There is a place in France called the Cadarache forest that sits up on a hilltop in the south of France. Here a top this mound is a secret energy project that got under way all the way back in the 1920’s.
The nations collaborated together eventually to what we have now which is 34 countries working together to invent a commercially viable fusion power reactor.
The project was declassified in September of 1958 and now the project has much public interest. Even with a cost of $20 billion many of us anxiously await what could be the final solution to world energy.
With fusion power scientists are basically trying to create energy in the same way that the sun generates its energy. The reactor basically would take in 50 mw of electricity and generate 500 mw of heat.
If your wondering about harmful bi-products like in the case of the Japanese nuclear meltdown there really are none. The only bi-product would be helium which can be captured and used in other industrial processes. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, and is the second most abundant element in the observable universe.
The only worry with helium is that it might make you talk funny if you inhale it through a balloon.
This very important long costly experiment represents the biggest scientific collaboration on earth next to the International Space Station.
ITER stands for International Nuclear Fusion Project and means “the way” in Latin. This is a new type of nuclear reactor in that it can generate unlimited quantities of inexpensive, green, safe, earth friendly electric power from a process called atomic fusion.
The ITER project itself will only be creating a very large experiment that feasibly could be used as a commercial energy reactor but they are strictly allowing it only to generate electricity in an experimental setting to prove it can be done safely.
The expectation is that the world will soon go through a three-fold increase in energy demand in which a thing like the fusion reactor would solve this predicted crisis if it even really exists.
This week the scientists signed off on the design of the most technically complicated part of the project – the fusion reactor’s “blanket” which will hold and move along the super-heated nuclear fuel.
Another leap forward for the project happened this week as well where over 493 large as a house rectangular rubber and cement plinths have been sent in the reactor’s deep foundations to protect the experiment against earthquake related catastrophe.
If you were in the building that houses this humongous reactor you could actually still see these large rectangular bearings as you look over the edge of the isolation pit. These bearings will soon have tons of reinforced concrete poured on top of the bearings which will ultimately hold up the enormous fusion machine which is at the very center of the $20 billion fusion project.
Millions of the fusion reactor parts are being built all over the world and quite a few of the individual parts are as big as a house. Once the parts arrive they will be moved into the ITER building and be put together like gigantic legos.
It will take about 5 years for all of these millions of components to get to Cadarache site and so the anticipation among those who follow fusion energy will only be building until then.
In summary the project is expensive and huge in scale considering the building that houses it is the same size as 81 Olympic-sized swimming pools and it uses it’s own currency just to fairly divide up the cost among member nations.
Over the next few years about a million individual components of the highly complex fusion reactor will arrive at the Cadarache site from around the world. They will be assembled like a giant Lego model in a nearby building. The design approval for the blanket that holds the super-heated nuclear fuel and the large as a house rubber and cement bearings is the latest move forward for the project and one of the most important. The reactor should be completed by 2019 and you will likely see the $20 billion price tag go up by quite a bit until then.