"ITER represents the hope of the world,"DOE Office of Science Director Ray Orbach said in a conference call from Brussels this morning announcing the initialing of an international agreement to construct ITER. Congress will now have 120 days to review the Joint Implementation Agreement for this fusion energy project.
If all goes as planned, the seven ITER Parties (European Union, Japan, the People's Republic of China, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the U.S.) will sign the final agreement on November 29, 2006. Construction in Cadarache, France will start in 2007, and is expected to last eight years.
In his remarks at the ITER ceremony, Orbach said:
"In January 2003, President Bush announced that the United States would join the multilateral negotiations for the construction and operation of ITER, and last summer our Congress indicated in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 their support for this endeavor and the process by which the United States Government may formally accept the text of the ITER agreement. Finally, in his State of the Union Address to the American people this year, President Bush reaffirmed his support for basic research and highlighted his belief that research in methods of harnessing clean energy has a leading role in global energy security.
"Today is a momentous occasion in the history of science. We not only mark the conclusion of years of negotiations and collaborative planning amongst the ITER parties, we are also on the verge of the real work of ITER: to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion in a facility that for the first time will be able to produce a sustained, burning plasma, much like that needed for a full-scale fusion power plant."
During the conference, Orbach briefly described ITER's history, noting that it was first discussed in 1985 by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The negotiations leading to the initialing agreement took well over three years, driven by the realization that a project of this size and expense must be international in scope. The seven parties represent more than half of the world's population.
ITER was the top priority in the twenty-year facilities plan released by the Office of Science in November 2003 (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2003/150.html.) Under the agreement initialed today, the U.S. will provide $1.1 billion (a hard cap). Eighty percent of this contribution will be in-kind, with the remainder being U.S. project personnel and cash. The U.S. will also provide 13% of the operating costs, a somewhat higher figure than other parties, designed, Orbach stated, to provide extra recognition of our role. ITER operations are to occur in two ten-year periods.
Congress has already authorized the ITER program through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Department of Energy has kept Congress informed about the progress of the negotiations. Pictures of the Brussels' ceremony and other information about ITER may be viewed at www.science.doe.gov