Kazakhstan offers to join international fusion power project

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Participants in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project (ITER) will consider Kazakhstan's offer to join the construction of a fusion power reactor in France, a Russian official said Thursday.

The $10 billion project to build the reactor in Cadarache near Marseilles in southern France is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological potential of nuclear fusion, amid concerns over growing demand for energy and the impact of conventional fossil fuels on the environment. “Kazakhstan has proposed receiving full membership in the organization comprising countries involved in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project,” said Sergei Mazurenko, the head of Russia's Federal Agency for Science and Innovation. “The organization has decided to hold talks with Kazakhstan on the technical capabilities of its project participation,” he said after a meeting of the ITER Council in the Japanese capital, Tokyo. The results of the talks will be reviewed at the next meeting of the council November 27-28 in France.

Under an agreement signed in Paris on November 21, 2006, Russia, South Korea, China, Japan, India, the European Union, and the United States pledged to fund the construction of the first thermonuclear reactor, which is expected to be completed by 2016. The European Union will cover 40% of the costs and the other participants will contribute 10% each.

“The key issue at present is to make sure that all member-countries ratify the ITER agreement and set up their national agencies because the project is entering the implementation stage,” Mazurenko said. He said the Russian parliament had ratified the document and it only has to be signed by President Vladimir Putin to come into force. “I think it will happen in two weeks,” the official said.

The ITER consortium currently has a staff of 123, including 13 Russian scientists, but the number of project employees will be increased by 100 personnel during this year, Mazurenko said. According to the ITER consortium, fusion power offers the potential for “environmentally benign, widely applicable and essentially inexhaustible” electricity, which the participants claim will be needed as the demand for alternative energy sources increases in the future. (rian.ru)

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