A 1/20 scale model of the ITER tokamak [IMAGE: XINHUA]

On July 28, leaders from the European Union (EU), China, France, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States declared the official start of the assembly of the world’s largest nuclear fusion device at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in southern France.

Under construction in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in recent months the ITER site has been receiving gigantic first-of-a-kind components — in many cases weighing several hundred tons and measuring more than 15 meters in length — produced by ITER consortium members. Assembling the ITER machine will take 4.5 years, according to a press release from the ITER project.

When ITER is finished, it is expected that it will demonstrate that fusion power can be generated sustainably on a commercial scale, it added.

Unlike existing fission reactors, which extract energy by splitting atoms, ITER would generate power by fusion, a process similar to that which produces the sun’s energy.

Described as an “Artificial Sun,” the ITER program is one of the largest and most important international scientific research projects in the world. China officially joined the program in 2006.

In late May, the 1,250-ton, soup-bowl-shaped cryostat base — the heaviest single piece of the ITER — was positioned in the so-called tokamak pit near Cadarache in southern France. This marked the official start of the main equipment installation of the largest international scientific research cooperation project in the world, a Chinese group participating in the project said.

The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion.

Source: Xinhua

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