The world is starting to face up to increasing energy demands, ever scarcer resources and a growing awareness of the dangers of global warming and the environmental risks of continuing to burn fossil fuels intensively. In this context, the international ITER project (ITER means "the path" in Latin) is a key step in developing a new energy source – fusion energy.
In the natural world, fusion
is the energy source that has been powering the sun and stars for several billion years. The temperature and density in the heart of the sun are so great that hydrogen atoms are fused together, releasing high levels of energy in the form of light and heat. Research teams have been using machines called "tokamaks" to try to reproduce the same reaction on earth. ITER will be the next step in this research drive, the first facility to simultaneously provide all the conditions required for a plasma "burn" – density, temperature and confinement time. This international project is a joint venture between China, the USA, the Russian Federation, India, Japan, South Korea and the European Union, which together account for more than half the world's population.
Further research will be required in order to design the components for a production reactor. In particular, structural materials will require further development and characterisation. All the components will then be put together in a pre-industrial demonstration facility (DEMO), which could generate electricity by 2040.br>