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The ITER project


1- Objectives  

Research on controlled fusion and its contributory fields, has made great strides over the last few years both in Europe and in the world, whether in physics, materials, technology or in the concept of a future current generating fusion reactor. This progress is the result of work on many "specialised" experimental installations.The , JET tokamak JET website, for example, is dedicated to the physics of high performance plasmas over short periods (a few seconds). The Tore Supra machine is more specialised on lower performance plasmas that last much longer (2 minutes or more). Due to the remarkable results obtained over the last few years, the research community involved in these studies on controlled magnetic fusion is ready to take a further step: demonstrate the sustained combustion of a deuterium-tritium plasma over long periods. This is the main goal of ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), the next generation machine.


2 - Historical background

At the the Geneva Summit of November 1985, the Soviet Union proposed the building of the next generation Tokamak on the basis of a collaboration involving the four main partners in the fusion programme. In October 1986, the United States, Europe and Japan responded favourably to this proposal. The ITER project came into being under the auspices of the International Agency for Atomic Energy (AIEA AIEA website) with the four participants: the USA, Japan, Russia and Europe (to which Canada is associated). ITER is thus the first experimental installation conceived from scientific collaboration on a global scale. The first phase of study, called the CDA (Conceptual Design Activities), started in April 1988 and ended in December 1990. The first phase of detailed engineering design (Engineering Design Activity - EDA -) finished in 1998. At this time the USA withdrew from the project for domestic reasons. The three other partners subsequently directed their efforts towards the design of an installation at lesser cost and with fewer goals. The detailed engineering phase of this reduced ITER finished in July 2001. The next 2 years phase (till the end of 2002) is the "Co-ordinated Technical Activities" (CTA) in order to provide support to the Site negotiators on all technical matters, to maintain the integrity of the project and to prepare for joint construction and operation. The USA and China have joined the negociations since January 2003, followed by South Korea since June 2003..

3 - Organisation during the EDA phase

The highest instance of this organisation is the ITER council, located in Moscow and made up of eight members: 2 Europeans, 2 Russians, 2 Japanese and 2 Americans (before the departure of the United States). This type of interweaving between the partners is a standard component in the whole organisation. The ITER council is assisted by a technical committee (the Technical Advisory Committee -TAC-) and by a management committee (the Management Advisory Committee -MAC-).

The design team carries out its work at two centres situated at Naka (J) and at Garching near Munich (EU). The ITER workforce (Joint Central Team) present at these centres represents around 150 people. The technical specifications required by ITER are defined by the ITER team then given to the "Home Teams" for execution.

4 - Timetable

The design phase finished in July 2001 with the submission of the final detailed engineering report. Negotiation on the choice of the site will take between 2001 and 2003. It is hope that the 8/10-year building phase will start in 2005 and the first ITER plasmas are forecast for 2015. The operating phase should last at least 20 years.

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