Advancing. Clean fusion energy is goal.

Construction of a $10-billion research complex to develop the world’s first sustained fusion reaction could begin in France by December. Late last month, the U.S. initialed an agreement with China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea and Russia to construct the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). After a 120-day review of the agreement by Congress, the parties are scheduled to sign a final agreement Nov. 29. Officials expect construction to start “soon thereafter,” says Ray Orbach, director of the Dept. of Energy’s Office of Science.

Construction of the project in Cadarache, France, is scheduled to take eight years. As the host, Europe will contribute 45.4% of the construction cost. Each of the other six partners will contribute 9.1%. DOE officials estimate the U.S. share at $1.122 billion, of which 80% will be in the form of equipment and materials supplied under bid by industry. The other 20% will consist of personnel and cash for assembly.

Engineers from Europe, Japan and Russia designed ITER after the U.S. withdrew from the project in 1998, objecting to the cost (ENR 12/14/98 p. 20). ITER’s central team will be responsible for construction, but contracting plans are still being developed. ITER’s mission is to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy. The project aims to construct a 500-MW prototype powerplant by 2035.

(Image courtesy of ITER)