International Consortium Chooses France as Site for Nuclear Fusion Reactor
MOSCOW A six-party consortium chose France as the site for an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, a spokeswoman for the European Union said Tuesday, opening the way for development of a potential source of clean, inexhaustible energy.
Antonia Mochan, spokeswoman for the European Commission's science and research committee, said the decision was made in Moscow at a closed-door meeting of the consortium.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is intended to show that nuclear fusion, which harnesses the same energy that heats the sun to generate electricity, can wean the world off pollution-producing fossil fuels. Nuclear fusion produces no greenhouse gas emissions and only low levels of radioactive waste.
"As a project of unprecedented complexity spanning more than a generation, ITER marks a major step forward international science cooperation," EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said.
"Now that we have reached consensus on the site for ITER, we will make all efforts to finalize the agreement on the project, so that construction can begin as soon as possible," Potocnik said.
The project is funded by a consortium comprised of Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia, China and the European Union, but the six parties had been divided over where to put the test reactor.
Competition was intense. At stake are billions of dollars (euros) worth of research funding, construction and engineering contracts, and the creation of up to 100,000 new jobs, according to estimates cited by Dow Jones NewsWires.
Japan, the United States and South Korea wanted the facility built at Rokkasho in northern Japan. Russia, China and the European Union wanted it at Cadarache, in southern France.
"This is a great success for France, for Europe and for all of the partners in the ITER," French President Jacques Chirac said in a statement issued by his office minutes after the announcement in Moscow.
"The international community will now be able to take on an unprecedented scientific and technological challenge, which opens great hopes for providing humanity with an energy that has no impact on the environment and is practically inexhaustible," he said.
Japanese newspaper reports had said Tokyo was prepared to give up hosting the US$13 billion (euro10.8 billion) ITER project in return for a bigger research and operations role in the project. The deal concluded Tuesday assured Tokyo of that role.
"Japan is happy and sad at the same time. We decided to overcome the sorrow and turn the sorrow into joy. Japan in the future will be ready to make contribution to the development of fusion energy," said Nariaki Nakayama, Japan's minister for science and culture.
Some scientists have warned that both sites are in seismically active zones and could be prone to earth tremors.
Source: Associated Press