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Multinational fusion reactor facing 5bn euro cost overrun

TOKYO -- Construction costs for a multinational experimental nuclear fusion reactor will likely exceed the estimate by 5 billion euros ($5.52 billion) to reach 20 billion euros, owing to rising labor expenses, the project's chief told The Nikkei.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, is being built in Cadarache in southern France by partners that include the U.S., Japan and Europe. The project aims to replicate a nuclear fusion process similar to that of the sun to create a new clean energy source.

Costs snowballed as assembling the reactor with parts contributed by project members proved more challenging than initially thought. As a result, the ITER decided to delay heating of the first plasma until 2025 and achieving full-power fusion until 2035.

Director-General Bernard Bigot said the organization consulted experts in deciding on the postponements and the new estimate, adding that he was confident about meeting the new deadlines. This marks the first time that construction costs have been drastically revised since 2010, when they grew by 9 billion euros to 15 billion euros.

The question going forward is whether member nations, such as the U.S. and Japan, can accept higher costs. Japan will likely see its contribution grow by 60 billion yen ($578 million). That will need to be worked out by Japan's education and finance ministries, among others.

The idea of the ITER was first hatched in a 1985 summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev as a collaborative project to tap fusion energy for peaceful purposes.


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