Is ITER Really Safe and Clean?
Can we say that magnetic confinement fusion is a clean technology when several thousand tonnes of radioactive material will be produced during ITER’s lifetime? And what about safety? True, the deuterium–tritium reaction is not a chain reaction, but does this allow us to say that fusion is completely safe? Such major questions call for clear answers. However, as often happens it is not easy to find the relevant information in the available technical literature. Although nothing is hidden and relatively detailed documents are in the public domain, such reading is not easy for the layperson. In this chapter I summarize the main information available about ITER’s impact on the environment, safety, and waste management. Despite some well-known problems magnetic confinement fusion is undeniably a cleaner technology than nuclear fission since it will produce no long-lived radioactive waste and less waste overall. ITER has been designed to withstand all possible and conceivable accidents. The fact that very little fuel will be needed in the device at any one time is of course very reassuring. Another strong argument in favor of ITER’s safety is that it is under the control of the French nuclear regulator (ASN), one of the most rigorous in the world. However, experts consider that the fusion community will soon face new safety challenges because future demonstration reactors will be different from ITER. Such differences will have a significant impact on design and hence on safety.
KeywordsITER Safety Risks Natural Waste Radioactive Tritium Hazards
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