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Nuclear fusion in France

Nuclear fusion in France

A € 10.3 billion nuclear fusion project is launched in France

According to an article published on November 21, 2006 in the online version of The Guardian, the leaders of six countries and the European Union have signed an international treaty to launch a 10.3 billion euro nuclear fusion power project with the objective of developing a non-polluting energy source.

French President Jacques Chirac received the leaders of the EU, the US, India, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia at the presentation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, described the occasion as a “historic event” in the effort to leave behind polluting fossil fuels, while Chirac expressed his pride in the choice of France as the venue.

The reactor will be built in Cadarache, in the southern region of Provence. Construction work will start next year, but facilities of around 4.6 billion euros will not be ready until 8 years later. If all goes according to plan, officials expect a demonstration power plant to be ready by 2040.

The goal is to drive fusion energy, which emulates the energy source of the sun, does not produce greenhouse gas emissions and hardly creates radioactive waste.

The commission has described the project in a statement as an unprecedented attempt to reproduce the physical reaction that takes place in the sun and stars. It mentions that "the experiments carried out to date have already shown that it is possible to replicate this process on Earth." And he continues: "ITER intends to do it on a scale and under conditions that will demonstrate the technological and scientific viability of fusion as a source of energy."

However, environmental activists are generally opposed to nuclear power, claiming that the project will distract from other existing initiatives to tackle global warming.

The treaty signing ceremony marks the end of years of discussions about the feasibility of building a nuclear fusion power plant capable of achieving the temperatures of around 100 million degrees Celsius needed to replicate the sun's power source. Following the ceremony, the first meeting of the new ITER Council was held at the Champs-Élysées palace.

Fusion consists of the collision of hydrogen atoms at extremely high pressure and temperatures inside the reactor. When atoms fuse into a plasma, they release energy, which can be harnessed to generate electricity. The reactor will run on an isotope of hydrogen, a virtually unlimited source of fuel that can be extracted from water.
The EU is the one who is financing half of the project costs. Furthermore, the long-term experiment could create some 10,000 jobs.

Source: The Guardian

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