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ITER – Unlimited energy

Joanne McIntyre - 30 June 2016

One million components, ten million parts…the ITER Tokamak will be the largest and most power fusion device in the world.

About the author

Mrs Joanne McIntyre
Joanne McIntyre is the Editor in Chief of Stainless Steel World magazine, and Conference Coordinator for the Duplex Seminar & Summit.
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Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun and the stars, is a potential source of safe, non-carbon emitting and virtually limitless energy. Harnessing fusion’s power is the goal of ITER (‘the way ‘in Latin), has been designed as the key experimental step between today’s fusion research machines and tomorrows’ fusion power plants.

Designed to produce 500 MW of fusion power for 50 MW of input power - a power amplification of 10 - ITER will take its place in history as the first fusion device to create net energy.

Following announcements this week of a mega-deal for the ongoing construction of the site, it seems timely to recap this amazing project. Representatives of the ITER Organisation announced a construction management-as-agent (CMA) contract with the MOMENTUM joint venture, led by Amec Foster Wheeler in partnership with Assystem and KEPCO Engineering and Construction Company. Worth an impressive EUR 174 million, the contract will run for 10-years with an option for a three-year extension.

Of course construction is well underway and in the years ahead over 4,000 workers will be required for on-site building, assembly and installation activities. The ITER project involves 35 countries who will collaborate for 35 years to complete the project.

The stainless steel vacuum vessel houses the fusion reactions and acts as a first safety containment barrier. It is a double-walled, hermetically sealed steel container that is equipped with 44 openings, or ports, to allow access for remote handling operations, diagnostics, heating and vacuum systems. Note the human figure indicating the scale of this massive vessel!

Here are some more highlights:

  • 100,000 kilometres of niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) superconducting strands are necessary for ITER's toroidal field magnets. Fabricated by suppliers in six ITER Domestic Agencies—China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA—production began in 2009 and is currently drawing to a close. Over 400 tonnes of this multifilament wire has been produced for ITER at a rate of about 150 tonnes/year, a spectacular increase in worldwide production capacity (estimated, before the scale-up for ITER, at a maximum of 15 tonnes/year). Stretched end to end, the Nb3Sn strand produced for ITER would wrap around the Earth at the equator twice.

  • In the ITER Tokamak, temperatures will reach 150 million°C—that’s ten times the temperature at the core of our Sun.

  • The ITER machine will weigh 23,000 tons. The metal contained in the Eiffel Tower (7,300 tons) can't compare ... the ITER Tokamak will be as heavy as three Eiffel Towers.
    The vacuum vessel, with its ports, blanket and divertor, weighs 8,000 tons. Approximately one million components will be integrated into this complex machine

Eighteen "D"-shaped toroidal field magnets will surround the torus-shaped vacuum vessel to confine the plasma particles. Measuring 17 metres in height, 9 metres in width, and weighing in at 310 tons each, these coils rank among the largest components of the ITER machine. Again, note the human figure for scale!

For more information on ITER click here. All photos ©ITER

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