Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fusion Dreams Delayed

This has been reported by Nature's daily news. The international consortium that runs ITER has decided to scale back the machine and will delay running it at its full-blown power for at least 5 years {link available for free only for a limited time}.

Faced with ballooning costs and growing delays, ITER's seven partners are likely to build only a skeletal version of the device at first. The project's governing council said last June that the machine should turn on in 2018; the stripped-down version could allow that to happen (see Nature 453, 829; 2008). But the first experiments capable of validating fusion for power would not come until the end of 2025, five years later than the date set when the ITER agreement was signed in 2006.

The new scheme, known as 'Scenario 1' to ITER insiders, will be discussed on 17–18 June in Mito, Japan, at a council meeting that will include representatives from all seven members: the European Union (EU), Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States, China and India. It is expected to be approved at a council meeting in November.

This is certainly not unexpected after the US pulled out all of its contribution for that one year (with parts of it being restored later). The machine is also an extremely ambitious one with a very difficult set of goals, not unlike the LHC. So I certainly don't find this unexpected. But still, there's tremendous expectation for something that costs this much.


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