This is the first time since the launch of the ITER project in 2006 that the seven partners in the construction of nuclear fusion reactor in Cadarache1 in the south of France, found themselves at the highest level. Departmental representatives of China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States have come see the progress made on a project whose final cost is estimated to 15 billion euros. Each member is contributing 9%, primarily through in-kind contributions, with the exception of Europe, which has alone 45% of the financial burden.
In the mid-hills of Provence, a huge field was leveled to accommodate different installations2. For now, only the head of the organization of the project, launched in January, and a warehouse so color lees of wine more than 250 m long in which the elements are assembled too big to be delivered on site, have sprung up. The contours of the main building, which will house the reactor itself – the tokamak – and whose construction was entrusted to a consortium led by Vinci3, emerge. The pit seismic isolation is almost complete. The 300 workers on site finalizing the painting metal frames that imprison the concrete slab to support the 360,000 t of all (a little more than the weight of the Empire State Building).
Alone tokamak weighs 23 t .000 (three Eiffel Towers). This is the heart of the ITER project. This kind of large donut trapped in an empty room réfrigérée4 should make it possible to huge superconducting magnets to confine a ring of hydrogen gas heated to 150 million degrees, ten times the temperature of the sun, for it not touch the walls. At these extreme temperatures, the nuclei of some heavy forms of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium, combine to give helium while releasing enormous amounts of energy. This is exactly the same reaction, initiated under gravitational forces, which "burn" our star. The ultimate goal is to get through this Fusion5 ten times the energy supplied to heat the plasma – or, potentially, a target of 500 MW to hold for several minutes.
"This is the largest scientific project in the world," says Genevieve Fioraso6, the Minister of Education and Research, came to welcome foreign delegations. The minister does not lack enthusiasm for this energy "low-carbon" clean and virtually inexhaustible. Detractors who criticize the exorbitant cost of this "human adventure", she recalled that the economic benefits to French companies are considerable. Potentially much greater investment. The minister is beaten for the financial assistance of the European Union should be included in the 2014-2020 multiannual budget. An agreement reached in June, should be validated in the fall by the Parliament.
Appointment in 2027
Europe, however, warned that it would hand over the pocket for new overruns (the project cost has tripled since its initial design 7 and took two years late). All departmental representatives and Friday recalled the importance of "respect the schedule and cost control." The U.S. Congress has also declined in June to validate the request for funding of 225 million dollars annually in the lack of visibility on the final cost of the project. The U.S. Departmental Representative, Edmund Synakowski, he nonetheless "confident" and said his country was "very seriously" the holding of the international agreement that binds the other parties. Discussions with the Senate are expected this fall.
Aerial view of the site of Cadarache (photo credits: MatthieuCOLIN.com / ITER Organization).
A calendar "reliable and updated" will, meanwhile, established in spring 2014 by the project. At this time, the first major elements produced by the partners will make their arrival on site, starting with the parts of the cooling system developed by the United States. This will be the first component to take the path "Iter", a route of 104 kilometers constructed by the Paca8 region between 2007 and 2010 for the transport of non-standard elements of the project. This will be the beginning of a long period of assembly. The first merger is not expected before 2027.