The amount of fusion energy a tokamak can produce depends on the number of fusion reactions taking place in its core. The larger the vessel (and therefore the larger the plasma volume), the greater the potential for fusion energy production.
The ITER Tokamak, with a plasma volume ten times larger than the largest fusion facility in operation today, will be a unique experimental instrument capable of generating long-lived plasma.
ITER has been specifically designed with 5 main objectives in mind:
Produce 500 MW of fusion energy: The record for thermonuclear fusion power belongs to the European JET tokamak. In 1997, this tokamak produced 16 MW of fusion power for a total thermal power of 24 MW. This ratio of 0.67 is to be increased to 10 with ITER with a fusion power of 500 MW for an input power of 50 MW.
Demonstrate the integrated operation of fusion plant technologies. With this very large machine, scientists will be able to study plasma under conditions similar to those in a fusion power plant and test technologies such as heating, control, diagnostics, cryogenics and remote maintenance.
Building a self-sustaining deuterium-tritium plasma.
Today, fusion research is about to study the 'burning plasma', which is basically a plasma in which the heat from a fusion reaction is retained efficiently enough to sustain a reaction. The larger ITER plasma will produce much more fusion power and remain stable for longer periods of time.
Experimenting with Tritium production.
One of ITER's missions is to demonstrate the possibility of producing Tritium inside the Vacuum Vessel. The world's supply of Tritium is by no means sufficient to meet the needs of future fusion power plants. ITER therefore offers a unique opportunity to test models of tritium blankets in a fusion reactor environment.
Demonstrating the safety of a thermonuclear device. A major milestone in the history of fusion was reached in 2012 when the ITER Organization, after a thorough review of its safety records, received approval to build the ITER nuclear facility and became its nuclear operator. One of ITER's main objectives is to demonstrate that the thermonuclear reactions occurring in the plasma do not affect people and the environment.