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posted by hubie on Monday July 08, @09:02AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a 35-nation effort to create electricity from nuclear fusion, has torn up its project plans and pushed operations of its tokamak back by at least eight years.

Tokamaks are typically designed around a doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber, inside of which gases are subjected to extreme heat and pressure and become a plasma. Strong magnets are used to keep that hot plasma away from the chamber's walls, and the heat is used to boil water into steam that turns turbines to make electricity.

ITER has built what it claims is the world's largest tokamak and hopes it will achieve a deuterium-tritium plasma – in which the fusion conditions are sustained mostly by internal fusion heating, rather than needing constant input of energy. The org aims to produce 500MW of fusion power from 50MW of input, as a demo that lights the way for commercial machines.

ITER director-general Pietro Barabaschi yesterday outlined [PDF] a new project baseline to replace the one in use since 2016. That older document foresaw "first plasma" in 2025 – but only as "a brief, low-energy machine test, with relatively minimal scientific value." A planned series of experiments would proceed until 2033.

The org has known since 2020 that it would not achieve first plasma in 2025, so these changes are not unexpected.

[...] By 2039, ITER wants its Deuterium-Tritium Operation Phase to start – four years later than first planned.

[...] An extra €5 billion ($5.4 billion) will be needed to realize this plan. ITER members are considering that requirement.

ITER's post announcing the new baseline notes that the org's "costs historically have been difficult to estimate precisely because the bulk of financial contributions are provided in-kind by ITER Members in the form of components, for most of which Member governments are not required to publish their actual costs."

So take that €5 billion figure with a hearty pinch of plasma.

Fusion experiments have shown the tech has great promise as a source of clean energy. Which is why governments are throwing money at it. To date, however, no experiment has come close to ITER's planned output – or even reliable operations – making Microsoft's deal to source energy from fusion by 2028 vastly optimistic.

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  • (Score: 2) by Ox0000 on Monday July 08, @03:34PM

    by Ox0000 (5111) on Monday July 08, @03:34PM (#1363450)

    Something something about it perpetually becoming a real thing a mere n years in the future.

    Cynique, moi? Mais, non!

    All joking aside, if they can get this to work, that'd be friggin' awesome!

  • (Score: 3, Touché) by shellsterdude on Monday July 08, @03:36PM

    by shellsterdude (11969) on Monday July 08, @03:36PM (#1363451)

    Glad to see we're still only about 10 years away from clean, limitless, fusion energy...

  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Monday July 08, @06:02PM (2 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) on Monday July 08, @06:02PM (#1363464)

    Sadly ITER seems at this point to have backed the wrong technology. They are committed to Nb3Sn superconductor, whereas most of the world's magnet manufacturers are jumping from NbTi straight to HTS. If I had shares in ITER, I would be dumping them at this point.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Ox0000 on Monday July 08, @08:19PM (1 child)

      by Ox0000 (5111) on Monday July 08, @08:19PM (#1363482)

      What exactly do you mean "shares in ITER"? ITER is a research project, not a commercial one. It's never intended to become commercial, it's supposed to push the boundaries of the unexplored. To boldly go (or in the words of Picard: To baldly go) etc. etc.

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by PiMuNu on Tuesday July 09, @04:57AM

        by PiMuNu (3823) on Tuesday July 09, @04:57AM (#1363520)

        Thanks for the information.