Brussels, 25 July 2002
The US Department of Energy is to use the conclusions of an international meeting of scientists to decide whether or not to rejoin the international ITER nuclear fusion project.
At the meeting in Snowmass, USA, from 8 to 19 July, the scientific and technical merits of ITER were compared with those of two smaller-scale proposals: US project FIRE and IGNITOR, which is being developed by Italian researchers.
The co-chair of the meeting, Ned Sauthoff, estimates the total cost of ITER will be around five billion dollars (currently about five billion euro), compared to 1.2 billion dollars for FIRE and a few hundred million dollars for IGNITOR. The EU's Euratom programme will contribute to the funding of ITER under the Sixth Framework programme for research.
All delegates agreed that the next target for magnetic fusion research should be the creation of burning plasma. Whilst IGNITOR will provide the first opportunity to study burning plasma, the facility will only produce such plasma very briefly. FIRE and ITER will provide researchers with longer surviving plasmas.
Although a founding member of ITER, the USA rejected the proposal as too expensive in 1998. The country has, however, recently indicated a readiness to rejoin the project following the design of a new, less ambitious and less costly reactor.
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin recently expressed hope that the USA will rejoin ITER. 'I hope the USA will join the consortium again and help us develop this promising technology,' he said.
ITER is an international fusion energy research and development project aiming to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes.
For further information on ITER, please consult the following web address: http://www.iter.org
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