France edges out Japan towin futuristic nuclear project

28th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

MOSCOW, June 28 (AFP) - France is to host the experimental ITER nuclear fusion reactor, a multi-billion-dollar project designed to emulate the power of the Sun, the six partners in the project agreed on Tuesday, after Japan withdrew its rival bid.

MOSCOW, June 28 (AFP) - France is to host the experimental ITER nuclear fusion reactor, a multi-billion-dollar project designed to emulate the power of the Sun, the six partners in the project agreed on Tuesday, after Japan withdrew its rival bid.

"Under this declaration, France is chosen as the site," said Antonia Mochane, spokeswoman for EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, at a signing ceremony in Moscow attended by the European Union, the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China.

Japan earlier withdrew its bid to host the EUR 10 billion, 30-year project after intense wrangling, clearing the way for the site of Cadarache, in southern France.

The Japanese site, Rokkasho-mura, had been supported by Washington and Seoul, while Cadarache in France was favoured by Moscow and Beijing.

French President Jacques Chirac said he was "delighted" by the designation of France to host the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

Hailing the choice of Cadarache as "a great success for France, for Europe and for all the partners in ITER," Chirac said he would visit the southern site on Thursday.

Chirac also thanked the European Commission and EU member countries as well as Russia and China for their "unfailing support in the negotiations".

The vision behind the ITER project is of a world where energy will be cheap, clean, safe and almost infinite.

Instead of splitting the atom -- the principle behind current nuclear plants -- the project seeks to harness nuclear fusion: the power of the Sun and the stars.

Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of Russia's atomic energy agency, said details of the financing still had to be resolved.

However under earlier discussions the European Union was expected to shoulder 40 percent of the cost and France 10 percent, with the rest to be shared out between the other partners.

Japan also secured a deal to construct the project's main research facility in Japan and to set aside 20 percent of jobs at the head office, including ITER's top post, for Japanese nationals.

The French president also said he had written to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to assure him that Japan's interests in the project will be "fully taken into account".

ITER was conceived at an international summit in 1985 as a test bench to see whether fusion can be taken out of the lab and help meet the world's energy needs from the middle of the 21st century.

The science behind the project presents an immense technological challenge, since fusing together atomic nuclei will require a gas field heated to 100 million degrees inside an intense magnetic field.

But the result, scientists hope, will be a plentiful energy supply that will compensate for diminishing reserves of oil, coal and natural gas. One of the hydrogen isotopes needed to fuel the process is found in water while the other can be man-made.

After the construction programme, experiments would start around the middle of the next decade and continue for some 20 years, testing ITER for technological feasibility, safety, health and waste management. The reactor would then be decommissioned.

If this experimental machine is successful, a demo fusion power plant would be built in the mid-2030s, and -- if all goes well -- the first commercial fusion plant would be created mid-century to assess economic feasibility.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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