA Head Sees Wide Support for Stricter Nuclear Plant Safety. (1 de February de 2010). v.htm l Bussard. Washington. Google. K. & Ogawa.eia.. Hiwatari. Y.254.7/forecasts/ieo/pdf/0484(2011). (2010). Obtenido de http://fusionforenergy. Google Tech Talks. (9 de November de 2006).org/units/fps/newsletters/2006/january/article1. de http://205. (1905). Nuclear Fusion. Obtenido de http://ec. ECRI. Obtenido de The American Physical Society: http://www. International Energy Outlook 2011.pdf.eu/research/energy/euratom/fusion/at-aglance/history/index_en. W. Eupean Commission.135. ((. (2012). "Demonstration tokamak fusion power plant for early realization of net electric power generation". (June de 2005). Obtenido de http://www. Dahl.254. (2011). (September de 1998).S Nergy Information Administration.135.org/proj/itermission Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 .htm#top EIA. "The Status of Nuclear Waste Disposal".10 References APS. Obtenido de http://www. K. EIA U.

The Economist. MAGPIE . Future Electricity Tehcnologies and Sysmtems. WNN. Sovacool. de http://dorland.pdf WNA. Pollit. M. MAGPIE. de http://wwwfusion. "Transmutation Effects Observed with Heavy Hydrogen" Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. & Lee. Nuclear ‘Renaissance’ Is Short on Largess.2008). (2008). (December de 2010).ph. (10 de December de 2010). ITER and nuclear fusion: Pro or con-fusion? Power and Energy. Oliphant. World Nuclear Association. (5 de May de 2010).IMPERIAL COLLEGE. T. L. (2011). The Future of Energy. The Worst Nuclear Disasters. World Nuclear Association. Recuperado el 14 de March de 2012. Energia de Fusion. (2012). P. & Jamasb. M. Harteck. Amsterdam:. PE. Contesting the Future of Nuclear Power: A Critical Global Assessment of Atomic Energy. (2011). (March de 2012). (2008). (2008). The Economist.. M. Silver. W. (.ciemat. WNA. S. Pascual.ic. UNEP. An Introduction to Nuclear Waste Immobilisation. The Future of Energy. (2008).. (2003). Recuperado el 13 de March de 2012.11 Kaku. (Dirección).. (2011). & Rutherford. Veronica Rojas U ESD 500 . (1934). The Economist. Elsevier Science Publishers. (2008). Global trends in Sustainable Energy Investment. I. Physics of the Impossible. (2006). Nuclear Power in China. M. (2005). World Nuclear News.. 315.html Nutall. M. Proyecto ITER [Película]. B.es/New_fusion/en/Fusion/documentos/weto_final_repo rt. Nuclear Power in the USA.ac. The New York Times. K. European Union.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.. Another drop in nuclear generation. E. Time.pp.uk/magpie/research/introduction. WETO. L. The Economist. Ojovan. Controlled Nuclear Fusion. W.

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