Is this why we don’t invest enough in renewal energies today?


“Scientists from all over the world have come together in ITER to work toward a lofty goal: harness the energy produced by the fusion of atoms to help meet mankind’s energy needs.”

“In ITER, the world has now joined forces to establish one of the largest and most ambitious international science projects ever conducted.” http://www.iter.org/proj

“ITER, an enormous research fusion reactor which is shortly due to begin construction in France, is a collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States” http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/03/fusion-delayed-iter-startdate-mo.html

“ITER (originally an acronym of International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering project, which is currently building the world’s largest and most advanced experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor at the Cadarache facility in the south of France.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER

“ITER is the world’s biggest energy research project, aiming to prove the feasibility of fusion power as a possible source of safe, sustainable and abundant energy.” http://www.globalscientia.com/article/belgium/energy/funding-iter-project-2012-european-commission

“[…] ITER, the world’s largest scientific partnership that aims to demonstrate fusion as a viable and sustainable source of energy. ITER brings together seven parties that represent half of the world’s population – the EU, Russia, Japan, China, India, South Korea and the United States.” http://www.f4e.europa.eu/aboutfusion/

The incredibly complex ITER Tokamak will be nearly 30 metres tall, and weigh 23,000 tons. The very small man dressed in blue (bottom right) gives us some idea of the machine's scale. The ITER Tokamak is made up of an estimated one million parts. Image credit: ITER Organization 2011

The incredibly complex ITER Tokamak will be nearly 30 metres tall, and weigh 23,000 tons. The very small man dressed in blue (bottom right) gives us some idea of the machine’s scale. The ITER Tokamak is made up of an estimated one million parts. Image credit: ITER Organization 2011

The ITER project could be one of the reason why we do not invest more in renewable energy today. ITER as stated above is a large-scale international project which aims to answer to two major questions of Mankind today: how will we supply all the growing demand in energy, and how can we do so without destroying even more the environment?

In November 1985, following discussions with President Mitterand of France and Prime Minister Thatcher of the United Kingdom, General Secretary Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union proposed to U.S. President Reagan an international project aimed at developing fusion energy for peaceful purposes. ITER, originally an acronym for “International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor” means in Latin “”way”, was born with the collaboration of European Union, the Soviet Union, USA and Japan. In 2003, People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea joined the organization and in 2005 India becomes the seventh and last member of team. The location of the construction site has been selected in June 2005, in Cardache, South of France. The conceptual design though was finalized in 1988 and the construction phase started the 24thSeptember 2007, which cost is estimated at 13 billion Euros. The EU, as host party for the ITER complex, is contributing 45% of the cost, with the other six parties contributing 9% each.

Looking south over the ITER site in January 2011. Work is progressing on the excavation of the Tokamak Complex (centre), the Poloidal Field Coil Winding facility (left), and the ITER Headquarters (right). Photo: Altivue

Looking south over the ITER site in January 2011. Work is progressing on the excavation of the Tokamak Complex (centre), the Poloidal Field Coil Winding facility (left), and the ITER Headquarters (right). Photo: Altivue http://www.iter.org/proj

The project’s goals are to use fusion reaction in order to obtain the scientific objective of Q ≥ 10 where Q is the ratio of fusion power to input power. In other words, the goal is to deliver “ten times the power it consumes. From 50 MW of input power, the ITER machine is designed to produce 500 MW of fusion power—the first of all fusion experiments to produce net energy” (http://www.iter.org/proj/itermission). Using fusion could resolve not only the production of energy issue of the coming years (the demand in energy is predicted to increase by one-third from 2010 to 2035 (International Energy Agency, 2011), increase which cannot be satisfy without adding new sources of energy since fossils sources are depleting and their industry is too dangerous for human health and the environment. In order to answer to this growing need and issues, the ITER project aims to ensure the transition from experimental studies of plasma physics to full-scale electricity-producing fusion power plants.

The program is anticipated to last for 30 years – 10 for construction, and 20 of operation. The machine is expected to demonstrate the principle of getting more energy out of the fusion process than is used to initiate it, something that has not been achieved with previous fusion reactors. During its operational lifetime, ITER will test key technologies necessary for the next step: the demonstration fusion power plant that will prove that it is possible to capture fusion energy for commercial use. The first plasma is expected in 2019. A general timetable of the project is as follow:

Bleneraida is wondering now, is this the reason why we do not invest that much in green energy like wind and the sun? Can the ITER Project overcome the obstacles that it is facing? Some scientists do not believe that the Project is feasible in term of technologies and in term of financing. A technical problem the project must answer is to prove that walls of the reactor will last long enough for a commercial power plant, taking into account that the 14MeV (electronvolt) released by the fusion reaction will damage the walls. The manipulation of deuterium and tritium hydrogen isotopes used in the fusion process is not finalized. Another challenge and source of criticism is the funding. Many organization and ecologists believe that the investment of the ITER project could have been injected in projects to develop wind, water and solar energies which are less dangerous and surely more harmless for the environment. Unfortunately, we cannot ignore that today electricity costs are increasing rapidly since the cost of fuels is constantly growing. In addition, ITER success will solve the mankind energy source for years, reducing energy cost and allowing to provide energy to all world’s population.

Sources:

ITER Organization’s website http://www.iter.org/proj

Fusion For Energy http://www.f4e.europa.eu/aboutfusion/

Article “Fusion Delayed: ITER Start Date Moved Again” by Daniel Clery, 11/03/2010, ScienceInsider, http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/03/fusion-delayed-iter-startdate-mo.html

“World Energy Outlook 2011” published by the International Energy Agency, 09/11/2011, http://www.iea.org/

Article “Budgets Committee approves additional funding for ITER project” 06-12-2011, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/el/pressroom/content/20111206IPR33406/html/Budgets-Committee-approves-additional-funding-for-ITER-project

Article “EU ITER funding proposals set to stir budget row” by Declan Butler, 31/12/2011, http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/12/post_88.html

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3 responses to “Is this why we don’t invest enough in renewal energies today?

  1. Pingback: ITER PROJECT: July update | MissBlue Blog·

  2. The opponents make the unwarrented assumption that the renewables they propose will be sufficient to solve our energy question. The simple fact is that we cannot for sure whether a certain technology will work as predicted untill it is fully developed. Therefore we should fund multiple energy research projects, including both fusion power and renewable energy.

    • You are totally right, it is like risk management, in order to reduce your risks you multiply the sources : mitigation. I agree that we should fund different sources to ensure enough ressources.

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