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4 states may join ITER reactor project in 2007 - Russian scientist

RIA Novosti

27/11/2006 16:34 MOSCOW, November 27 (RIA Novosti) - An international agreement to build ITER, an experimental nuclear fusion reactor in France, may be joined next year by another four countries, the director of a Russian nuclear center said Monday.

Scientists hope that the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project in Caradache, southern France, will use fusion power to eventually produce safe, emissions-free energy.

Yevgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute Research Center, said: "I know that Kazakhstan is interested in the ITER project, and it may also be joined by some Latin American countries, in particular Brazil and Mexico, as well as by Canada."

He said one major obstacle to joining ITER is the "high entrance ticket - 10% of the project's cost."

The project is estimated at about $10 billion, with 40% of the costs borne by the European Union and the remaining 60% split equally between the other participants.

"We can guarantee that when it is built, it will almost immediately meet the design specifications - generating capacity of 500 mWt and a service life of 30 years," he said.

Velikhov said the fusion power reactor is absolutely safe for people and the environment.

"Nothing like what happened at Chernobyl could occur at a thermonuclear reactor. Furthermore, it does not produce any waste, such as fission products," he said.

An international agreement to build the reactor was signed in Paris on November 21, 2006, by Russia, the United States, Japan, the European Union, China, South Korea, and India.

The project will be launched in January 2007, and is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological potential of nuclear fusion amid concerns over growing energy consumption and the impact of conventional fossil fuels on the environment.

But the leader of the Russian Green Party said he doubts the practical expediency of building an ITER reactor.

"I, as well as all independent experts, have serious doubts that this project will have any practical value. There will be none in the next 10-20 years, although, needless to say, it does have some scientific value," Alexei Yablokov said.

He said talk about the project has been going on for about 30 years now, but things have not moved much beyond that.

He criticized the participants in the project for what he described as incorrect prioritization in developing energy resources.

"The money should go instead into providing environmentally clean sources of energy," he said, adding it would be better to spend the funds (about $10 billion) to develop renewable sources of energy.

He also queried the safety of the construction project.

But former Nuclear Power Minister Viktor Mikhailov said nuclear and especially thermonuclear energy is safer and more environmentally friendly than fossil energy sources, although he said an industrial fusion power reactor will not be built until the 22nd century.

The idea of ITER began when the Soviet Union suggested that the four most advanced nuclear powers - the U.S.S.R., the U.S., Europe and Japan - create a "tokamak" reactor, a doughnut-shaped chamber to confine in a magnetic field incandescent plasma that no material can withstand. Thermonuclear fusion of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium then proceeds in the plasma.

In mid-June, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded three researchers the prestigious Global Energy prize for their work on an experimental nuclear fusion reactor.

Japan's Masaji Yoshikawa, France's Robert Aimar and Russian Academician Yevgeny Velikhov won the prize for developing the scientific and technical foundations for the ITER project.

Established in 2002 on Russia's initiative, the international prize has been granted for outstanding theoretical, experimental and applied research, development, inventions and discoveries in the field of energy development and power generation.

In 2006, the prize was worth $1.1 million and was shared among the scientists

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