Will considerably expand the scope of the ITER power plant


San Sebastián is hosting the world's top researchers in fusion power as they design the ITER project and the project's next iteration, the DEMO power plant, which will considerably expand the scope of the ITER power plant that is being built in the south of France and which is, to date, the world's largest project for generating non-polluting energy.

The construction of ITER began in 1986 after an agreement was reached between the EU, the US, Japan and the former USSR, with China, India and South Korea later joining the project. ITER will cost 24 billion euros, making it the fifth most expensive project after the Apollo mission, the International Space Station and the GPS system, among others. ITER was born as a response to the large increase in energy consumption, which requires that new sources of non-polluting energy be found.

The idea is to generate electricity from the heat produced via the fusion of hydrogen, a fuel source that is essentially inexhaustible, in a process that does not generate any of the emissions that accelerate climate change and that produces minimal long-lived radioactive waste. In fact, ITER will be the first machine to produce more energy than it consumes.

The project is the most complex scientific undertaking in history, with each partner building in their own country the parts that will be assembled in Cadarache, France. The complex is being constructed on a 42-hectare plot and it will have more than 10 million parts; 50% of the project has been completed for the first trail, or "First Plasma", which is slated for the end 2025.

The machine consists of a reactor that will heat hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) to 150 million degrees, which is ten times hotter than the sun's core, and produce 500 megawatts of thermal power. Experts expect this type of energy to replace fossil fuels and complement wind, solar and other renewable energies.

One of the challenges faced by ITER and by DEMO, whose materials experts are attending the meeting at Ceit-IK4, is the limitations of the materials that must withstand extremely high temperatures and thermal loads. Thinking ahead to the post-ITER area, which will go far beyond the project currently under construction, there is a need to develop radiation resistant materials.

Ceit-IK4 is involved in the development of special steels that can be used in DEMO's structures; these include corrosion-resistant tungsten alloys that will be used to construct the first blanket, which will cover the interior wall of DEMO's reactor chamber. Ceit-IK4 is also hosting during the last week of May and the first week of June around 130 experts working on DEMO from around Europe so they can share advances in and experiences with these two large-scale projects that have global scope and will shape the future of the world's energy.