France's International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

Clark Yarbrough
May 26, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017


Fig. 1: International Thermonuclear Reactor. (Courtesy of the DOE Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The coming century is guaranteed to be one of immense change with regards to energy demands. [1] In the past decade, there has been a growing awareness that the development of thermonuclear fusion systems which is being accompanied by the spread of knowledge and materials required for the production of thermonuclear weapons. [2] Experts have sought after a way to control nuclear fusion for the purpose of creating energy due to fusion's capability of producing immense amounts of it. The current research is seen by the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Fig. 1), also referred to as ITER. [3] This is currently being pursued by thirty-five nations who have come together in southern France with the goal of building the world's largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device that has been designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy. [4]


The potential of fusion as a practical long-term energy source, with acceptable environmental characteristics is an attractive project to pursue. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is the next step on the path towards realizing fusion energy. The construction and operation of a burning plasma experiment would allow full exploration of the subject and provide proof of principle through testing of key technological features of possible fusion power stations and demonstration of their safety and environmental characteristics. ITER also provides the attractions of preparing to take such a step in an international collaborative framework which would allow participants to share costs and pool scientific and technological expertise towards a common goal. Producing fusion energy is the end goal of projects like ITER which has to potential to provide an interesting alternative through a commercial fusion energy plant. [4]

© Clark Yarbrough. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "International Energy Outlook 2017," U.S. Energy Information Administration, DOE/EIA-0484(2017), September 2017.

[2] A. Gsponer and J.-P. Hurni, "Nuclear Weapons Proliferation Implications of Thermonuclear-Fusion Energy Systems," Independent Scientific Research Institute, ISRI-04-01.17, February 2008.

[3] Z. Herrera, "ITER: Progress and Future Goals," Physics 240, Stanford University, Fall 2012.

[4] R. Aymar, P. Barabaschi, and Y. Shimomura, "The ITER Design," Plasma Phys. Contr. Fusion 44, 519 (2002).