Thermonuclear location

European ministers have proposed that Cadarache in France should be the preferred European location for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The ministers also agreed to propose that the administrative headquarters for the project be located in Spain.

Three candidates for hosting this site, Cadarache (France), Clarington (Canada) and Rokkasho (Japan) have now been put forward.

The ITER reactor is based on the ‘Tokamak’ concept – a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) magnetic configuration in which fusion reactions can be created and contained. The overall ITER plant comprises the Tokamak, its auxiliaries, and supporting plant facilities.

In ITER, superconducting magnet coils around a toroidal vessel confine and control a mix of charged particles – the ‘plasma’ – and induce an electrical current through it. Fusion reactions take place when the plasma is hot enough, dense enough, and contained for long enough for the atomic nuclei in the plasma to start fusing together.

The Tokamak concept was first developed in Russia and has since been brought to a high level of development in all the major fusion programmes of the world.

To meet its objectives, ITER will be much bigger (twice linear dimensions) than the largest existing Tokamak and its expected performance will be many times greater.

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