The experimental ITER reactor is supposed to show how to do nuclear fusion here on Earth. So far, however, it has been used by many scientists as an example of how not to do a major scientific project. The roughly €15-billion (US$19.9-billion) project has been parcelled into contracts, which in turn have been divided among ITER’s seven members: the European Union (EU), Russia, Japan, South Korea, India, China and the United States. As we reported in autumn, this piecemeal strategy is threatening to delay ITER’s already delayed start date by years while the central organization and member states parcel out designs and contracts.
But there was good news for the fusion project yesterday. The EU has signed a major contract for the building to house ITER. Fusion for Energy, the European body charged with the EU portion of the project, announced the contract with a consortium of French and Spanish companies on 15 January. The €300-million building is expected to be completed in mid-2018. For now, ITER is scheduled to begin its first tentative experiments towards fusion in November 2020.