News

Seven Nation Group to Pursue Fusion Energy Research

The United States and several other nations have signed a $13 billion agreement to develop a form of nuclear power in a process called fusion. They will cooperate to build an experimental reactor intended to mimic the way stars make energy, with the hope that the research will eventually lead to a plentiful supply of cheap, clean and safe power.

The seven-party consortium brings together the United States, the European Union, Japan, Russia, China, South Korea, and India to build the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER for short, in southern France.

At a signing ceremony in Brussels, U.S. delegate Raymond Orbach said the project will be carried out on an unprecedented scale for the betterment of a world dependent on fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.

"ITER has the potential to free the quickly growing global economy and population from the looming constraints of decreasing energy supplies and the unfortunate effects of environmental degradation," said Raymond Orbach.

ITER began with an agreement at the 1985 U.S.-Soviet Geneva Summit. It was one result of a plan to develop joint activities to help reduce Cold War tensions. Other nations joined later.

But Congress ordered the government to withdraw in 1998 because it considered the original reactor design too expensive. Faced with a sharp drop in the budget, the remaining ITER members redesigned the reactor at half the cost, making it attractive again to the United States, which rejoined in 2003.

Raymond Orbach says fusion is the energy that powers stars.

"The fusion process is one of the most powerful ways of producing energy that nature has devised," he said. "As examples of that, I simply suggest you look at the stars and realize how our sun is powered. So what we are trying to do is to take advantage of this quite remarkable property of nature that literally keeps us alive."

In fusion, the nuclei of light elements, such as hydrogen, fuse together inside stars to make heavier elements, such as helium. The fusing process gives off tremendous amounts of energy.

Using fusion to generate power there would be none of the greenhouse gas byproducts of the sort fossil fuels emit. Nor would fusion produce radioactive material as does the other form of nuclear energy, called fission. The source of hydrogen for the energy-producing reaction would be water.

The ITER reactor will use doughnut-shaped magnetic coils to induce an electric current in a mixture of charged particles, making conditions hot enough to create fusion reactions like those inside stars.

Plans call for the eight-year construction of the reactor to begin next year after the parties formally ratify the agreement. Officials hope to have the unit working by the year 2040. They predict that if all goes well, fusion could provide 10 to 20 percent of the world's energy by the end of the century.

But environmental groups oppose the project. At the Washington branch of Friends of the Earth, Eric Pica says the program is a tremendous waste of money for the slight hope of producing fusion energy.

"You can make better investments by investing in renewable energy and energy conservation," said Eric Pica. "We know these things will save energy and reduce our fossil fuel dependence now."

But Raymond Orbach, the Department of Energy's science director, says not pursuing fusion research would be an outrage.

"We would be telling our world population that they do not have a chance of achieving the standard of living that the rest of us enjoy," he said. "That is how serious it is if we do not pursue this opportunity."

The European Union's Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, told the Brussels signing ceremony that ITER is a new model for large-scale global scientific and technical cooperation.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs