ITER & Beyond

The objective of the ITER project is to gain the knowledge necessary for the design of the next-stage device: a demonstration fusion power plant. In ITER, scientists will study plasmas under conditions similar to those expected in a future power plant. ITER will be the first fusion experiment to produce net power; it will also test key technologies, including heating, control, diagnostics, and remote maintenance.

The Phases of ITER

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The construction work on ITER began in 2010 and is expected to come to an end in 2019. A commissioning phase will follow that will ensure all systems operate together and prepare the machine for the achievement of First Plasma in November 2020. ITER's operational phase is expected to last for 20 years. First, a several-year "shakedown" period of operation in pure hydrogen is planned during which the machine will remain accessible for repairs and the most promising physics regimes will be tested. This phase will be followed by operation in deuterium with a small amount of tritium to test wall-shielding provisions. Finally, scientists will launch a third phase with increasingly frequent operation with an equal mixture of deuterium and tritium, at full fusion power.

On to DEMO

The projected design for the next-step demonstration fusion power plant, or DEMO, designed to produce 2000-4000MW of power. (Click to view larger version...)
The projected design for the next-step demonstration fusion power plant, or DEMO, designed to produce 2000-4000MW of power.
ITER is not an end in itself: it is the bridge toward a first plant that will demonstrate the large-scale production of electrical power and tritium fuel self-sufficiency. This is the next step after ITER: the Demonstration Power Plant, or DEMO for short. A conceptual design for such a machine could be complete by 2017. If all goes well, DEMO will lead fusion into its industrial era, beginning operations in the early 2030s, and putting fusion power into the grid as early as 2040.

While ITER is being constructed and DEMO is in its conceptual phase, several fusion installations, with different characteristics and objectives, will be operating around the world to conduct complementary research and development in support of ITER. In Japan, the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) program has begun. This installation, part of the "Broader Approach" Agreement, will test and qualify the advanced materials needed for a full-scale fusion plant.

By the last quarter of this century, if ITER and DEMO are successful, our world will enter the Age of Fusion—an age when mankind covers a significant part of its energy needs with an inexhaustible, environmentally benign, and universally available resource.