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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Why India should know about ITER?

Near the west banks of Sabarmati, in the green city of Gandhinagar, a team of 122 scientists and engineers from across the country, are working silently on building the crucial components required to power the world’s largest nuclear reactor, upcoming in Cadarache, a province in southern France.
At a time when Indo-US nuke deal impasse has broken and both the countries look forward to steer their ‘123 agreement’ towards success, and when the world talks of nuclear non-proliferation, India is diligently working on realizing its dream of completion of ITER by 2019.
ITER, an acronym for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject, which is currently building the world's largest experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor. A tokamak is a device using a magnetic field to confine a plasma in the shape of a torus.
The ITER project aims to make the long-awaited transition from experimental studies of plasma physics to full-scale electricity-producing fusion power plants. It is a step towards future production of electricity from fusion energy. The most important aim is to produce at least ten times more thermal energy than the energy required to operate it, which can be converted to electricity in future power producing reactors based on fusion.
ITER's mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, and prove that it can work without negative impact. The major aim of ITER is to momentarily produce ten times more thermal energy from fusion heating than, is supplied by auxiliary heating which means a Q value of 10. For half a century, scientists have dreamt about accomplishing this feat, but it was only in 2006 when progress was made with the formation of the ITER.

ITER was conceptualized in 1985 following an initiative by President Gorbachov of the erstwhile Soviet Union and President Reagon of the United States. The project is funded and run by seven member entities — the European Union, India, Japan, People's Republic of China, Russia, South Korea and the United States. ITER will be built mostly through in-kind contributions by the partners, in which they manufacture the ITER components assigned to them through their representative Domestic Agencies (DAs), which are delivered to ITER site for final assembly.
The ITER fusion reactor has been designed to produce 500 megawatts of output power while needing 50 megawatts to operate. Thereby the machine aims to demonstrate the principle of producing more energy from the fusion process than, is used to initiate it, something that has not yet been achieved in any fusion reactor. The facility is expected to finish its construction phase in 2019 and will start commissioning the reactor that same year and initiate plasma experiments in 2020 with full deuterium-tritium fusion experiments starting in 2027. If ITER becomes operational, it will become the largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment in use, surpassing the Joint European Torus.

India is providing a tenth of the components for the massive nuclear complex unfolding at Cadarache. New Delhi is contributing what would, when completed in 2021, be the world's largest refrigerator. The cryostat acts like a thermos flask but operates at some of the coldest temperatures ever seen in the universe, working at minus 269 degrees Celsius. This is used to keep the special super conducting magnets at the cold temperature at which they need to operate; the entire fusion system would collapse if it can't be kept cold.

India is also expected to contribute about 9,000 cores over the next decade to the project, thus paying for a little under 10% of the total cost.

Ratan K. Sinha, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Mumbai says, “participation of India in the ITER project, with its immense scientific talent and industrial competence, has provided an opportunity to India to master cutting edge technologies.”

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