France won an international competition today to be the site of the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor, an estimated $12 billion project that many scientists see as essential to solving the world’s future energy needs.

“It is a great success for France, for Europe and for all the partners” in the reactor project, President Jacques Chirac of France said in a statement after an international consortium chose the country as the site for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

Japan, which had lobbied hard for the project, just dropped out of the bidding. The six-member consortium, which includes the United States, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and the European Union, agreed in Moscow to build the reactor in the southern French city of Cadarache.

By Craig S. Smith

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