Iter inches closer

18 November 2004

The European Commission has changed its stance in the negotiations over the siting of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) in the hope of finally reaching agreement.

It is almost a year since the decision was due to be made on whether to site Iter in Cadarache, France, or Rokkasho, Japan and the six participating parties are still deadlocked. China, the European Union (EU) and Russia support Cadarache, while Japan, South Korea and the USA are backing Rokkasho. Political grudges are widely seen to be causing the impasse but the official ‘explanation’ is that it is impossible to decide between such good sites.

A 26 November European Council decision to redouble efforts to “bring negotiations to a successful conclusion with all parties as soon as possible” has made it possible for the EU to offer Japan a better deal in return for Cadarache’s success. The EU has proposed “favourable conditions for Japan” as part of a “genuine partnership” between the two.

The EU’s “broader approach to fusion power” could include a range of activities to run alongside the Iter project such as a materials testing facility, or a range of smaller tokamak fusion reactors such as the Joint European Torus at Culham in the UK or the JT60 Superconductive reactor planned for Japan. Under such arrangements, the EU forsees additional contributions coming from France, Japan and other EU member states.

Under the original plan, the cost of constructing Iter will run to some €10 billion. The host nation will be required to find 48% of that, with the unsuccessful host finding 12% and the other participants paying 10% each.

Inside the Joint European Torus tokamak fusion reactor at Culham

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