States sign nuclear fusion deal

Countries representing half of the world's population signed an agreement to fund a 10bn euro research facility for the development of nuclear fusion, the zero-emission, zero-waste holy grail of atomic energy research.

Europe, the US, China, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea agreed to cooperate on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), to be built in Cadarache in the south of France. The target date for the first demonstration fusion plant is 2040 – although it is far from certain that the technology will be developed by then.

Energy released from atoms fusing together – which is also the process by which the sun’s energy is created – comes without the hitch of nuclear waste associated with nuclear fission, and could provide the world with a clean, limitless energy source.

“We, the seven parties to of the ITER project, representing more than half of the world’s population, have just invested in the future of coming generations by uniting our efforts to prove the scientific possibility of producing energy from the fusion of atoms,” EU president Jose Manuel Barroso said at the signing ceremony in the Elysee palace in Paris on Tuesday.

“We now have the structure that will allow us to tackle one of the most urgent challenges facing humanity: to invent tomorrow’s clean, lasting energy sources.”

“At a time when energy demand does not cease to grow and climate change accelerates dangerously, what is at stake is important, even crucial for our planet,” he said.

Environmental groups criticised the project, saying 10bn euros would have been better spent on tried and tested renewables.

“Governments should not waste our money on a dangerous toy which will never deliver any useful energy. Instead, they should invest in renewable energy which is abundantly available, not in 2080 but today,” said Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace International.

For more information see the ITER wenbsite.

Goska Romanowicz

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