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500 engineers needed for nuclear fusion project

Around 500 engineers will need to be trained in the workings of a new type of nuclear reactor over the next four years, a leading nuclear fusion research scientist told a meeting at Great George Street last week.

Failure to recruit these engineers will stifle the development of a prototype nuclear fusion reactor which is considered more environmentally friendly than traditional nuclear fission reactors.

Associate Leader of the European Fusion Development Agreement – Joint European Torus (EFDA-JET), Dr Jerome Pamela, said "We will need to train four to five hundred engineers in the coming four years to move towards realising the ITER vision".

The ITER project is being developed in Cadarache, France with the Russian Federation, China, India, Korea, America, Japan, and European nations collaborating.

The aim is to build the world's first operational fusion reactor, which should be capable of producing 500MW of fusion power.

Fusion power is seen by the EFDA-JET as preferable to nuclear fission, as it is thought 90% of the waste products from fusion could be easily recycled. The half-lives of the by-products of fusion are shorter, so after 100 years, zero waste is considered a real possibility.

In addition, the fuel sources for the reaction are Deuterium and Tritium which are readily available.

Under the EFDA, a European Fusion Training Scheme was set up in 2006 to train engineers with a dedicated focus on the materials necessary to build the ITER.

Pamela explained that nations with the largest populations may be among the first to take full advantage of fusion technology.

"With the kind of population growth seen over the years in nations like China and India, we can expect they will be among the first to look at providing more energy."

The nations involved in the project will all need to contribute engineers to the programme to reach what Pamela believes to be an achievable target for bringing the reactor online, in 2016.

The ITER project is expected to be granted a construction licence by the French authorities later this year. Site clearance work and the construction of temporary construction facilities is on target for completion in March.

The estimated cost of building the reactor will average at around $360M (£185M) a year.

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