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The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) fusion project is the largest in the world, and many believe it offers the best hope for achieving sustainable fusion energy that produces more energy than it consumes.
Being built at a site in Cadarache, Provence, in southern France, it has just entered a stage that is critical to its completion and success; the delivery of the first of nearly one million separate components that must be assembled on site to construct the reactor.
The ITER project is vast, supported by governments of more than half the world population including the EU, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US, and due to logistical, organisational, and bureaucratic problems, amongst others, it is already two years behind schedule, and massively over budget.
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All of the labs researching nuclear fusion, and the countries that are part of ITER. (Fusion for Energy)
David Campbell, the Assistant Deputy Director-General at ITER, said that “it’s incredibly frustrating. Now we're doing everything we can to recover as much time as possible. The project is inspiring enough to give you the energy to carry on - we'd all like to see fusion energy as soon as possible.”
As the first deliveries are expected to arrive there is much more confidence about the project and its timetable.
The project was delayed as the various nations struggled to agree who would pay for what, and what taxes or import duties would be paid on the components. Then all of the factories, spread all over the world, where the pieces would be manufactured had to be inspected, as the design specifications are incredibly high, with any fault or weakness in just one component sufficient to offline the entire project.
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At the same time the roads used to make deliveries to the site had to be upgraded to carry loads that could weigh up to as much as 600 tonnes, and this took far longer than anticipated, with a test of the routes initially planned for January having to be pushed back to September.
A cut away view of the ITER reactor. (ITER-Industry)
Ken Blackler, head of Assembly & Operations, said that “we’ve now started for real. Industrial manufacturing is now under way so the timescale is much more certain - many technical challenges have been solved.
But Iter is incredibly complicated. The pieces are being made all around the world - they'll be shipped here.
We'll have to orchestrate their arrival and build them step by step so everything will have to arrive in the right order - it's really a critical point.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com