ITER, the world’s largest international scientific collaboration, is beginning assembly of the fusion reactor tokamak that will include 12 different essential hardware systems provided by US ITER, which is managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Separately, ASG Superconductors recently completed a massive superconducting magnet at its plant in Italy for the project.
The systems include superconductors for the toroidal field magnet system and ORNL-developed pellet injection technology for plasma fueling and performance. These critical components will help ITER achieve its mission to demonstrate a self-heated, burning plasma and 500 megawatts of fusion power.
The 60-foot-tall central solenoid magnet, also fabricated under ORNL management, is considered the “heart of ITER” because it will initiate and drive plasma current inside the tokamak.
“The start of ITER tokamak assembly is a momentous milestone for the project and makes the fusion community at Oak Ridge and around the world excited for the future,” said Kathy McCarthy, US ITER project director.
The first shipment of central solenoid modules to ITER, located in southern France, will begin later this year.
The core of another ITER superconducting magnet has been completed in compliance with COVID-19 regulations, and its transport will be conducted in line with the new protocols. The massive piece of equipment will depart from the ASG Superconductors factory, La Spezia, to be delivered to Marghera where it will go through the final steps of manufacturing. Once completed, the component will be transported to Cadarache, France, to be part of the larger fusion device.
ITER is the biggest international scientific experiment to test the potential of fusion energy, which is described as efficient, environmentally responsible and secure. Seven international partners, the European Union, China, Japan, USA, Russia, India and South Korea. Fusion for Energy (F4E), the EU organization managing Europe’s contribution to ITER, is responsible for nearly 50% of the project. Through F4E’s procurement and manufacturing strategy, European companies and laboratories participate with their know-how and technical expertise delivering the EU’s share of components. At least 40 companies and more than 700 people are involved in the production of the ten Toroidal Field (TF) coils.
In total, ITER will use 18 of TF coils, powerful superconducting magnets to confine the burning plasma which will reach 150 million °C. They will create a massive magnetic cage to keep the hot gas away from the walls of the vessel of the machine. When powered with current (68 000 A) the magnetic field will reach up to 11.8 Tesla which is about 250 000 times the magnetic field of the Earth. Each magnet measures 17 x 9 meters and weighs 320 tons or as much as an Airbus A350. The ITER TF coils are the largest Nb3Sn magnets ever produced in history: 4 570 meters of superconducting cable are used for each magnet, and the processing phases involve a mix of heat treatment processes, tests in vacuum chambers, sophisticated welding and manual works.