ITER is pronounced "eater," and is mankind's best hope today for a monumental source of clean power. When I first worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory nearly forty years ago on laser fusion, they also had a couple of magnetic confinement projects, and I thought that was crazy, for what system and material could continuously for months maintain plasma at a hundred million degrees Kelvin, six times hotter than the core of the Sun. I still think the odds of commercial success are infinitesimal, at least compared to laser and cold fusion, which themselves range from challenging to fictitious.
China has already announced that same year to commercialize their 500 MW to 1 GW laser fusion power plant, and the U.S. is ahead of them at this stage.
$150 billion. Mind you, if you missed it, this is 750% more expensive than ITER. It was President Ronald Reagan who proposed Space Station Freedom for $8.4 billion. Then President Bill Clinton cancelled that version, but proposed this current international partnership for $17.4 billion. Factor of ten or so more expensive? About right. After a decade of operation, how many commercial products have made it to the marketplace? None. How many will in another ten years? Probably none. The similarity is that, like ISS, which is slowly being abandoned, every country, including the European Union, is also trying to escape from ITER, but can't find a politically expedient way to do this.
Higgs Boson, has a price tag of $10 billion. Will anything realistically useful derive from this facility? No. So, in many ways, ITER is a kind of bargain. For only $20 billion (don't forget that $150 billion ISS), it is possible that Humanity will well be on our way to a fabulous new and renewable energy form (remember, there is sufficient deuterium in the ocean for 150 billion years at current consumption--and our Sun becomes a Red Giant in, oh, 5 billion years, enveloping Planet Earth).
Superconducting Super Collider in Texas. In 1993, about a decade later, the project was cancelled (I've not seen the true story of how this happened--I wonder why no one wrote that book or made that movie) after a magnificent toroidal (15 feet diameter and 30 kilometers long) hole in the ground was excavated (left) for $2 billion. The finished facility was expected to cost $11 billion, so in 2012 dollars, that was a savings of almost $25 billion. While it is possible that the SSC should have discovered the "God Particle" before CERN, as it was supposed to have five times the collision energy of the LHC, so what? Well, that would have been nice for national bragging rights, but for all that money?
$500 billion (which automatically means at least a trillion dollars). Not sure they got the message, but Congress in 2010 killed the 2020 Mars Project. On September 25 there is a talk about just this effort on the University of Hawaii campus, in fact, four floors up from my office, to cheerlead this initiative. I should go and express my annoyance, for we need to abandon space for at least a century until we first resolve the onrushing double hammer of Peak Oil and Global Warming. But, I have something more important to do.
It is going to work...because it must.