The fusion reactor in France is entering its next construction phase. The criticism of the largest international technology project by 35 countries remains.

Eternal construction site nuclear fusion: the Iter fusion reactor is entering its next construction phase Foto: Sipa Tschaen/picture-alliance

PARIS taz | A new and decisive stage begins for the international nuclear fusion project Iter. The most important components have been brought from all over the world to the site in the Durance Valley in southern France. Now the components have to be assembled in the coming months. In the end, a reactor is to be created that delivers more energy from the fusion of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium than it needs for the reaction itself.

Scientists have been dreaming of this type of energy generation for decades. Iter has to prove that it’s not just an exaggerated illusion. If everything goes according to plan, this plant near Cadarache could ignite deuterium-tritium plasma at the earliest from 2025. Of course there have been delays in the schedule in the past and significantly more costs than originally planned.

Actually, President Emmanuel Macron and various heads of state and government should be present at the start of the assembly work. 35 countries are involved in the largest international technology project to date, that of the EU, the USA, Russia, China, India, Korea, Japan and Switzerland. Because of Corona, the ceremony will take place virtually on Tuesday via video conference.

The huge construction site with a reduced number of employees from all over the world has also required special precautionary measures for weeks. Nevertheless, the most important parts are now on site. Huge magnetic coils and vacuum vessels were first brought from Asia by sea and then delivered in special transports on the street.

Greens warn of horrendous sums

“We are entering the phase of the ultimate experiment, with Iter everything depends on nuclear fusion energy,” says press spokeswoman Sabina Griffith. Iter stands for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. The cost is 20 billion euros, but the reactor is not yet expected to produce electricity industrially. If Iter succeeds from 2035, this should be done in the next step.

The green parliamentary group warned at the end of 2019: “Iter misses one goal after the other and at best will only deliver a fraction of the knowledge originally thought to be essential – and even that much too late.” come much too late, if it should be successful at all. It is irresponsible that the EU and Germany invest horrendous sums in nuclear fusion research, although it has been proven that the main project Iter fails with a crash.

According to the German government, the EU funded a total of around 5 billion euros in nuclear research from 2014 to 2020, including 2.7 billion euros for the Iter fusion reactor. For the EU budget from 2021, the EU Commission wants to double the funds for the Iter project to 6 billion euros by 2027. However, the negotiations are still ongoing.