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Russia Sends France Giant Magnet for ITER Nuclear Fusion Project

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EIRNS—Russia on Tuesday Nov. 1, dispatched one of six giant magnets needed for the ITER nuclear fusion program in France, one of the last international scientific projects refusing to exclude Russian participation since the Ukraine conflict.

The vessel carrying the Russian-made magnet—or “poloidal field coil”—departed St. Petersburg on Nov. 1. Onboard, the massive nine-meter-wide coil, which weighs 200 tonnes is headed for a two-week trip to Marseille, thence to Saint Paul-lez-Durance, where 35 nations (including the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, India and the EU) are collaborating to build the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), the largest tokamak nuclear fusion device ever built. The ring-shaped magnet built under Rosatom’s supervision will make up the top part of the reactor. The Russian component was set to leave in May but sanctions forbidding Russian ships from docking in Europe delayed the departure. Still, the “current situation did not change the fact that we will fulfill our obligations,” said Rosatom representative for international projects Viacheslav Perchukov. Geopolitical tensions “practically did not affect the realization of this project,” he confirmed. “Without (the Russian coil), the tokamak will not work,” senior ITER scientist Leonid Khimchenko told AFP. He hailed a “unique” achievement, over eight years in the making. “This is such an interesting project that in fact we are all one family … there is no competition between us, nothing,” Khimchenko said. It’s “separate from the war in Ukraine,”

Tim Luce, director of science at ITER, told CBS News: “The need for energy is universal, and if one entity has it and another doesn’t, it doesn’t matter who—which flags or which hats—we put on the people. The inequity will always cause conflict.”

The project was set in motion after a 1985 summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, in an attempt to cool tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “It came out of their weapons programs,” Luce said. “This became a bridge between these different political entities, to be able to talk to each other…. They didn’t agree on much, except that they would jointly work on fusion as an energy source,” Luce said.

Andrey Mednikov, a scientist in charge of the production of the poloidal field coil, praised the continuing international cooperation. “If this cooperation was brought to a halt, everyone would lose: both Russia and the international community,” Mednikov said. [kav]