ITER, The Way, An International Energy Production Consortium. Nuclear Fusion Produced Energy. First Time In The World.

ITER (“The Way” in Latin) is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today.

In southern France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak.

Some of these nations included as The ITER Members are, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. They are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.

A Tokamak is a magnetic fusion device that has been designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers our Sun and stars.

The experimental campaign that will be carried out at ITER is crucial to advancing fusion science and preparing the way for the fusion power plants of tomorrow.

ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time and also the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985.

First developed by Soviet research in the late 1960s, the tokamak has been adopted around the world as the most promising configuration of magnetic fusion device. ITER will be the world’s largest tokamak—twice the size of the largest machine currently in operation, with ten times the plasma chamber volume.

Power plants today rely either on fossil fuels, nuclear fission, or renewable sources like wind or water. Whatever the energy source, the plants generate electricity by converting mechanical power, such as the rotation of a turbine, into electrical power. In a coal-fired steam station, the combustion of coal turns water into steam and the steam in turn drives turbine generators to produce electricity.

The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion. Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel. Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.

The heart of a tokamak is its doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber. Inside, under the influence of extreme heat and pressure, gaseous hydrogen fuel becomes a plasma—the very environment in which hydrogen atoms can be brought to fuse and yield energy. The charged particles of the plasma can be shaped and controlled by the massive magnetic coils placed around the vessel; physicists use this important property to confine the hot plasma away from the vessel walls. The term “tokamak” comes to us from a Russian acronym that stands for “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils.”


The ITER Project is a globe-spanning collaboration of 35 nations.

The ITER Members China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States have combined resources to conquer one of the greatest frontiers in science—reproducing on Earth the boundless energy that fuels the Sun and the stars.

As signatories to the ITER Agreement, concluded in 2006, the seven Members will share of the cost of project construction, operation and decommissioning. They also share the experimental results and any intellectual property generated by the fabrication, construction and operation phases.

Europe is responsible for the largest portion of construction costs (45.6 percent); the remainder is shared equally by China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US (9.1 percent each). The Members deliver very little monetary contribution to the project: instead, nine-tenths of contributions will be delivered to the ITER Organization in the form of completed components, systems or buildings.

Taken together, the ITER Members represent three continents, over 40 languages, half of the world’s population and 85 percent of global gross domestic product. In the offices of the ITER Organization and those of the seven Domestic Agencies, in laboratories and in industry, literally thousands of people are working toward the success of ITER.

The ITER Organization has also concluded non-Member technical cooperation agreements with Australia (through the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, in 2016) and Kazakhstan (through Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Centre in 2017); a Memorandum of Understanding with Canada agreeing to explore the possibility of future cooperation and a Cooperation Agreement with the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (2018); as well as over 70 Cooperation Agreements with international organizations, national laboratories, universities and schools.


ITER’s First Plasma is scheduled for December 2025.

That will be the first time the machine is powered on, and the first act of ITER’s multi-decade operational program.

On a cleared, 42-hectare site in the south of France, building has been underway since 2010. The central Tokamak Building, currently in its sixth year of construction, is nearly completed and machine assembly is scheduled to start in 2020. The first major installation event of this new phase is programmed for March 2020: the installation of the 1,250-tonne cryostat base. In the ITER offices around the world, the exact sequence of assembly events has been carefully orchestrated and coordinated.

The successful integration and assembly of over one million components (ten million parts), built in the ITER Members’ factories around the world and delivered to the ITER site constitutes a tremendous logistics and engineering challenge. The ITER Organization will be carrying out the work supported by a number of assembly contractors (nine contracts in all).

In November 2017, the project passed the halfway mark to First Plasma. In July 2020, the project officially launched the machine assembly phase. Today, project execution to First Plasma stands at 70.1 percent (June 2020 data).

ITER Timelinne

2005 Decision to site the project in France2006Signature of the ITER Agreement

2007 Formal creation of the ITER Organization2007-2009Land clearing and levelling

2010-2014 Ground support structure and seismic foundations for the Tokamak.

2012 Nuclear licensing milestone: ITER becomes a Basic Nuclear Installation under French law

2014-2021 Construction of the Tokamak Building (access for assembly activities in 2019)2010-2021Construction of the ITER plant and auxiliary buildings for First Plasma.

2008-2021 Manufacturing of principal First Plasma components

2015-2023 Largest components are transported along the ITER Itinerary

2020-2025 Main assembly phase I2022 Torus completion

2024 Cryostat closure.

2024-2025 Integrated commissioning phase (commissioning by system starts several years earlier)

Dec 2025 First Plasma

2025-2035 Progressive ramp-up of the machine

2035 Deuterium-Tritium Operation begins

2010-2021 activities in 2019. Construction.

Compiled by Deepak Bora and ION editorial members.