[Some clever pun on "ITER"]

Joseph S. Barrera III joe at barrera.org
Wed Dec 17 13:16:33 PST 2003


In the interest of Science, I vow to make many pilgrimages to ITER,
whever it is built, be it France or Japan. That's just how much I love 
Science.

- Joe

ITER home page: http://www.iter.org/

Obligatory news article:

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=143&art_id=qw1071638103746B252&set_id=1

Moment of truth for nuclear fusion scheme

Paris - Leaders from the boldest nuclear initiative since the Manhattan 
Project gather this weekend to decide on a beauty contest with a 
$10-billion (about R64-billion) prize: which country will host the 
world's first large-scale nuclear fusion reactor?

France and Japan will be vying at the Washington meeting on Saturday to 
be named the venue for Iter, Latin for "the way" - which aims to be a 
test bed for what is being billed as the clean, safe, inexhaustible 
energy source of the future.

"We have the structure, scientific and technical environment to ensure 
that this scheme can start up with competence, expertise and solid 
safety guarantees," says French Research Minister Claudie Haignere, 
promoting the town of Cadarache in southern France.

"If our site is chosen, Japan will cover the costs that are needed," 
says Hidekazu Tanaka, a senior official at the Japanese education, 
culture, sports, science and technology ministry, promoting the northern 
Japanese village of Rokkasho-mura.

'France and Japan will be vying at the Washington meeting'

In the past, nuclear energy has derived from splitting atoms of 
radioactive material to unleash a controlled chain reaction whose 
by-product is heat.

But more than half a century of experience in fission has thrown up some 
serious problems, ranging from the nightmare of Chernobyl to the perils 
of transporting nuclear material and where and how to store dangerous 
long-term waste.

Nuclear fusion takes the opposite approach, seeking to emulate the sun.

The solar crucible takes the nuclei of two atoms of deuterium, which is 
the heavy form of hydrogen, and fuses them together to form tritium (the 
other isotope of hydrogen) and in so doing releases huge amounts of energy.

There is a virtually limitless source of deuterium in the world, because 
it can be derived from water; as for tritium, it is not a natural 
element, but can be easily made by irradiating it with lithium at high 
pressure.

'Japan will cover the costs that are needed'

That is the theory, and getting from there to a workable prototype plant 
of commercial size is what Iter is all about.

"Iter will be the first fusion device to produce thermal energy at the 
level of an electricity-producing power station," according to the Iter 
website.

"It will provide the next major step for the advancement of fusion 
science and technology, and is the key element in the strategy to reach 
the following demonstration electricity-generating power plant (Demo) in 
a single experimental step."

For all the allure of nuclear fusion as a boundless energy source, and 
the promise that, unlike nuclear fission, it offers no environmental 
headache, the technical hurdles remain immense.

Among the many problems are how to efficiently confine the plasma cloud 
in the magnetic field so that charged particles do not slip out, and the 
energy cost in pumping up the plasma to such high temperatures in 
comparison with the energy yield.

So far, no one has achieved a long self-sustaining fusion event. The 
record, achieved by European scientists at a small experimental tokamak 
at Cadarache on December 4, is six-and-a-half minutes, releasing a 
thousand megajoules of energy.

Iter is backed by the European Union, which is backing France's bid for 
Cadarache, Japan, Canada, China, Russia, South Korea and the United 
States, which quit the project in 1998 but returned in January under 
American President George Bush's energy policy.

The cost of building and running Iter and constructing all the necessary 
infrastructure, such as roads and housing, is put at $10-billion over 30 
years, of which $3-billion will trickle down into the local economy, 
according to the Cadarache campaign team. - Sapa-AFP

Published on the Web by IOL on 2003-12-17 07:15:03

© Independent Online 2002. All rights reserved. IOL publishes this 
article in good faith but is not liable for any loss or damage caused by 
reliance on the information it contains.



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