ITER is our hope for our energy requirements in the future, together with NIF (see here). The success of these two experiments should grant that one of the greatest problems of humankind will be solved. ITER is a fusion reactor based on tokamak, a toroidal chamber confining a high-temperature plasma with magnetic fields. Its main aim will be just to demonstrate the feasibility of a full working reactor to satisfy our energy needs. Rumors are widespreading about delays and increasing costs of this project. I have read about this matter on an Italian newspaper (see here). General director Kaname Ikeda is nor confirmirg neither denying these rumors but presently it seems that costs are doubled and the start-up is delayed to 2025 (2018 foreseen) making a large scale available technology a century far in the future. If all this will be confirmed, it will represent a serious setback to our hope for a better future.
Update: A very informative article is appeared in Physics World. See here to read it.
National Ignition Facility started this year at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. This project has the ambition to give an answer to our quest for nuclear fusion as a reliable source of energy.Funded by US government, it has implied delays and cost increase during its realization. But the aims are so relevant that this is worthwhile spent money. The approach for this experiment is that of inertial fusion. This technique uses power lasers to hit a pellet of fusion material. Pressure of light, when applied uniformly on the target, will push nuclei so near to win the effect of the Coulomb barrier and so they start to fuse each other relaxing a large amount of energy. This is our dream of a sun on earth. I think people is also aware of the other way research is pursuing through tokamak where a plasma is heated through different means to achieve the same goal. For this track, ITER is still at very start of its realization.
As usual, there is a very good article on the New York Times about NIF (see here). The hope is to solve one of the most difficult problems of humankind. So, we can only wish the best of lucks at NIF.