SAINT-PAUL-LÈS DURANCE, FRANCE
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is halfway complete. The project commenced in 2013 as a partnership of the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland. If successful, it will demonstrate that nuclear fusion—not the fission used in existing power plants—might be a viable source of utility-scale power. If testing validates theory, ITER will generate 500 megawatts for 20 minutes using only 50 megawatts of input. The heat produced will not be harnessed. Instead, another project, already in the design phase with the name DEMO, will serve as a proof of concept for generating electricity to power the grid. Nuclear fusion is deemed safer than fission because it runs off deuterium and tritium. Processing and reacting leaves almost no carbon footprint; and the radioactive byproducts, having very short half-lives, don’t require extensive waste management protocols. Begun in 2013, ITER was supposed to be operational by 2013, but the project is now running 400% overbudget with a new completion date of 2035.