Is a $22bn giant magnet the ‘holy grail’ of clean energy? Dozens of nations have staked huge sums – and decades of work – on a nuclear fusion project they hope can play a key role in ending the climate crisis. But is the ITER programme more than a pipe dream? If ITER works, it will be the first fusion device in history to produce a net energy gain, producing 10 times more power than it needs to function, all without the dangerous waste of its cousin nuclear fission, which powers contemporary nuclear plants. To its critics, ITER is a spectacular waste of time, money, and political clout, at a moment when the planetary clock has nearly run down. For Jan Haverkamp, an energy expert at Greenpeace, nuclear has a record of overpromising, underdelivering, and costing astronomical sums of money – precisely the wrong combination when the world needs a rapid, reliable transition to green energy. According to modelling from Greenpeace and others, the world could reach a fully renewable energy system without nuclear by 2050. Even before the pandemic, the project was running at least 10 years behind schedule and billions over budget. A 2013 review of ITER management called its structure “ill-defined and poorly implemented”, leading to a large-scale reorganisation. In 2015, ITER’s director-general, Bernard Bigot, wrote that previous generations of ITER leadership had “proved incapable of solving issues and responding to the project’s needs, so accumulating technical difficulties have led to stalemates, misunderstandings and tension between staff around the world”.
Independent 18th Jan 2022 read more »