France to harness ‘power of the sun’

France has been chosen as the host site for an ambitious experimental trial to produce energy from nuclear fusion - the same energy source as the sun.

Nuclear fusion is a process in which two nuclei join together releasing energy. It is not only the same process that causes stars to shine, but also nuclear bombs to explode.

It is hoped this process could be the energy source of the future as fusion produces no greenhouse gases and only low levels of radioactive waste compared to current fission options.

The ITER – International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor – project is backed by a consortium of six partners, the EU, the People’s Republic of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and the USA, and is predicted to cost €10 billion.

Werner Burkart, Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he was pleased to offer support over the coming transition period.

“Fusion has the potential for socio-economic progress as great as the technological achievement of humans mastering flight.

“The fusion milestone reached today has had auspicious antecedents en route.

“The step we are taking in Moscow occurs on the centenary of the magic year of physics, 100 years after Einstein’s publications in 1905 opened the door to harnessing the energy of the atom,” he said.

“Much work lies ahead and it will challenge our scientists and engineers as did the dawn of the nuclear fission age.

“The agency is confident that those challenges will be met with success and sends its best wishes to the ITER community worldwide in their efforts towards harnessing fusion for sustainable development.”

The reactor is due to start construction in Cadarache, near Aix-en-Provence, later this year.

By David Hopkins

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