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India's moment of glory in nuclear sun

India and 6 other nations will sign a pact in Brussels today, setting up a multi-billion-dollar N-energy project.

india Updated: May 24, 2006 10:32 IST

It is a big moment of glory for India as it signs an agreement, along with six other countries, establishing a multi-billion-dollar nuclear fusion energy project in Brussels.

Representatives of six countries, including India, the US, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, besides the European Union, will initial an agreement in the European Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels on Wednesday, marking the formal establishment of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) fusion energy project, which is to be built in Cadarache, France.

Anil Kakodkar, secretary in the, Department of Atomic Energy and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, will sign the agreement for India. Other Indian participants attending the signature ceremony are PK Kaw, director of the Institute for Plasma Research (IPR) and RB Grover, director of the Strategic Planning Group, Department of Atomic Energy.

The ITER fusion project, which aims to generate 500 MW of thermal power initially through the process that powers the sun, is a collaborative research project by the seven countries who between them represent more than half the world's population and most advanced technological expertise.

Nuclear fusion is seen as a cleaner approach to power production than nuclear fission and fossil fuels.

India, which was admitted as a full member of ITER on December 6, 2005, will contribute 9.09 per cent of the total project cost, which works out to be around $500 million over a 10-year period. Ninety per cent of this will be in the form of equipment to be built by Indian companies for ITER, which amounts to 10 per cent of the machines to be used in the project.

The programme is anticipated to last for 30 years - 10 years for construction and 20 years of operation - and cost approximately $12.1 billion.

The participation of India in ITER has galvanized the scientific community who are upbeat about the future of the project that is expected to generate electricity only after 2030.

India was planning to build a fusion reactor but its participation in ITER has saved about two decades of development work, Kaw had said after the EU and other countries, in which France and the US played a leading role, cleared India's participation in the project last year.

IPR, which has been designated as a civilian nuclear entity in the separation plan presented by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US, will be the key institution in India's participation in ITER.

Fusion energy has manifold advantages such as the availability of basic fuels, no greenhouse gas emissions, inherently safe power stations free of possible "meltdowns" or "runaway reactions" and long-lasting radioactive waste.

First Published: May 24, 2006 10:22 IST