Research & Development

Nuclear Fusion / Europe And Japan Reaffirm Commitment To Collaboration

By David Dalton
3 March 2020

Aim is to build foundations for reactors of the future, says Commission
Europe And Japan Reaffirm Commitment To Collaboration
A 2019 file photo of the Iter site at Cadarache in southern France. Photo courtesy Iter.
Europe and Japan have signed a joint declaration in the field of fusion energy that will see experts working more closely with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) to ensure that the €20bn project “moves forward as smoothly as possible”.

The European Commission said an updated “broader approach” declaration, first implemented in 2007, was signed in Brussels by energy commissioner Kadri Simson, representing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and Kazuo Kodama, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Japan to the European Union.

The Commission said the broader approach represents a highly successful collaboration between two major players in fusion research. It will also mean knowledge and expertise can be consolidated among the wider fusion community, creating “as solid a base as possible” on which to build the commercial fusion reactors of the future.

The signing of the updated declaration comes after Europe and Japan took stock of the progress made so far in fusion research and reaffirmed their commitment to continuing their joint activities.

Broader approach activities consist of three projects, all in Japan. One of these is the satellite tokamak project, or JT-60SA, at Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo. It is the largest, most advanced tokamak in the world until Iter comes online.

JT-60SA has powerful heating systems able to inject targeted microwave energy and high-energy particles into the plasma. It should reach plasma temperatures over 200 million C, temperatures comparable to those that will be found in Iter. It also resembles Iter in its use of superconducting magnets, which will confine and control the plasma, and the liquid helium cooling system that will cool them to -269C.

The major difference between the two machines is in their size. JT-60SA is about 12m across and about half the size of Iter.

The EU is part of the Iter project, which aims to build the world’s biggest fusion machine at the Cadarache nuclear site in southern France.

The Commission said moving to a decarbonised, climate-friendly society is one of the key challenges of modern times. A major component is the creation of a diverse, secure and climate-friendly energy mix.

“Fusion research aims to help reach this goal by developing the promising technology of fusion energy as a clean, safe power source for the future. The key facility on the road to fusion power is the Iter project.”

Iter project head Bernard Bigot told NucNet last year that Iter was more than 65% complete and entering a critical phase as it aims to meet a first plasma deadline of 2025.

First plasma means that the reactor is able to successfully generate a molten mass, 840 m3 to be exact, of electrically-charged gas, or plasma, inside its core.

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