France wins battle to host experimental fusion reactor
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Boston Globe/Los Angeles Times
Posted: December 7th, 2006
In a bid to harness what backers say could be a nearly limitless source of clean electric power, an international consortium chose France yesterday as the site for an experimental fusion reactor that will aim to replicate how the sun creates energy. The planned $13 billion project is one of the most prestigious and expensive international scientific efforts ever launched. French President Jacques Chirac said in a statement. "[This] unprecedented scientific and technological challenge ... opens great hopes for providing humanity with an energy that has no impact on the environment and is practically inexhaustible." The reactor's main fuel, deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen, can be obtained from water. The project's website states that Lake Geneva alone contains enough deuterium to meet global energy needs for several thousand years. Existing nuclear reactors use fission, or the splitting of large atoms, to produce power, a process that leaves waste that remains highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Fusion reactors, by contrast, would produce minimal waste that would be radioactive for a much shorter period. If the project is successful, long-term plans call for a demonstration fusion power plant to be built in the 2030s and the first commercial fusion plant to be built in midcentury.