Nuclear fusion project faces delay over US budget cuts

Washington: The head of the multinational nuclear fusion project known as ITER, in Washington for talks with President Donald Trump’s administration, has warned US budget cuts could delay completion of the experimental reactor.

Launched a decade ago by seven partners — the European Union, the United States, China, Russia, Japan, India and South Korea — the project has been plagued by delays and budget overruns.

ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot has been in the US capital since Tuesday to urge top administration officials including Energy Secretary Rick Perry to uphold America’s commitment.

Washington has so far spent some USD 1 billion on the project, and had pledged to contribute a further USD 1.5 billion by 2025, the first test date for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is located in France and currently half-finished.

But its annual contribution was reduced by around 50 per cent in the 2017 and 2018 budgets, from USD 105 to USD 50 million and USD 120 to USD 63 million respectively — as a result of cuts to the overall Energy Department’s budget.

Bigot told AFP late yesterday he hoped to secure “a clear decision on American commitments, at least in the short term, on the supply of components, and to be sure that they will arrive in time for assembly.