In southern France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device that has been designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers our Sun and stars.The experimental campaign that will be carried out at ITER is crucial to advancing fusion science and preparing the way for the fusion power plants of tomorrow.ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time. And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985. The ITER Members—China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States—are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.[…]Three conditions must be fulfilled to achieve fusion in a laboratory: very high temperature (on the order of 150,000,000° Celsius); sufficient plasma particle density (to increase the likelihood that collisions do occur); and sufficient confinement time (to hold the plasma, which has a propensity to expand, within a defined volume).
At extreme temperatures, electrons are separated from nuclei and a gas becomes a plasma—often referred to as the fourth state of matter. Fusion plasmas provide the environment in which light elements can fuse and yield energy.
In a tokamak device, powerful magnetic fields are used to confine and control the plasma.
[…]The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion. Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel. Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.
The heart of a tokamak is its doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber. Inside, under the influence of extreme heat and pressure, gaseous hydrogen fuel becomes a plasma—the very environment in which hydrogen atoms can be brought to fuse and yield energy. (You can read more on this particular state of matter here.) The charged particles of the plasma can be shaped and controlled by the massive magnetic coils placed around the vessel; physicists use this important property to confine the hot plasma away from the vessel walls. The term “tokamak” comes to us from a Russian acronym that stands for “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils.”
First developed by Soviet research in the late 1960s, the tokamak has been adopted around the world as the most promising configuration of magnetic fusion device. ITER will be the world’s largest tokamak—twice the size of the largest machine currently in operation, with ten times the plasma chamber volume.[…]Taken together, the ITER Members represent three continents, over 40 languages, half of the world’s population and 85 percent of global gross domestic product. In the offices of the ITER Organization and those of the seven Domestic Agencies, in laboratories and in industry, literally thousands of people are working toward the success of ITER.[…]ITER’s First Plasma is scheduled for December 2025.
That will be the first time the machine is powered on, and the first act of ITER’s multi-decade operational program.
On a cleared, 42-hectare site in the south of France, building has been underway since 2010. The ground support structure and the seismic foundations of the ITER Tokamak are in place and work is underway on the Tokamak Complex—a suite of three buildings that will house the fusion experiments. Auxiliary plant buildings such as the ITER cryoplant, the radio frequency heating building, and facilities for cooling water, power conversion, and power supply are taking shape all around the central construction site.
2005Decision to site the project in France2006Signature of the ITER Agreement2007Formal creation of the ITER Organization2007-2009Land clearing and levelling2010-2014Ground support structure and seismic foundations for the Tokamak2012Nuclear licensing milestone: ITER becomes a Basic Nuclear Installation under French law
2014-2021Construction of the Tokamak Building (access for assembly activities in 2019)2010-2021Construction of the ITER plant and auxiliary buildings for First Plasma2008-2021Manufacturing of principal First Plasma components2015-2023Largest components are transported along the ITER Itinerary
2020-2025Main assembly phase I2022Torus completion2024Cryostat closure2024-2025Integrated commissioning phase (commissioning by system starts several years earlier)Dec 2025First Plasma2026Begin installation of in-vessel components2035Deuterium-Tritium Operation begins
Throughout the ITER construction phase, the Council will closely monitor the performance of the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies through a series of high-level project milestones. See the Milestones page for a series of incremental milestones on the way to First Plasma.
Source: What is ITER?
From the FAQ: The EU seems to be paying $17bn (and is responsible for almost half the project costs). There is around $1bn in deactivation and decomissioning costs, making the total around $35bn – as far as they can figure out. That’s a staggering science project!