ITER, the international project to build a massive (hot) fusion tokamak reactor in the south of France has hit major difficulties as costs and technical problems increase. Originally estimated at a cost of $6 billion and 10 years to build, those cost estimates now exceed $16 billion with some scientists believing that the technical hurdles are enormous. Some have gone on record as saying that fusion as viable source of energy could take at least 100 years to achieve.
One big problem is that the materials that would be needed to contain a reaction with gases ten times hotter than the sun has not yet been invented and it will be a considerable challenge to do so. Professor Sebastien Balibar, research director for the French national research laboratory in Paris said that “The most difficult problem is the problem of materials. Some time ago I declared that fusion is like trying to put the Sun in a box – but we don’t know how to make the box.”
“The walls of the box, which need to be leak tight, are bombarded by these neutrons which can make stainless steel boil. Some people say it is just a question of inventing a stainless steel which is porous to let these particles through; personally I would have started by inventing this material.”
A full review of the project is scheduled regarding the difficulties facing Iter and there is speculation that a scaled down version of the project may be the ultimate result.
- iter fusion project