The European Commission hailed on July 28 the official beginning of assembling giant components to build the world’s biggest fusion machine in the south of France. The EU is part of the ambitious energy project, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), collaborating with China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.

“Today we mark an important milestone for the ITER project, and for fusion energy development. Ten years of work, and ten million components will culminate in the world’s largest fusion research device,” EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said in her speech by video to the attendees gathered in person at the ITER site in Cadarache, France, and via livestream. The ceremony to celebrate the official beginning of ITER’s assembly was co-hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and ITER’s Director-General Bernard Bigot.

“We cannot understate the importance of this as a technical achievement. Almost every individual element of ITER is at the cutting edge of its field. And I’m looking forward to seeing these extraordinary components combine to make something even greater than the sum of its parts,” Simson said, thanking the European Domestic Agency and Fusion for Energy, as well as all the European companies and research organisations for delivering the European contribution to the ITER project.

Simson noted that the ITER represents the determination of the EU in the fight against climate change. She reminded that the Commission has adopted the European Green Deal as its roadmap to climate neutrality by 2050. “In that light, the clean energy transition is both an ethical necessity and an economic opportunity. ITER perfectly demonstrates this duality: it is a major investment in our high-tech industries and clean energy sources for the future,” the Commissioner said, stressing the importance of continuing to support projects like the ITER during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The journey might change, but our end goal remains the same. And so, our commitment to projects like ITER cannot waver. It is not only a milestone on the path to fusion power, but also a valuable tool for investment and development of our industries. This is why the European Union will maintain its support to ITER over the next seven years,” Simson said.

Macron and Bigot made introductory speeches and talked about the upcoming assembly phase before conducting a global tour, with remarks from Ministerial-level representatives from the EU, the US, Japan, China, Russia, Korea, India, and Germany.

“ITER is a promise of peace,” Macron said at the start-of-assembly ceremony. “There are moments when the nations of the world choose to overcome their differences to meet a particular moment in history. The decision to launch ITER, in the mid-2000s, was one of these moments,” the French President added.

After over a decade of design, manufacturing and construction, the ITER device, which will replicate the fusion power of the Sun that provides light and warmth and enables life on Earth, is now entering its assembly phase. On May 26, the first major component of the machine was installed, making it the first of many elements that will enter the Tokamak Pit over the next few years. Large components for the machine have been shipped from all over the world, and they are now waiting in the wings ready to be installed by the 3,000-strong assembly team.

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