September 27, 2022


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What is an ITER reactor?  Will you produce plasma?

What is an ITER reactor? Will you produce plasma?

For energy, we need to provide deuterium and tritium, which combine into helium to release energy. While we can easily produce deuterium from seawater, tritium resources are very limited. Moreover, fusion requires a temperature 10 times higher than the temperature inside the Sun. The temperature on the surface of our star is 6000 degrees Celsius. The temperature inside it is already 15 million degrees Celsius and the reactor needs 150 million degrees. The fusion plasma is kept in a special device called a tokamak thanks to huge magnets.

We currently get energy by burning fossil fuels, separating atoms, or from renewable sources. We convert mechanical energy (such as the rotation of a turbine) into electricity. In coal-fired power plants, by burning raw materials, we get energy, which we then heat water. Steam drives turbines that generate electricity.

Nuclear fusion takes place inside the tokamak, and the heat generated by this process is absorbed by the walls of the device. As in a conventional power plant, this heat is used to produce steam, which drives turbines that generate electricity.

After the failure of nuclear power plants, the question arises about the safety of the new solution. Many people may be concerned about the risk of an explosion. In the tokamak, the amount of fuel is only enough for a few seconds of burning. The integration process is difficult to obtain and maintain. If any disturbance occurs, the plasma cools down within seconds and the reaction stops. The fusion process is safe and does not involve the risk of an uncontrolled reaction or explosion.

The project began in 2006, when seven partners: the European Union (plus Switzerland as a member of Euratom), the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan and South Korea signed an agreement to establish the International Energy Integration Organization for the joint implementation of the ITER project. Construction work began in 2007. It is located on an area of ​​42 hectares in Cadarache in the south of France. Construction is scheduled for completion in 2025, and the reactor is scheduled to operate at full capacity in 2035. Currently, project implementation is estimated at 75.8 percent. (As of December 2021)

ITER estimates the total cost at €17 billion shared by all seven members (35 countries in total). During the 20-year trial run, annual costs are estimated at 188,000 IUA. IUA is a unit of account created specifically for the purpose of equitably allocating the value of equipment purchased to each member. In 2019, 1 IUA = 1,749.84 EUR

After this period, deactivation and shutdown are expected to be worth €281 million and €530 million, respectively (although costs may eventually change).

The ITER reactor itself will not be used to generate electricity. Its goal is to demonstrate our ability to produce large quantities of clean energy as a result of fusion, thanks to which the first commercial reactors will be built in the middle of the century.

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