French declaration of intend to host ITER
Cadarache in southern France proposed as ITER site
The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), which runs the fusion research programme in France, has announced its interest in hosting the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) at its Cadarache site near Aix-en-Provence. The proposal has already been forwarded to the Commission of the European Union (EU).
The move was announced at a recent meeting of the main EU advisory body on the European Fusion Programme by the High Commissioner for Atomic Energy René Pellat and was warmly welcomed by the other delegations. The French Ministry of Research is very favourably disposed towards a European site for ITER and hopes that the CEA initiative will receive strong support. Bernard Frois, Director of the Department of Energy, Transport, Environment and Natural Resources in the French Ministry of Research, said at the meeting that France recognised the vital role of ITER in the development of fusion power and praised the outstanding preparatory work done by the existing international ITER team. This view is widely held in the European fusion community. Frois also emphasized the impact of the fusion programme on leading edge technology and its importance for European industry.
ITER will produce a burning plasma in which the fusion power developed will exceed that required for the heating of the plasma by a factor of 10 or more. This experiment, which will answer remaining basic physics questions as well address technology issues, is considered to be the crucial intermediate step prior to the construction of a demonstration fusion power plant. Following a recent cost reduction programme in which several of the original objectives have been reformulated, the price tag is now under 4 billion Euro. The ITER activity is supported by Europe, Japan and Russia; it is hoped that the US, an original partner, will return to the fold after the other three decide to go ahead. The partners have already spent 1 billion Euro on ITER, in particular for the development of high-tech components.
Canada has made a similar expression of interest to host ITER and a proposal from Japan is expected early next year. The Scientific Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP) in Garching and Greifswald, Alex Bradshaw, said that "for IPP, the realisation of ITER in Europe is the most attractive solution and thus has the highest priority. Of course we would also provide strong support in the construction and operational phases if the decision were made to build ITER in Canada or Japan. In the last few years some of the momentum in the ITER process has been lost. The French proposal is thus very timely and could help to bring about a definitive decision soon. France now has the EU presidency."