Construction Contract for ITER Fusion Reactor Signed, HQ Inaugurated

First Posted: Jan 17, 2013 05:37 PM EST

The brand-new headquarter building of the ITER fusion research program was officially inaugurated today, located right beside the gigantic fusion reactor that is currently being constructed at the site. For the occasion, the European Union's Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger and the French research minister Geneviève Fioraso came to the ITER site in Cadarache, France. Just two days earlier, the main contract for the construction of the main Tokamak building and facilities, worth around half-billion Euros ($680 mio), was signed.

Commissioner Oettinger re-emphasized the EU's commitment to finance and support the vital projects: "At this time when the urgency to transform our energy system has been overshadowed by the financial crisis it is important that we keep steadfast in funding projects like ITER. This project is at the forefront of energy technology research in the world, giving a long term view towards the decarbonisation of our energy supply. ITER, one of the world's biggest scientific collaborations, has a key role to play in establishing fusion as a sustainable energy source. Moreover, it benefits the economy of the countries, especially through the  high tech SMEs sector. With ITER being located on EU territory we play a key role in global energy technology research now and in the future."

ITER-designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power-will be the world's largest experimental fusion facility. Fusion is the process which powers the sun and the stars: when light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, abundant and environmentally responsible energy source. The EU is responsible for the lion's share of the project, covering 45% of the budget, with the other 6 partners, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA, each covering 9%.

F4E (Fusion for Energy, Europe's fusion energy research institution) celebrated a landmark achievement on January 15, with the signature of one of its largest contracts in the area of the civil engineering works for the construction of the Tokamak complex, the building that will host the ITER Tokamak machine.

The size of the ITER platform is 42 hectares and Europe is the party responsible for the delivery of the 39 buildings that the ITER platform will host. Currently, the personnel directly involved in construction counts 200 people and by mid-2014 it is expected to reach 3,000 people.

The Tokamak building will rely on 493 plinths equipped with anti-seismic bearings, already in place, able to sustain the overall weight of the machine, with almost three times the weight of the Eiffel Tower. Among the weighty parts are 100 heavy nuclear and confinement doors, for example.

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