At issue are two South Korean-made components: thermal shields built by SFA Engineering Corp. and vacuum vessel sectors made by Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Neither company responded to Bloomberg requests for comment outside of business hours.
The thermal shield, which is lined with 5 tons of pure silver and designed to contain heat 10 times hotter than the sun, showed cracks along cooling pipes, ITER reported. The vacuum vessel sectors, each weighing the equivalent of 300 cars and as tall as a telephone pole, show slight differences in manufacturing that complicates the welding process used to put them together.
So far, ITER’s governing board has taken the setbacks in its stride. At an extraordinary meeting convened this month, it ordered Barabaschi to come up with a new budget and time line to be presented next year.
“What was remarkable at the ITER council was the lack of finger pointing,” ITER spokesman Laban Coblentz said Friday in an interview. “It has been a very solutions-oriented discussion.”
“Companies have been learning enormously from this first-of-its kind project,” said ITER’s Coblentz, dismissing suggestions that the delays could dampen enthusiasm. “The goal here isn’t to build just a single machine but to show that fusion power is feasible and to make that happen.”
The quantity of money being poured into fusion continues to grow. Companies hope to repeat the success of private companies in beating the Human Genome Project to the prize of completing the first sequence of the human genome. The primary technology innovation is the shrinking of superconductors which means new reactor designs can be much smaller and therefore cheaper. The range of challenges that still need to be overcome is still quite high so while this is an exceptionally interesting sector, it is not going to provide the abundant cheap energy we require for quite some time.
Meanwhile the 5 tons of silver required for the ITER experiment suggests a new source of demand for the metal in future designs too.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top