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International nuclear fusion project gets green light

International nuclear fusion project gets green light
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The world’s most ambitious nuclear project is born. Partners from more than 30 countries have signed an agreement in Paris sealing the launch of the ITER project, or International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. The aim of the 10-billion euro project is to build a cheap and abundant energy source for the future.

French President Jacques Chirac said: “If nothing changes, humanity will have consumed, over 200 years, most of the fossil fuel resources accumulated over hundreds of millions of years, triggering massive climatic change.” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also welcomed the project: “It will enable us to address one of the most urgent challenges facing mankind: finding clean and sustainable energy sources for tomorrow,” he said.

Construction is due to start in 2009 in Cadarache, near Marseille, in southern France, and is expected to last around a decade. The site was chosen after much debate, particularly with Japan which was keen to host the project. The EU – the main contributor – has agreed to take on half the construction costs which are estimated at five billion euros.

The idea is to imitate the fusion process that fuels the Sun. The main advantage of this technique, according to developers, is that it only requires small amounts of fuel. Project leaders say if all goes well electricity could be available on the grid within 20 years.