On July 1, 2005, Ira Flatow interviewed Ned R. Sauthoff, Project Manager, U.S. ITER Project, DOE Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University. As usual, I was not able to listen to the program at the time that it was broadcast, but fortunately Ira has established a podcast edition of his show, so it showed up in my iTunes library this morning. The podcast is available at feed://www.sciencefriday.com/audio/scifriaudio.xml. If you have difficulty finding the specific show about the ITER project, please let me know so that I can help you.
I highly recommend that you take the time to download this extremely interesting interview by one of the premier science journalists in the country. Ira asks all of the right questions, and his guest gives honest, straightforward answers about the world’s fusion project and its prospects for providing useful energy.
Here is a quick summary.
- The project requires the continuing cooperation of the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Japan and China.
- If all goes as planned, the reactor will be operational in 2016.
- If all goes as planned, the reactor will produce 500 MW of heat for approximately 400 seconds.
- Of the 500 MW of power, 100 MW will be released by the movement of the helium isotope whose energy is captured by the plasma, and 400 MW will be released by neutrons whose energy must be captured by the wall of the confinement.
- If all goes as planned, the project will cost approximately $40-50 billion.
- If all goes as planned, scientists will learn enough about fusion by 2030 to determine if a demonstration plant is feasible.
- If all goes as planned, the demonstration plant will be operational by about 2040.
- If all goes as planned, the technology might be available commercially by about 2050.