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Sokor's share of int'l fusion reactor cost to top 1-trillion won

SEOUL, July 29 — South Korea's share of the cost for building an experimental fusion reactor is expected to exceed 1 trillion won (US$ 841 million) due to construction delays and the need to make technical adjustments, the government said Thursday.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said a special board meeting of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project agreed Wednesday to push back the completion date by two years and to increase the allotment that must be paid by each of the seven member countries.

The ITER, being built in Cadarache, France, is an international experiment to see if a super-hot plasma field, and naturally abundant tritium and deuterium can create an artificial sun on Earth. If the project is successful, it could provide mankind with a limitless energy resource.

"With the latest delay, South Korea's portion of the cost sharing is expected to rise correspondingly from 876.7 billion won to an estimated 1.07 trillion won. The total is a provisional sum that is subject to change," a ministry official said.

"The total covers the 10 key components Seoul needs to build for the ITER, as well as local research and development, and personnel costs."

The ministry said that the total cost of construction is expected to reach 6.51 billion euros (US$ 8.45 billion) from the previous 5.08 billion euros, with the completion date of the reactor being pushed back to November 2019 from late 2017.

Detailed plans for the ITER were drawn up in 2001 with actual work kicking off in October 2007.

South Korea is a member of the ITER consortium, made up of the European Union (EU), the United States, Japan, Russia, China and India. The EU must foot 45 percent of the total cost with other countries responsible for around 9 percent of the total each.

The ministry official said that because of the delay, actual tests to see if the test bed works should now begin in 2020, with authorities to determine the commercial feasibility of the reactor between 2027 and 2037.

Once the process is complete, ITER members may decide whether or not to build a full-fledged demonstration plant that can actually generate power. (PNA/Yonhap)

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