ANSTO’s CEO has signed an agreement with the Director-General of the ITER International Fusion Energy Organisation to join an international consortium of countries that will lend expertise on the ground-breaking ITER fusion project in southern France.
Seven member entities, comprising 35 countries, are collaborating to build ITER - in the largest engineering project in the world.
Scheduled to begin operations in 2025, ITER will be the first fusion device to produce more energy than it consumes.
Major components of ITER are being constructed by the member nations around the world and assembled at the ITER site in France.
This is the first time a non-ITER member country has reached a technical cooperation agreement to work on the project, and connects the Australian community of fusion experts with those from the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, the United States and South Korea.
Australian researchers and innovators will now work with international experts on this massive engineering project, determining the feasibility of fusion energy as a large-scale, greenhouse gas-free energy source.
As a representative of the Australian nuclear fusion research community on international bodies, ANSTO’s involvement allows all relevant Australian researchers to engage with ITER.
Speaking at the ITER facility in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, during the signing ceremony with the ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot and accompanied by ANU Professor John Howard, ANSTO CEO Dr Adi Paterson said, “This is a landmark day in the history of nuclear science in Australia.”
“Fusion is the Holy Grail for energy production and if achieved at a large-scale would answer some of the world’s most pressing questions relating to sustainability, climate change and security,” he said.
“Fusion energy holds the promise of a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers our Sun and stars.
“This agreement is the mechanism through which Australians will be able to engage with ITER. In addition to ANSTO, Australian participants include the ANU, the University of Sydney, Curtin University, the University of Newcastle, the University of Wollongong and Macquarie University.
“The benefits from this agreement will begin almost immediately. It will clear the way for John’s team from ANU’s Australian Plasma Fusion Research Facility to install an Australian-developed plasma imaging system in the ITER reactor in France.”
Fusion energy is released by the merging of hydrogen into helium - the process which powers the Sun - and if it could be safely harnessed on Earth it could provide clean, base-load power for millions of years.
The ITER project was established in 2006 and the first plasma is expected to be produced by December 2025. You can find out more about fusion energy and ANSTO here.
DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROJECT
The Global Fusion Energy project centres on the construction of the world's largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device or reactor, which harnesses the energy of fusion and captures this heat in the walls of the vessel.
Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.
The difference is there are no harmful greenhouse-gas emissions as a result, and very low levels of radioactive waste.
Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985. The ITER Members—China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States—are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.
Australia does not have nuclear power, but we do have relevant expertise. The plasma provides the environment in which light elements can fuse and yield energy, and this is where ANSTO comes in.
“ANSTO will use its expertise in nuclear techniques to measure the impact of the reactor vessel materials, which are placed under extreme heat and radiation inside the reactor,” said Paterson.
“The state-of-the-art reactor wall materials are a core component of the project and their performance is vitally important.”
For more information on ITER, please visit the ITER website: