Korea offers participation in the ITER fusion experiment

After the USA and China now also South Korea involved in negotiations on ITER

June 30, 2003

After the USA and China South Korea also recently offered to participate in the ITER international fusion test reactor (Latin for "the journey").

The research project was jointly prepared by European, Japanese and Russian scientists. As stated in a letter from the Korean minister of research, Ho-Koon Park, to the other ITER partners, Korea wants to make a substantial financial contribution "comparable to the offers of some of the present partners" to the world-wide ITER cooperation. Korea thereby is accepting both the completed planning and the cost estimate for the experimental device and the results of negotiations achieved to date by the present ITER partners, viz. Europe, Japan, Russia, Canada and, since February 2003, the USA and China as well. Representatives of South Korea accordingly took part in the last round of negotiations on ITER in mid-June.

China, which joined the ITER cooperation in February, has meanwhile sent a fusion scientist to the international ITER team at Garching/Germany to collaborate in the preparations. Two Chinese experts are also expected at the second site of the ITER group in Naka, Japan.

The ITER experimental reactor is the next major step in international fusion research. The ultimate objective is to develop a reactor which, like the sun, generates energy from fusion of atomic nuclei. To ignite the fusion fire the fuel, a hydrogen plasma, has to be confined in magnetic fields and heated to very high temperatures. The immediate aim with ITER is to demonstrate the physical and technical feasibility of fusion: With a fusion power of 500 megawatts the device is to produce the first burning and energy-producing plasma. The project was prepared from 1988 as an international cooperation of European, Japanese, Russian and, till 1999, also US fusion scientists; essential principles entailed were developed at Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Garching. The final plans were completed in July 2001; major components of the device have been built as prototypes and tested. Construction costs are estimated at 4.5 billion euros. Offers of sites for the fusion device have been submitted by Canada, France, Japan, and Spain.

In addition to the USA and China, South Korea is now also taking part in the negotiations that have been in progress since November 2001 between the international partners, Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia. The seven partners must now agree on the legal status of the international project, its organisation, the site, sharing of costs and allocation of production contracts to the partners. An appropriate agreement can possibly be concluded this year already and submitted to the respective governments.

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