Canada considers participation in Iter fusion project

WNN 19 April 2018

Canada has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Iter Organisation to explore how Canada can participate in the project to construct the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. The fusion reactor – construction of which began in 2010 – is scheduled to achieve first plasma in 2025.

Champagne (left) and Bigot (right) sign the MoU (Image: Global Affairs Canada)

The MoU was signed in Paris on 17 April by François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, and Bernard Bigot, Director General of the Iter Organisation. It was signed during a Canadian trade mission to France.

The Canadian government noted, “Canada is not currently a member of Iter as it does not contribute financially to the project. However, given Canada’s history and expertise in nuclear-fusion-enabling technologies, the MoU between Canada and Iter will help identify the precise domains in which Canadian suppliers could export expertise and technologies on a commercial basis to the Iter Project.”

It noted that tritium – an isotope of hydrogen – is a by-product of the operation of Candu pressurised heavy water reactors. It is also an essential part of the fuel that will be required for the Iter Project. Canada has a long history of expertise in the technology and handling of tritium.

“Canada’s expertise in the nuclear sector is world renowned, and this MoU will launch a process to ensure that Canadian suppliers are able to export technologies and expertise on a commercial basis in support of the Iter Project, which, in turn, will contribute to well-paying middle-class jobs and more sustainable energy in the future,” Champagne said.

Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, welcomed the signing of the MoU. He said: “This arrangement will ensure that Canadian suppliers are positioned to support the Iter Project on a commercial basis, helping to advance clean, non-emitting energy for the future.”

Iter is a major international project to build a 500MW tokamak fusion device (requiring an input of 50MW) designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.

The European Union is contributing almost half of the cost of its construction, while the other six members (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA) are contributing equally to the rest. Under a revised schedule established by the Iter organisation in 2016, first plasma is planned for 2025, with deuterium-tritium fusion experiments commencing in 2035. Construction costs are expected to be around EUR20 billion (USD25 billion), with components contributed by the Iter members on an ‘in-kind’ basis.

Iter’s specialised components – some 10 million parts in total – are being manufactured in industrial facilities all over the world. They are subsequently shipped to the Iter worksite, where they must be assembled, piece-by-piece, into the final machine.

In December, the Iter Organisation announced: “According to the stringent metrics that measure project performance, 50% of the ‘total construction work scope through First Plasma’ is now complete.”