The engineers involved in ITER’s Remote Handling system face several challenges: first, they have to develop some of the most futuristic pieces of equipment that will operate using virtual reality and man-in-the-loop robotics; second, although ITER is by far the biggest fusion device, space is an issue because there is a lot of tooling which needs to be neatly installed; third, due to the levels of radiation in the machine, all maintenance needs to be carried out remotely and the equipment needs to fit for this environment; and last but not least, this is a community of experts entering unchartered territory. Nothing like this has been tried before.
The prospect of beating all previous records by delivering a piece of equipment that will push forward R&D is on its own enticing enough to get involved in a project. If one gets to be a pioneer but also has the opportunity to acquire know-how which could yield substantial benefits the temptation is even greater. Take for instance the beam source for MITICA, the second experiment of the prestigious ITER Neutral Beam Test Facility, which will help us to fine-tune key fusion technologies. It’s an invitation to make history in the field of negative ion beams.
“Climate Change – The New Economy” is the key publication for COP as it provides the stage for world leaders, government and NGO representatives to present their vision, as well as for scientists, experts and companies to offer technological solutions for the future. The publication is released a few weeks before the conference. In this year’s edition, Johannes Schwemmer, F4E Director, advocates in favour of fusion as an “abundant, safe and sustainable energy for the future”, underlines the importance of ITER as “an essential step to binging the power of the sun to earth”, and highlights the role of the EU in the quest for fusion energy.
When ITER is operational the gases resulting from the fusion reaction will be pumped with the help of six cryopumps from the lower part of the torus to the roughing system, and two from the cryostat of the machine. The cryopumps, which measure 3.4 x 1.8 m and weigh about 7.8 t will be identical for both systems. In essence, they will pump gases by absorption on charcoal coated cryopanels at 4.5 K and subsequently will treat them in a closed circuit as part of the fuel cycle.
“F4E has signed a contract worth 1.3 million EUR with Spanish company Sgenia for the manufacturing of platforms into which diagnostic sensors will be integrated, for installation inside the ITER machine. The purpose of these platforms is to provide mechanical support, protection and electrical connectivity for the sensors. This is the largest manufacturing contract placed to date by F4E Diagnostics Project Team.”
In the outskirts of Padua (Italy), at the leafy entrance of Consorzio RFX, a truck has received permission to deliver a bulky piece of equipment at the rear end of its premises where the ITER Neutral Beam Test Facility (NBTF) is located. MITICA, which stands for Megavolt ITER Injector and Concept Advancement, is expected to play a crucial role in the heating systems of the biggest fusion device. Its aim is to develop a Neutral Beam Injector (NBI) prototype similar to the one that will operate in ITER and monitor its performance through various tests.
In order to get a good view of the ITER plasma, many of ITERs diagnostics must sit right at its edge: in one of the most challenging environments on ITER. Fortunately, Diagnostic Shielding Modules, or DSMs, are there to provide them a safe home. These steel structures, which are mounted in many of ITERs port plugs and weigh up to 3 tonnes each, support and protect the delicate Diagnostic components whilst shielding from ITERs neutrons. F4E will supply nine such modules; installed in the five Diagnostics port plugs (of 18 in total on ITER) that F4E is providing.
The wooden box containing ITER’s first Inner-Vertical Target (IVT) prototype left from the workshop of Ansaldo Nucleare (Genoa, Italy) and travelled at least 2800 km to reach the doorstep of the Efremov Institute (Saint Petersburg, Russia) in order to go through its first tests. Don’t feel any pity for this piece of equipment leaving the moderate European climate for a chillier one. It is meant to be resistant and eventually in the ITER machine it will be one of the components that will be exposed to the super-hot temperatures of the plasma. This is why engineers call it a “plasma facing component”.
ITER counts at least 10 million components which will need to be fitted carefully in the machine. But that’s not all. The list grows if ones takes into consideration the civil engineering equipment and infrastructure which will be required to house the biggest-ever fusion device. Engineers are striving for milimetric accuracy and in spite of the XL size of the ITER machine, space is a real issue because it is limited. Consequently, everything needs to be installed neatly and accurately. Think for instance of the position of the embedded plates in the Tokamak building or the assembly of the massive equipment. It’s a jigsaw where all parts are interconnected. A titanic operation that can only be carried out with the help of metrology, a discipline traced in Ancient Greece, where the word comes from, which means the science of measurement.
With an obvious and keen interest for European and global energy production issues, F4E hosted the annual Energy Group Meeting of the European Physical Society (EPS) at its Barcelona headquarters during 4-5 October. Gathering 25 participants from 15 countries all over the world, the purpose of the meeting was to exchange knowledge and give an overview of energy-related topics.
The total number of the ITER components, their weight and size are truly impressive. The biggest fusion machine in history, counting at least one million pieces of equipment, will weigh approximately 23 000 t and will be housed in a 60 m high building. Everything about this project is a supersize shifting our mindset from “standard” fusion experiments currently in operation.
Martina Dlabajová, MEP of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Vice-Chair of the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament, visited the ITER site in Cadarache. As rapporteur for the 2017 budgetary discharge of F4E, Martina Dlabajová was keen to receive an update on the overall progress of the ITER project and in particular on the contribution of Europe.
The drilling and building on the ITER site naturally catch our attention because all the activities are unfolding outdoors. The aerial shots offer us a spectacular view of the progress. There is however another aspect to the ITER site, one linked to tooling and manufacturing. Four of the five massive Poloidal Field (PF) coils, which Europe needs to deliver, are produced in a huge workshop which is also located on-site. F4E and its contractors have set up a facility to produce the large magnetic coils that will control the shape and stability of the super-hot plasma. More than 70 people are daily working in this factory and they are focused on meeting the tight production schedule.
18 powerful superconducting magnets, known as Toroidal Field coils, will be powered with 68 000 A to generate a magnetic field of 11.8 Tesla (approximately 1 million times stronger the magnetic fields of the Earth!). In this “cage” we will entrap the energy of a small sun.
The Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT) brings together scientists, engineers, laboratories, industry and SMEs, policy-makers as well as the future generation of Europe’s fusion community. It is the place to be to find out more about the state of play of current fusion experiments, technology breakthroughs and the progress of big projects like ITER. Every two years the most prominent fusion experts from around the globe meet for five days to discuss the progress of their work, present new breakthroughs, debate the future of their field and network ̶ it is one of the most anticipated rendezvous of the fusion community.
The “Global Power and Energy Exhibition (GPEX)” took place in Barcelona between 17-20 September 2018. Co-located with Gastech, the major event of the global gas industry, GPEX2018 showcases strategies and technologies needed to adapt to the global energy transition. It brought together more than 30,000 participants, more than 100 exhibiting companies, 200 conference delegates and 180 expert speakers from the global power and energy community, including government, commercial and industrial power users, gas operators, power producers and distributors.
A set of 18 Toroidal Field (TF) coils will create a massive magnetic cage to confine ITER’s superhot plasma. While keeping the hot gas away from the walls of the vacuum vessel, they may experience some fatigue or deformation resulting from the powerful magnetic fields. Nine pre-compression rings hold the key to the survival of the TF coils.
The civil engineering works at the Tokamak complex, which consists of the Tritium, Tokamak, and Diagnostics buildings, are advancing. The construction works of the walls of the last floor (Level 5) of the Tokamak building have started, raising the total of people involved in the construction of the complex to 750. And just as the building is rising by one level, more concrete is poured to form the so-called crown, where the ITER machine will rest upon.
The trucks transporting the equipment of the cryoplant that will cool down MITICA, the second experiment of the prestigious ITER Neutral Beam Test Facility, have reached Padua. It’s a humid hot summer afternoon, in stark contrast to the cold temperatures that will be produced by the “refrigerator” of this experiment.
Six massive superconducting magnets, known as Poloidal Field (PF) coils, will embrace the ITER machine from top to bottom to shape and contribute to the stability of the superhot plasma. Europe is responsible for the production of five of these coils.
Based on the success of BSBF2018, the Big Science organisations of BSBF (CERN, EMBL, ESA, ESO, ESRF, ESS, European XFEL, F4E and ILL) have now decided to call for bids from interested parties to become the host of Big Science Business Forum 2020 (BSBF2020) to be held in the first half of 2020.