Nuclear fusion site: decision imminent

Rokkasho, a remote fishing village in northern Japan, is confident it will become host to a USD 12 billion experimental nuclear fusion reactor. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, a joint venture involving the USA, China, Russia, South Korea, the European Union and Japan, is expected to announce its choice of site after a meeting in Washington on Saturday, 20 December 2003. The other front runner to host the 30-year project is the EU-backed site at Cadarache in southern France. “We have good solid ground, we are very near a port and we have plentiful supplies of both fresh and sea water,” said Kiyoshiro Nozawa, a local official overseeing the Rokkasho bid. “The French site is not so convenient for ports, so I think we are ahead in that respect,” he added. Rokkasho, near the northernmost tip of the main island of Honshu, some 600 km (373 miles) north of Tokyo, is already the site of a uranium enrichment plant and a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is scheduled to be completed by 2006. However, the French French Research Minister Claudie Haignere, promoting the town of Cadarache, said: “We have the structure and the scientific and technical environment to ensure that this scheme can start up with competence, expertise and solid safety guarantees.” The cost of building and running ITER and constructing all the necessary infrastructure, such as roads and housing, is put at USD 10 billion over 30 years, of which USD 3 billion will trickle down into the local economy, according to the Cadarache campaign team.

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