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Nuclear fusion going nowhere very slowly and expensively

proposal may yet be scuppered by EU governments……….it is far from clear whether the best way of countering this trend in energy funding is to plough yet more money into the fusion project, with its vested political interests, at the expense of less prominent scientific endeavours.

Funding for nuclear fusion Expensive Iteration, The Economist,, A huge international fusion-reactor project faces funding difficulties Jul 22nd 2010.VIABLE nuclear fusion has been only 30 years away since the idea was first mooted in the 1950s. Its latest three-decade incarnation is ITER, a joint effort by the European Union (EU), America, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea to construct a prototype reactor on a site in Cadarache, France, by 2018….

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor became plain ITER following public anxiety about anything that has “thermonuclear” next to “experimental” in its name. ITER aims to produce energy by fusing together the nuclei of hydrogen atoms, confined in a magnetic field at high temperatures—a process akin to that which powers the sun.

For all its cosmic ambition, ITER has run into the earthiest of difficulties: spiralling costs. The project was never going to be cheap. Initial projections in 2006 put its price at €10 billion ($13 billion): €5 billion to build and another €5 billion to run and decommission the thing. Since then construction costs alone have tripled.

As the host, the EU is committed to covering some 45% of these, with the other partners contributing about 9% each. In May the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, asked member states to stump up an additional €1.4 billion to tide the project over to 2013. They rejected the request and suggested instead tapping the EU’s existing research budget.

On July 20th the commission offered a compromise: one-third of the shortfall would come from cash earmarked for other research, the rest from unspent agricultural funds.

Such a proposal may yet be scuppered by EU governments……….it is far from clear whether the best way of countering this trend in energy funding is to plough yet more money into the fusion project, with its vested political interests, at the expense of less prominent scientific endeavours.

Funding for nuclear fusion: Expensive Iteration | The Economist

July 23, 2010 - Posted by | EUROPE, technology | , , ,

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