ITER: Much ado about nothing?

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By Claude Allegre

The installation at Cadarache nuclear fusion reactor would be bad news for our research

The President announced proudly that France would fight Japan and get the site of the experimental reactor of the future, which would be installed in Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône). And everyone to rejoice, especially in Provence, where politicians, proud, ignorant and naive, are convinced Iter (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) will bring wealth, prosperity and prestige!

Unfortunately, none of this will happen: Iter bleed to white local authorities and further weaken a bit more budget French research. Cost of operation: 12 billion euros! Iter is still one of the prestige projects that have, in the past, exhausted the finances of our research. This was first high definition TV, then the construction of large national heavy ion accelerator (GANIL) in Caen, then manned flights into space and finally the International Space Station. Results for science? Nothing, or almost. Today is the megajoule laser at Bordeaux, and Iter at Cadarache.

We are told: Iter, is the Sun's energy is extraordinary is the future! This is what is already said it was forty years ago, when the project began study of controlled fusion. The idea is certainly not uninteresting. Instead of fission of heavy atomic nuclei to obtain energy, as in the current reactors, attempts to fuse light atomic nuclei to get more energy. This is the sequence followed in manufacturing atomic bombs. After the classical one Hiroshima bomb was manufactured H, more powerful, more deadly but less polluting (sic). However, if the melting explosively is known to provide, it is not known the control. And for forty years, one circles. Projects such as ITER, we installed at Princeton in the United States and in Britain, but it never really progressed, lack of innovative scientific idea. The Americans, once motors of this research - they financed it to 60% - have dropped. Perhaps they will participate up to 5% tomorrow? Have they given up so far with the idea of ​​controlling the merger? Not at all, but they use more astute and less expensive methods.

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