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Science & Technology

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Assembly

  • 31 Jul 2020
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) celebrated the start of Assembly of the ITER Tokamak at Saint-Paul-Lez-Durance, France.

Key Points

  • Significance of the Event:
    • The Celebration was hosted virtually by the French President and all ITER member countries participated either in person, or electronically through remote mode.
    • India also participated in the celebrations and considered the global participation of scientists to project as a perfect illustration of the age-old Indian belief - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
      • Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a Sanskrit phrase which means ‘The World is One Family’.
  • India’s Contribution:
    • India also mentioned about its fair share in terms of its in-kind contributions, viz., the cryostat, cryogenic and cryo-distribution systems, auxiliary heating devices, multi megawatt power supplies, etc.
    • ITER cryostat is manufactured by India (Larsen and Tourbo). Cryostat is a chamber that can maintain very low temperatures.
      • It is the largest stainless steel high-vacuum pressure chamber ever built (16,000 m3) providing the high vacuum, ultra cool environment for the ITER vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets.
      • The target for the first plasma is 2025. At extreme temperatures, electrons are separated from nuclei and a gas becomes a plasma—an ionized state of matter similar to a gas.
    • European Union (EU) is responsible for the largest portion of construction costs (45.6%); the remainder is shared equally by China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, USA including India (9.1% each).

Nuclear Reactions

  • Description:
    • A nuclear reaction is the process in which two nuclei, or a nucleus and an external subatomic particle, collide to produce one or more new nuclides.
    • Thus, a nuclear reaction must cause a transformation of at least one nuclide to another.
  • Types:
    • Nuclear Fission:
      • The nucleus of an atom splits into two daughter nuclei.
      • This decay can be natural spontaneous splitting by radioactive decay, or can actually be simulated in a lab by achieving necessary conditions (bombarding with neutrons, alpha particles, etc.).
      • The resulting fragments tend to have a combined mass which is less than the original. The missing mass is usually converted into nuclear energy.
      • Currently all commercial nuclear reactors are based on nuclear fission.
    • Nuclear Fusion:
      • Nuclear Fusion is defined as the combining of two lighter nuclei into a heavier one.
      • Such nuclear fusion reactions are the source of energy in the Sun and other stars.
      • It takes considerable energy to force the nuclei to fuse. The conditions needed for this process are extreme – millions of degrees of temperature and millions of pascals of pressure.
      • The hydrogen bomb is based on a thermonuclear fusion reaction. However, a nuclear bomb based on the fission of uranium or plutonium is placed at the core of the hydrogen bomb to provide initial energy.

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

  • Establishment:
    • International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is a collaboration of 35 nations launched in 1985.
    • It is located in France.
  • Aim:
    • It aims to build the world's largest tokamak to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.
      • The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion. Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel. Like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant uses this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.
  • Applicable Principle:
    • The project is based on fusion which is also an energy source for the Sun and stars.
      • Every fusion reaction in the Sun, in which two hydrogen atoms fuse into one helium atom, releases two neutrinos.
  • Significance:
    • ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time and also to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.
  • Participation:
    • The ITER members include China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
    • According to the ITER Agreement (2006), the above mentioned seven members will share the cost of project construction, operation and decommissioning.
    • They also share the experimental results and any intellectual property generated by the fabrication, construction and operation phases.

Source:PIB

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