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India joins international thermonuclear club

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, May 17: India has joined the ambitious International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project promoted by developed countries to build a nuclear plant to demonstrate the technical viability of nuclear fusion as a source of energy.

The members of the ITER project are the US, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Japan and South Korea.

India's membership of the project comes at a cost of Rs 2,500 crore over a ten-year period, Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

The ITER reactor will demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of nuclear fusion, Mr Chavan said today.

Nuclear reactors around the world currently produce energy through nuclear fission.

India was invited into the multi-billion dollar project as a full partner at the ITER negotiations meeting in Jeju, South Korea, last December.

The main ITER facility will be built in Cadarache, France and all ITER partner countries will participate in its construction, development and research.

ITER (pronounced 'eater') is the experimental step between the latest studies of plasma physics and future electicity-producing fusion power plants.

The ambitious project began with an initiative at the 1985 Geneva Summit between the US and the then USSR and led to a collaboration among the EU, Japan, Russia and the US.

The project aims to build the first fusion science experiment capable of producing self-sustaining fusion reaction, called a 'burning plasma'. Fusion is the power source of the sun and the stars. It occurs when the lighest atom, hydrogen, is heated to high temperatures forming a special gas called 'plasma'. In this plasma, hydrogen atoms combine or 'fuse' to form a heavier atom, helium. In the process of 'fusing', some matter is converted into large amounts of energy. The ability to contain this reaction, and harness energy from it, are among the important goals of fusion research.


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