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ITER Fusion Reactor To See Further Delays, With Operations Pushed To 2034

Published by Slashdot on Sat, 06 Jul 2024

John Timmer reports via Ars Technica: On Tuesday, the people managing the ITER experimental fusion reactor announced (PDF) that a combination of delays and altered priorities meant that its first-of-its-kind hardware wouldn't see plasma until 2036, with the full-energy deuterium-tritium fusion pushed back to 2039. The latter represents a four-year delay relative to the previous roadmap. While the former is also a delay, it's due in part to changing priorities. ITER is an attempt to build a fusion reactor that's capable of sustaining plasmas that allow it to operate well beyond the break-even point, where the energy released by fusion reactions significantly exceeds the energy required to create the conditions that enable those reactions. It's meant to hit that milestone by scaling up a well-understood design called a tokamak. But the problem has been plagued by delays and cost overruns nearly from its start. At early stages, many of these stemmed from changes in designs necessitated by a better and improved understanding of plasmas held at extreme pressures and temperatures due to better modeling capabilities and a better understanding of the behavior of plasmas in smaller reactions. The latest delays are due to more prosaic reasons. One of them is the product of the international nature of the collaboration, which sees individual components built by different partner organizations before assembly at the reactor site in France. The pandemic, unsurprisingly, severely disrupted the production of a lot of these components, and the project's structure meant that alternate suppliers couldn't be used (assuming alternate suppliers of one-of-a-kind hardware existed in the first place). The second problem relates to the location of the reactor in France. The country's nuclear safety regulator had concerns about the assembly of some of the components and halted construction on the reactor.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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