Largest fusion reactor to be delayed by years, costs billions of dollars

Luc Williams

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)), which is being built by a consortium of 32 countries in southern France, has been plagued by numerous supply chain problems that began during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Delays in the gigantic project are raising increasing doubts as to whether thermonuclear fusion, which powers the sun and could theoretically generate unlimited clean energywill be operational in time to combat the worst effects of climate change this century and help meet growing energy demand worldwide.

Second Budget Review

In eight years, ITER had to review its budget and schedule for the second time. Under the new schedule, full reactor testing will not begin until 2039. This represents a four-year delay from the previous estimate of 2035.

ITER was originally scheduled to cost about $5 billion and begin testing in 2020. The budget has already exceeded $22 billionand a start date for the tests has not been set. The scale of the additional funds needed is still unknown. Calculations are ongoing, and the additional amount needed to launch the tests is expected to be presented later this year. ITER Director General Pietro Barabaschi said that the amount will be around €5 billion (€5.4 billion).

The race is on

The ITER delay means the 32-nation-sponsored project could be overtaken by privately funded trials by Commonwealth Fusion Systems LLC and Tokamak Energy Ltd. The private companies are using smaller versions of the same reactor and expect to begin testing prototypes later this decade.

Barabaschi said he was “very skeptical,” or a start-up promising commercial operations by 2040. will meet that deadline. In his view, once it is proven that thermonuclear fusion is possible, a number of other technical problems will need to be solved to make it commercially viable.

How ITER Plans to Achieve Nuclear Fusion / Bloomberg


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