Nuclear fusion: ITER experimental reactor gets its core

The ITER nuclear fusion reactor project will soon have a main component: the US company General Atomics has completed part of the central magnet and sent it on its way. It should reach the construction site of the reactor near Cadarache in southern France by the beginning of September.

The ITER experimental reactor is intended to test the technology with which energy could be generated from the fusion of hydrogen atoms. The costs are estimated at more than 20 billion euros. The project, in which the EU, Japan, the USA, Russia, China, South Korea and India are involved, started in 2006, the first work on the construction site began in 2010, and installation work began almost a year ago.

The construction of the magnet began in 2015 after a four-year development period, it says in an ITER communication. It is supposed to direct current impulses of 15 million amperes in the plasma. For each cylinder coil (solenoid) of the six modules, 5 kilometers of steel-sheathed niobium-tin superconductor cables were used. The modules are altogether 18 meters high and weigh more than a thousand tons. They should generate a magnetic field strength of 13 Tesla; we’re talking about the most powerful magnet in the world.

In the next few days, the first module is to be loaded onto a special transport vehicle near San Diego, which is to drive towards the port of Houston. There it is to be reloaded onto a ship to Marseille. A second module is to be loaded later next summer. Five more modules, one of which will serve as a replacement, are to be installed in 2023 to 2024.

Eighteen D-shaped ring field magnets placed around the vacuum vessel are designed to generate a magnetic field, the main function of which is to confine the plasma particles. (Image: ITER)

Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions has meanwhile completed the first toroidal, D-shaped ring field coilwhich are also among the core components of the ITER tokamak. Toshiba will manufacture four of them in total. Each coil consists of a superconducting core winding made of 4.57 km of niobium tin in a stainless steel coil housing. They each weigh 360 tons and are among the largest ITER components.

A total of 18 toroidal and six poloidal magnetic coils on the outside of the plasma ring are supposed to control the safe confinement of the plasma. The magnets become superconducting by being cooled with -269 ° C helium. They generate a total magnetic energy of 51 gigajoules and a field of almost 12 Tesla around the 150 million ° C hot plasma to keep it away from the walls in the donut-shaped vessel.


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