General Atomics executives Friday commended a report from U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz recommending that the U.S. remain a partner in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, which will attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy.
The super-magnet at the core of the ITER device is being fabricated at General Atomics’ Magnet Technologies Center in Poway. Once completed, the five story, 1,000-ton superconducting electromagnet will be powerful enough to lift an aircraft carrier out of the water.
“We are proud to be participants in this major international project whose goal is to demonstrate that nuclear fusion can be harnessed to provide a near limitless, safe source of clean energy for our world,” said Jeff Quintenz, Senior Vice President of General Atomics’ Energy Group. “The success of this important project requires continued U.S. support and the technical contributions of some of our best scientists and engineers.”
In his report, Moniz wrote that the 35 nations participating in the fusion energy study “have witnessed and acknowledged the significant progress made at ITER by the new leadership, but there is still much that remains to be done.” He urged the U.S. to remain involved in the project through Fiscal Year 2018, then determine whether continued participation remains in its best interest.
“ITER remains the best candidate today to demonstrate sustained burning plasma, a necessary precursor to demonstrating fusion energy power, which holds the possibility of providing abundant and carbon free-energy,” the report stated. “The project appears to be technically achievable, although significant technical and management risks remain.”
The project has been beset by management problems, cost overruns, schedule delays and budget increases, according to the report.
Nuclear fusion, which powers the sun, has been a holy grail for researchers looking for alternatives to standard nuclear energy and carbon-based fuels like oil and coal. The fusion reaction uses hydrogen from water and does not create long-term radioactive waste.
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