In 2017, Nextbigfuture said that the ITER tokamak fusion project would cost $45-60 billion more than the claimed $22 billion construction budget and US Department of Energy (DOE) agrees with a far higher cost estimate. On April 11, 2018, Paul Dabbar, DOE undersecretary for science, provided a $65 billion estimate to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development. The $65 billion covers construction alone and annual operating costs once experimental operations begin in 2025 aren’t included.
The day after Dabbar’s testimony, the European Union Council of Ministers endorsed ITER’s nearly two-year-old baseline estimate, which covers construction from 2007 to full completion in 2035. Including a 10% contingency to account for overruns, ITER’s cost to EU members is €11.7 billion ($14.5 billion). As host, the EU is paying 46% of ITER’s cost, five times the share of each of the other six partners: China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US.
The budget they talk about is 20 billion euros. This does not include the cost of the donated hardware only the bureaucratic management costs, materials and the costs of assembly. The budget is only to get ITER to 2035.
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.
Initial plasma experiments with deuterium are scheduled to begin at ITER in 2025, construction will continue through 2035, the planned date for the first ignition experiments using tritium.
DEMO machines are the follow-ups 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 for 20 minutes of fusion around 2035-2040. DEMO will open the way to its industrial and commercial exploitation, but again will be commercial prototypes.
The European commission removed claims of net power. Steve Krivit showed that it would be 300MW in and 500MW of heat and fusion out. This would be net negative when converted to electricity. They previously did not include all of the power used and over stated the power output.
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 thousands of physicists, engineers and following generations to spend their careers?
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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