ITER Partners Renew Importance of Project Despite Higher Costs, Delays

Written by | Monday, September 9th, 2013
M. Guillermo Guttierrez

The partner countries in the proposed reactor under construction in the south of France have renewed their support to the ITER project despite the additional costs and delays.
At a meeting held last week, the second at ministerial level since the launch of the ITER project in 2006, representatives of China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States have assessed the progress made by the project whose final cost is estimated to reach 15 billion euros. The seven ITER Members acknowledged the progress achieved in the construction of one of the most complex scientific and engineering projects in the world today, the ITER international collaboration for nuclear fusion. The Ministers also discussed the challenges that still lay ahead stressing the need to stick to the schedule and to contain costs.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger who described the ITER project as “a historical undertaking” said “intensive effort and innovative methods will be required to meet all the challenges that still lay ahead, especially the challenge of staying within a tight but realistic schedule while containing costs.”
Each member is contributing 9% of the project costs, primarily through in-kind contributions, with the exception of Europe, which bears alone 45% of the financial burden.
Europe has actually warned that it would not contribute to any additional financings, the project cost having tripled since its initial conception and is two years late. The U.S. Congress has also rejected last June a request to earmark 225 million dollars annually to ITER because of lack of visibility on the final cost of the project.
Anyways, all participants in the meeting underscored the need to “respect the schedule and to contain costs” and urged the ITER Organization to propose an improved management plan for ITER construction, which will be implemented in close cooperation with the ITER Domestic Agencies.
As work progresses on the ITER site, in Saint Paul-lez-Durance, the high-tech components of the tokamak fusion reactor are being manufactured by industries in the ITER Member countries. Most of the contracts have now been signed with leading industrial players. Components have already begun to arrive at the ITER site and the first large components are expected on site in June 2014 in time for assembly operations to begin. By that time ITER Organization is expected to set a “reliable and updated” calendar.
The ITER project, designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power, which is a safe, abundant and environmentally responsible energy source, was launched in 2006 and construction started in 2010. However, the first fusion is not expected before 2027.

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EUROPE'S NEIGHBORHOOD

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