France has been chosen to host the world's first nuclear-fusion reactor.

The decision to award the contract to France ends a deadlock with Japan over where the $5.6 billon experiment involving the European Union, Japan, the US, Russia, China and South Korea should be located.

The project will look at how to address sustainable energy in the future, with fusion – the process that powers stars - looking promising as a cheaper and safer way than nuclear fission, the action at the core of contemporary nuclear power plants.

Mimicking the way the sun produces energy and potentially providing an inexhaustible source of low-cost energy, seawater could be used as fuel, contributing to a future hydrogen-based energy system.

Uniting the atoms of lighter elements such as hydrogen instead of splitting heavier ones such as uranium will generate more energy and less radioactivity says ITER – the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor – members.

A single gram of deuterium fused with one and a half grams of tritium should produce 10 million times as much energy as a gram of oil with none of the
Carbon emissions linked to global warming.

If scientists do succeed in building this reactor and making it work, it could solve the world’s energy problems for the next 1,000 years or more setting the stage for an inexhaustible and sustainable energy source.

Construction of the reactor at Cadarache will take seven years and cost around $12 billion including operating expenses through to 2040, with Japan building additional facilities including a power plant prototype that will be needed as the project advances.

The infrastructure needed to supply consumers will take about 35 years but if the project advances as planned, it should transform the production of energy and provide significant quantities of safe, environmentally friendly power.

For further information:
BBC Science