Food for thought ...
----- Original Message -----
From: Muckerheide, James
Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2005 1:08 PM
Subject: [MbrExchange] Is ITER credible?
Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2005 15:20:17 -0700
By Julio Godoy
International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in
be evaporating. What remains is a growing doubt over the feasibility and
cost of the project.
The project seeks to introduce new nuclear technology. It will seek a
nuclear fusion of two hydrogen isotopes (deuterium which exists abundantly
in nature, and tritium, a synthetic isotope) to produce helium with massive
release of energy to produce electricity.
The ITER is an international project co-financed by
International Atomic Energy Agency. It is scheduled to be operative by 2016.
An international commission announced last month that the ITER would be set
up at the French nuclear research centre Cadarache in
French President Jacques Chirac called the decision to base the project in
technology essential in the search for alternative energy sources to
counter global warming.”
The daily Le Parisien greeted the announcement as ”good news for
last.” Most French newspapers welcomed the decision.
But scientists and environmental groups are warning that the ITER would
drain resources that could fund the search for better alternative energy
sources. The project itself, they say, brings no guarantee of success in
the immediate future.
Former minister for science and technology Claude Allegre, also a renowned
researcher in geochemistry, described the ITER as ”just another prestige
project” with ”very few chances of success.”
The estimated 12 billion dollars needed for the project will drain
resources from other research projects ”certainly more urgent than the
ITER,” he said. Just the construction is expected to cost more than 5
The ITER at Cadarache will be a research reactor. If the technology proves
promising, a first working thermonuclear reactor could get going some time
The reactor will introduce brave new technology. Officials say the fusion
at the plant would take place around 100 million degrees Celsius. The plant
would seek to produce 500 megawatts (MW) of power.
The temperatures alone are a problem because no known material can resist
such heat. ”The official announcements describe the ITER processes as
putting the energy of the stars in a box,” says Sébastien Balibar,
professor of nuclear physics at the prestigious Paris-based École Normale
Superieure. ”The problem is, we do not know how to build the box.”
Balibar and his colleagues Yves Pomeau and Jacques Treiner said in a paper
published last year in Le Monde that a thermonuclear reactor poses three
technical problems: production of the elements to undergo fusion (deuterium
and tritium), their resistance to fusion, and control of this reaction. The
scientists said that the ITER project is only interested in the last, ''and
ignores the other two, the solution of which, nevertheless, is essential.''
Edouard Brézin, president of the
expectations of the ITER are overly optimistic. ”We need to be extremely
confident in scientific development to believe that the industrial use of
nuclear fusion will be ready in less than 50 years,” Brézin told IPS.
Research in this technology should continue, he said, but ”fossil
combustibles and global warming are urgent problems, and we do not have 50
years to find solutions for them. We need urgent measures, and the ITER
should not drain resources from this research.”
Stephane Lhomme from the anti-nuclear group Sortir du nucléaire ('Get rid
of nuclear power') told IPS that the ITER represents a dangerous technology
without a future.
It is probable that the ITER will never produce energy, Lhomme said. The
French government had invested almost 9 billion dollars in the nuclear
reactor Superphénix before deciding to close it down in 1998, he said. The
Superphénix never generated a watt of power.
”The ITER will certainly be connected to the French electricity network,
but only to get power for its functioning,” Lhomme said.
+Sortir du nucléaire (http://www.sortirdunucleaire.org/)