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Thread: Is ITER worth the investment?

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    anomaly
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    Is ITER worth the investment?

    At an estimated 10 billion Euros, the ITER project will be the third most expensive scientific project.

    Success would result in "environmentally benign, widely applicable and essentially inexhaustible"electricity. As world energy demands increase while, simultaneously, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced, the expensive research project is presented as well worth the cost.
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    Though the waste produced by nuclear fusion is said to be minimal, opponents object to the pursuit of nuclear energy and fear that the scientists are toying with danger. Concerns with the amount of money invested are punctuated by the inability to guarantee that the project will be successful after the expected 50 year development and testing phases. Some feel that the money would be better invested in the present day by developing natural resources as power sources.

    Stating that the criticisms are misleading and inaccurate, proponents feel that the investment is justifiable when held up to the current cost of providing energy and feel that a successful reactor could be produced as early as 30 years. They claim the nuclear dangers and waste are so minimal they are not a factor of any legitimate concern.

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    anomaly
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    Re: Is ITER worth the investment?

    In May, 2006, Tony Juniper wrote, in The Guardian, "Blair's dodgy nuclear dossier". He attempts to paint the ITER project with the same brush as the war in Iraq. With the byline "If the prime minister is looking for a lasting legacy, there's nothing more durable than nuclear waste", Juniper portrays Blair's position on nuclear power to be a political maneuver that attempt to bypass proper channels of review and "pre-empt" the outcome.

    The main criticism is that commitments are being made without allowing conclusive analysis first and that the Prime Minister is advancing his own personal agenda.

    While Juniper hits a sour note whining about lost opportunities instead of focus on the present and future, he does make a good point that alternative suggestions involving more natural methods have not been thoroughly explored.

    To drive his criticism home, Juniper ends with the ominous question "Which leader from history can say that people some 100,000 years after he was gone still lived in fear of his rule?"

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    anomaly
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    Re: Is ITER worth the investment?

    The ITER project operates its own website to explain the project timelines, the reasons they promote for pursuing fusion power and news updates on their progress.

    The advantages given on the site include the abundant availability of supply materials. The lack of greenhouse gases emitted by the process, the minimal waste produced in comparison to energy produced and the safety of nuclear fusion stations.

    Perhaps remnants of fear regarding the disaster in Chernobyl and constant fear of nuclear presence overall are the main resistance to the project, in which case more people should learn about the process of nuclear fusion and construction of the fusion system to relieve their fears. With there being broad consensus that the environment is a crucial concern for all there should be increased willingness to invest in ITER and support from the public, despite the cost. Perhaps that is the only reason that it finally progressed to the building stage.

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    anomaly
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    Re: Is ITER worth the investment?

    Four more states may join ITER reactor project in 2007
    MOSCOW, November 27 (RIA Novosti) - An international agreement to build ITER, an experimental nuclear fusion reactor in France, may be joined next year by another four countries, the director of a Russian nuclear center said Monday.

    Scientists hope that the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project in Caradache, southern France, will use fusion power to eventually produce safe, emissions-free energy.

    Yevgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute Research Center, said: "I know that Kazakhstan is interested in the ITER project, and it may also be joined by some Latin American countries, in particular Brazil and Mexico, as well as by Canada."

    He said one major obstacle to joining ITER is the "high entrance ticket - 10% of the project's cost."

    The project is estimated at about $10 billion, with 40% of the costs borne by the European Union and the remaining 60% split equally between the other participants.

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    Re: Is ITER worth the investment?

    The reason it's such an uphill battle to scale nuclear fusion to power station magnitudes relates to the energy density required. Similar nuclear interactions generate the heat of the sun but they happen over a far wider volume. In each cubic metre of the sun there's only a few collisions each second which result in heat release. In a man-made reactor the space available to hold the colliding pieces isn't much more than that. A nuclear fusion reactor isn't trying to build a mini-sun, it's trying to create conditions which are far more tightly packed, far hotter, generating far more power for the space involved.

    ITER is a step up from each of the testbeds which have been progressively developed (this is from memory, I may be wrong) since the fifties, mostly at Oxford and in Russia. We had the Joint European Torus (JET), the Russians had a different magnetic containment shape called Tokamak. Both generated power on a small scale. I think JET even reached a stage where it put out more than it took to run it in the first place, but only marginally. The ITER phase moving to France is quite a break from the past.

    I do hope they get somewhere with it finally. No greenhouse element to the output, far lower waste concerns, unlimited raw material supply, it's all of it worth chasing. Maybe if they develop power transmission to go alongside it we can get rid of the overhead distribution pylons at the same time.
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    anomaly
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    Re: Is ITER worth the investment?

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    I think the effect that success with ITER will have is comparable to the invention of the computer. What used to fill a whole room and spit out ticket tape ends up, a short time later, able to fit into a briefcase and instantly communicate with people worldwide. Who knows what the technology involved in the ITER project will transform into? That's almost a reason to fear it.

    I do wonder what might be different if Tesla had been give $10 billion back in 1900.

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