Energy: ITER and Consortium RFX sign a ten-year agreement on fusion


ITER RFXBernard Bigot, Director General of ITER International Organization, and Francesco Gnesotto, President of RFX Consortium (comprising the CNR, ENEA, INFN, University of Padua, Acciaierie Venete SpA), have signed a ten-year agreement for the experimentation, in Padua, of the most powerful neutral beam acceleration system ever made. In ITER, the temperature will reach 150 million degrees, necessary for the fusion reactor to occur and produce clean, sustainable and safe CO2-free energy.

“To give an idea of what happens, let’s think of a large lighter capable of producing a beam of accelerated particles to the energy of 1 megaelectronvolt (MeV) which, meeting the plasma particles, whose energy is about 100 times lower, start a huge number of very intense collisions, losing energy to heat the material inside the reactor at temperatures never measured in the known Universe, ” CNR project manager Vanni Toigo explained.

ITER RFXThe agreement signed in Cadarache regulates the collaboration between Consorzio RFX and ITER International Organization for the experiments on the two testbeds of this system: SPIDER, the world's most powerful ion source, in operation since June of last year, and MITICA, the full injector, similar to the two that will be installed on ITER. On behalf of the Government, Marco Bussetti, Minister of Education, University and Research, confirmed the financial commitment of the MIUR which, together with that of the Members of the Consortium, will lead, in the decade 2020-2030, to an overall Italian contribution of 55 million euro, as against an international contribution from ITER of 99 million euro. In parallel, new agreements between the RFX Consortium and the European agency Fusion for Energy (F4E) are being finalized to regulate the collaboration for the supply of MITICA components, which is expected to be completed by 2023, and subsequently for the supply of the two injectors that will be installed in ITER.

ITER RFXThis confirms the Italian leadership in the field of research on the plasma heating system through the injection of particle beams, the result of a synergy of competencies across Italian research institutions, which have been into effect for some time. The RFX Consortium was established in 1996 by the CNR, ENEA, University of Padua, Acciaierie Venete SpA, to advance knowledge on fusion physics and technology and creating infrastructures. The RFX machine for the study of magnetic confinement started operation in 1992. The INFN, with its expertise on particle acceleration, entered the RFX Consortium in 2006.

A group of 7 countries (European Union, China, Korea, Japan, India, Russia and the United States), representing over half the world's population, participates in ITER, the experimental reactor under construction in Cadarache in France.

Dott. Bernard Bigot, Director General of ITER International Organization: “This new agreement governing the pursuit of construction and operation of the ITER Neutral Beam Test Facility is good news for the neutral beam development ITER program, considering the key role of the neutral beam injector heating system in the achievement of ITER’s mission”, said ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot after the signature at ITER Headquarters. “It gives the critical stability and visibility for R&D experiments planned on the SPIDER and MITICA testbeds and, later, for ITER performance optimization activities. This agreement is key to the success of neutral beam heating at ITER and we thank the Italian government for its strong renewed support, as well as all who have contributed to this signature”.

Prof. Francesco Gnesotto, President of the RFX Consortium: “The RFX Consortium is proud to have signed this agreement with ITER, one of the world's largest research and development organizations, on a decisive aspect for the success of the experimental reactor, a decisive step towards realizing the dream of fusion energy. For the research group of Padua it’s a great challenge, that we are going to face aware of the scientific and technological difficulties it entails, but also confident in our know-how and experience gained in 50 years of work on fusion, which, thanks to the agreement, will be enriched by the contributions of the ITER partners involved in the project ".

Prof. Massimo Inguscio, President of CNR: "In the next ten years, we will work mainly on the scientific aspects, from which important results are expected for the energy future of humanity. The CNR, the largest Italian research organization, has supported fusion research since its beginning in the 1960s, and today promotes its development with the commitment of outstanding human resources which, thanks to this agreement, will gain further motivation and impulse ".

Prof. Federico Testa, President of ENEA: “This agreement confirms the excellence of our research and its ability to set challenging objectives in a sector, that of fusion, where Italy has a consolidated scientific leadership and in the development of frontier technologies. Participating in projects such as ITER is strategic for its repercussions in terms of innovation and fields of application to the benefit of the national economic system”.

Prof. Antonio Zoccoli, President of INFN: "We are all very satisfied with this agreement, a further recognition of the excellence of national research and expertise, and a step forward for this very ambitious scientific project. Its success will depend on the development of cutting-edge technologies, to which our research community can contribute".

Rosario Rizzuto, rector of the University of Padua: "New, increasingly ambitious challenges: only by facing and winning them, can we build a better future. The agreement just signed will keep Padua at the center of international attention, experimenting with the most powerful neutral particle acceleration system ever implemented. It’s not exaggerated to say that the whole world will look at the results of the program, as always when we talk about energy scenarios that could involve the entire planet. The University that hosted Galileo will play its part, well aware of  Italy’s  excellence in the field of fusion ".