ITER fusion project lies about the dates, budget and power levels

The expected cost of ITER has risen from $5 billion USD to $20 billion USD, and the timeline for operation at full power was moved from the original estimate of 2016 to 2027. However, the schedule for deuterium and tritium experiments would be in 2035 if things started to go right. They will not be able to complete the deuterium and tritium experiments in 2035 those will go on until 2040 at least.

* ITER publicizes the 2025 date of first plasma but not the uncertainty of funding and sacrificing of post plasma timeline. The real fusion experiments will be in 2035-2040 and will try to reach 20 minutes of operation
* ITER talks about 50 megawatts in 500 MW out but the 50 MW in is for power directly to the heat the hydrogen and the out is heat. It is not electricity input to electricity output
* The budget they talk about is 20 billion euros. This include some material, the bureaucratic management costs and the costs of assembly. The donated hardware is not included. The budget is only to get ITER to 2025. It is not to the full power experiments which might start in 2027 and not for the deuterium and tritium experiments starting in 2035 and likely continuing to 2040.
* ITER is really spending about $2 billion per year. Normally when these projects get to the major operational phases the budget goes up. It would be likely that after 2025 the budget will start going up to $3 billion to $4 billion per year. This would mean another $45-60 billion from 2025-2040
* After ITER there will need to be multiple other reactors to reach a true commercial prototype.

DEMO is the machine that will bring fusion energy research to the threshold of a prototype fusion reactor. ITER is only trying to demonstrate the technological and scientific feasibility of fusion energy. DEMO will open the way to its industrial and commercial exploitation, but again will not even be a commercial prototype.

The term DEMO describes more of a phase than a single machine. For the moment, different conceptual DEMO projects are under consideration by all ITER Members (China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and, to a lesser extent, the United States). It’s too early to say whether DEMO will be an international collaboration, like ITER, or a series of national projects.

ITER will be the school where physicists and engineers will learn to build DEMO.

The countries are talking about demonstrate “industrial-scale” fusion electricity by 2050.

The conceptual designs all sketch out machines that are larger than ITER. The large radius (“R”) of the plasma cross-section—which determines the size of the machine—ranges from 6 to 10 meters. In comparison, ITER’s “R” measures 6.2 meters and that of the largest tokamak in operation, JET, measures half that.

How powerful will they be? Again, the designs vary—from 500 MW for the European DEMO to 1500 MW for the Japanese DEMO.

The hope and speculation is that after DEMO’s a country could then proceed to make a commercial fusion reactor prototype. But the science and physics could complicate things and another pre-prototype could be needed.

So multiple pre-prototype projects out to 2060. Say four countries each with their own $100-200 billion project out to 2060.

Then prototypes out to 2070. This is all assuming the technology is working.

Is this the best way for tens of thousand of physicists, engineers and following generations to spend their careers ?

We could work on deep burn fission and closing the nuclear fuel cycle. This would enable nuclear fission to have no unburned fuel. There are designs for walk away safe nuclear fission reactors which will be cheaper then coal and natural gas. Nextbigfuture has written about molten salt nuclear reactors.

There would also be exploration of different approaches to nuclear fusion.

There could be further advancement of solar power and battery technology.

ITER’s incomplete truth in regards to Power

The ITER project aims to make the long-awaited transition from experimental studies of plasma physics to full-scale electricity-producing fusion power stations. The ITER fusion reactor has been designed to produce 500 megawatts of output power for around twenty minutes while needing 50 megawatts to operate. Thereby the machine aims to demonstrate the principle of producing more energy from the fusion process than is used to initiate it, something that has not yet been achieved in any fusion reactor.

Steven Krivit at New Energy Times indicates that it will produce 200 megawatts or less.

Steven also found that the power input claims for the power to heat the plasma which requires a lot more electricity and other power losses to achieve.

Then the output of 500 MW is for heat only.

From Steven Krivit’s “The ITER Power Amplification Myth” at New Energy Times

About $2-4 billion per year until 2040

As of 2016, the total price of constructing the experiment is expected to be in excess of €20 billion, an increase of €4.6 billion of its 2010 estimate, and of €9.6 billion from the 2009 estimate. Prior to that, the proposed costs for ITER were €5 billion for the construction and €5 billion for maintenance and the research connected with it during its 35-year lifetime. At the June 2005 conference in Moscow the participating members of the ITER cooperation agreed on the following division of funding contributions: 45% by the hosting member, the European Union, and the rest split between the non-hosting members – China, India, Japan, South Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA. During the operation and deactivation phases, Euratom will contribute to 34% of the total costs.

The 20 billion Euro budget does not include the actual cost of the hardware for the reactor. Those components are donated in kind by member partners.

The big assumption behind this schedule, however, is that members can provide an extra €4.6 billion ($5.2 billion) between now and 2025. (That calculation includes only cash contributions members must make to the central ITER organization to pay for managing the flow of deliveries and putting all the pieces of the reactor together—not the actual reactor hardware being provided in-kind by all the member states.) The council made it clear at its last meeting in November that the cash would not be forthcoming, and the ITER staff has been carrying out modeling efforts to find a way to keep to the schedule at lower annual cost. They are delaying the start of experiments on a truly “burning plasma” made from the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium (D-T) by an extra 3.5 years, to 2035.

In November 2016, the ITER Council approved the complete updated project schedule through Deuterium-Tritium Operation in 2035. The ITER Members will now go through their domestic processes of obtaining approval for the associated overall project cost.

The ITER partners are taking a number of actions to ensure that they have control over the cost of the project:

* By focusing now on the achievement of First Plasma, financial and human resources are concentrated in the near-term on core industrial elements and overall project risk is lowered.
* By implementing a staged approach (First Plasma followed by a number of progressive phases to equip the machine for Deuterium-Tritium Operation interspersed with operational phases), confidence is increased and risk is minimized.
* By closely monitoring project risks and opportunities, and tracking against agreed milestones, any potential deviation from optimum progress can be identified at an early stage and mitigated.
* By freezing the design of all interfacing First Plasma components, the risk of delay due to project change requests is averted.

4 thoughts on “ITER fusion project lies about the dates, budget and power levels”

  1. “The ITER partners are taking a number of actions to ensure that they have control over the cost of the project: …” All assumptions wrong. Reality: a corrupt management that hides and ignores the tecnicall problems, fakes schedulles and enforces irrealistic milestones in order to keep the money flowing, but certainly compromising the already low chances off sucess. Hale to the humanity leaded by fools

  2. ITER seems a badly managed project using an obsolete design. If only someone would fund MITs ARC/SPARC proposals (using YBCO for a smaller cheaper device).

  3. ITER seems a badly managed project using an obsolete design. If only someone would fund MITs ARC/SPARC proposals (using YBCO for a smaller cheaper device).

  4. ITER seems a badly managed project using an obsolete design. If only someone would fund MITs ARC/SPARC proposals (using YBCO for a smaller cheaper device).

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