Wednesday, November 22, 2006


PARIS — Seven partners representing half the world's population signed a pact Tuesday to build an experimental fusion reactor in southern France that could revolutionize global energy use for future generations.

Construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, or ITER, is expected to take eight years. The site is in Cadarache, near Marseille in the southern region of Provence. It will take decades for scientists to learn whether the long-awaited $12.8-billion reactor will work well enough to make commercial plants feasible.

Physicists have been trying for half a century to create fusion, which produces no greenhouse gases and generates relatively little radioactive waste. Fusion, which powers the sun and other stars, involves confining hydrogen isotopes at extreme temperature and pressure to create a highly energetic gas. At 180 million degrees, the hydrogen nuclei undergo nuclear fusion, forming a helium nucleus and releasing energy.

The ITER project by the United States, the European Union, China, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea will attempt to combat global warming by offering an alternative to the burning of fossil fuels. Controlling climate change and finding new energy sources are urgent goals for meeting rising global demand. (From the Associated Press)

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