Homepage Forums The International ITER project BBC asks if ITER is "an expensive scientific gamble"

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    … which of course, is is.

    Is ITER the most expensive science gamble of all time?

    “It’s an option that we cannot afford not to explore..” ; what about all the other options? Could we afford to explore them too? Probably all of them, just for the $1.3B overspend the EU just approved for ITER.

    Meanwhile a lot of powerful people seem to be dissatisfied with the expense of the thing… and other fusion projects will probably get tarred with the same brush, or written off as being infeasible because “That ITER thing spent BILLIONS and didn’t work, and you say you can do it for a few tens of millions? Pull the other one!”



    ITER is a risk and the longer it goes on the worse it looks. Unfortunately the wheels are in motion. Most large science like this carries on due to momentum alone but we might have another superconducting super collider (SSC). The SSC was killed suddenly with little warning. ITER might suffer the same fate. I hope it doesn’t for the sake of the scientists that have relocated with their families. I think it is more likely to die a slow death and never reach its real potential. The crown jewel of the ITER program is owned by the Japanese, the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF). This facility will be a world class user materials irradiation test facility for the next generation.

    The money spent on ITER could be better spent on other project but fusion is at a crossroads as a program. It has been a science program for a long time and people are calling for it to become an energy program. If it becomes an energy program it will die quickly when someone points out that fusion has never produced any net power. I hope the science program continues but opens it’s scope.


    In ITER defense, 99.9% of the delays and problems are political not scientific. Its stuff like where it gets built, and who gets the magnet contract, and why should they get all the magnet contracts what about my country magnet maker..etc. The original time line is about a decade behind right now and there was much less money made available, at least in part because the US pulled out (or mostly pulled out). I mean you need to get 20 countries to agree on something each time a big decision is needed, what would you expect?

    From a science perspective it think either some serious upgrade to JET (begin done) or ITER is the next logical step. Sure everyone want a slice of the pie, but the fact is that nothing else is really close. Nothing else has data that is even close and well at the end of the day… Show me the data. Sometimes i think the “not working with ITER” folk forget that when the Russian reveled the design it was 100x better than anything else at the time, so good that the west assumed they were lying. It wasn’t until a team from the west took their own measurements before they where believed. Right now they still are the best design on the table (stellarators are nice too but cost more to build).

    I know that ITER is a dirty word here… but lets try and work with data, and not feelings. They are not steeling your funding. If the money is taken away from ITER it will not go into other fusion work. Most likely it will go into the banking sector and not science at all.


    My problem with ITER is technical. As of a few weeks ago at the burning plasma meeting before the APS Division of Plasma Physics meeting, a member of the ITER team stood up with the latest projections for achieving breakeven. To sustain the plasma temperature, 80 MW of continuous heating is required. The budget does not allow for it so the immediate response was to cut back the diagnostics. How can you gather data when you don’t have diagnostics? The materials issues of ITER are difficult but the scale up to DEMO are nearly impossible. It needs a new wall every few days in some calculations and every month of so otherwise. If DEMO is to be a demonstration power plant how can you operate such a facility cost effectively? Lithium may help some of the first wall problems but I’m not convinced it will fix the problem.

    The politics of ITER are daunting and I don’t fault the scientists for the politics. It is a difficult problem politically and in the face of changes in the EU and US I find it amazing that projects like ITER can continue. I hope ITER can succeed but the political problems are growing and the technical issues seem to be cropping up. Even some close to ITER suspect it might only get partly built if built at all.


    Interesting asymmertic_implosion. I would differ to your experience in the matter. I try to keep up with the literature. But it is hard when i have my own field to keep up with. Lucky my institute has most of these journals.

    Honestly i would have gone for a bigger upgrade to existing facilities, like JET with more diagnostics and tritium handling facilities. I am constantly surprised by how little diagnostics many of these experiments really have. I would even include the FF in that to. I would want at least a streak camera? no? But the upgrades would have the focus of studding plasma stability under burning conditions, and lets get a better handle on ELM. IIRC there was some suggestion that controlling the burning rate is going to be very hard in such devices.

    As for material choices how does some of the spallation neutron source rate for some material studies? Mitigation of these risk factors would seem cost effective even if expensive.

    I don’t think DEMO is a good idea. I wanted to see how plasma behaves under long burn and then lets start working on something a big smaller? Clearly some magnet breakthrough would help… but its not given that we are going to get one.


    Tokamaks (ITER) is not a gamble of any sort, it is a fools errand, a total and utter waste of money and resources, a blind alley, a dead end. The entire concept is nonsense, attempting to use magnetic fields to confine fusion energised plasma is somewhere between madness and stupidity.

    The science is entirely unproven and unjustified, and the engineering is impossible.

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