Another truck drives through the gates of Italy’s National Research Council in Padua, heading towards the premises of Consortium RFX. More equipment is on its way to MITICA (Megavolt ITER Injector and Concept Advancement) – an experiment which will test the potential of a Neutral Beam Injector (NBI) prototype similar to that of ITER.
To get closer to commercial fusion power we need to invest in materials able to withstand conditions similar to those of DEMO, the fusion device that will follow ITER. Europe and Japan have agreed to develop LIPAc – a prototype accelerator to validate the design of the low energy part of a neutron source facility aiming to qualify materials.
Engineers from F4E, ITER Japan, Consorzio RFX, ITER Japan, ITER Organization, and the companies involved in the fabrication of the power supplies of MITICA – an experiment testing a Neutral Beam Injector (NBI) prototype similar to that of ITER – met in Padua to put their pieces of equipment to a series of tests.
Every quarter, under the guidance of ITER Organization, the technical teams of Europe, Russia, China and Korea meet to discuss the progress of the Blanket components which they have to deliver as part of the biggest fusion machine. The meeting site is on a rotating basis and attendees have the capacity to join either in person or remotely. This time F4E offered to host the event in Barcelona bringing together 51 participants from different countries. Such meetings help towards building a one-team spirit, promote useful exchanges between members and encourage them to act in an integrated manner.
It has been a year since the inauguration of SPIDER, the world’s most powerful negative ion source at the service of the fusion community to master key technologies in the field of powerful heating systems. The knowledge acquired will be used in ITER.
It has been a year since the inauguration of SPIDER, the world’s most powerful negative ion source at the service of the fusion community to master key technologies in the field of powerful heating systems. The knowledge acquired will be used in ITER. This is why it is hosted in the ITER Neutral Beam Test Facility (Padua, Italy), an international centre of scientific excellence. F4E, Consorzio RFX, ITER India, ITER Organization, together with approximately 120 companies, have contributed to this experiment by means of components, infrastructure and know-how. The value of components paid by F4E is in the range of 34 million EUR, while for India the investment has been roughly 3 million EUR. Consorzio RFX financed the construction paying approximately 25 million EUR. In the adjacent hall, another experiment – MITICA – is also in progress counting on contributions from F4E, Consorzio RFX, ITER Japan, ITER Organization.
Europe is responsible for the production of the nine Pre-Compression Rings (PCRs) which will absorb the fatigue and deformation felt by the ITER Toroidal Field (TF) coils. Three of them will be placed on top of the TF coils and another three below them. An extra set of three will be kept in reserve.
The teams of F4E and ASIPP (The Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences) have every reason to be happy with the manufacturing progress of ITER’s sixth Poloidal Field coil (PF6)—they are only a few steps away from the finish line for this magnetic ring which has a 10 m diameter and a total weight of 400 t. The first of the six PF coils which will be part of ITER’s powerful magnetic system is almost ready.
A major ITER component, the Vacuum Vessel is the steel container where the fusion reactions will take place. F4E is responsible for manufacturing and delivering five of the nine first-of-a-kind, gigantic D-shaped parts known as sectors which make up the Vacuum Vessel and which will each measure 6.5 metres high, 3 metres wide and 6.3 metres deep, and weigh around 500 tonnes.
The morning shift comes to an end and a group of 160 workers involved in the construction of the Tokamak building is ready to go. Almost in perfect coordination they leave this labyrinth of concrete and steel wearing their hard hats, glasses, gloves and jackets to hand over to the next shift. Roughly 350 people are working round the clock during the three shifts. It has been a long day because there have been some new developments on-site: the first pieces of the 40 steel columns that will be erected to form the roof of the Tokamak building are here.
After a small hiatus required for the maintenance of equipment, the teams of engineers from Europe and Japan working for the Broader Approach IFMIF/EVEDA project are back in the control room to switch on again the beam of LIPAc – a prototype accelerator that will help them to validate the design of the future neutron source to test material for DEMO, the fusion machine to follow ITER.
A blanket of 440 modules covering a surface of 600 m² will protect the inner walls of the ITER Vacuum Vessel and the Toroidal Field coils from the scorching temperatures of the fusion reaction and the high-energy resulting from it.
Inside the clean room workshop of De Pretto Industrie (Vincenza) a team of technicians is inspecting the large stainless steel vessel. The vessel has passed successfully the Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) proving it is leak tight. It will house the beam source of MITICA – a testbed which will allow industry to manufacture for the first time a real-size Neutral Beam Injector (NBI) according to ITER specifications, and give the opportunity to physicists and engineers to monitor its performance before the “real” component is produced to operate in ITER.
The F4E team is carrying out a routine inspection at CNIM (La Seyne sur Mer) before the machines are switched on to start fabricating the ITER Pre-Compression Rings (PCRs). The raw material to be used –pultrude laminate— comes from Exel, a company based in Finland. This is a genuinely European collaboration connecting north and south. The workforces have been briefed. Their mission is to produce all of the nine PCRs (six plus three spare). The prototypes produced by CNIM have responded well to the demanding tests they had to go through. Now is the time to start the production of the ITER PCRs which will be installed in the machine.
DEMO – the demonstration fusion machine to follow ITER— has always been a bit of an enigma.What will it look like, how many buildings will it have, will it resemble to ITER? F4E and EUROfusion joined forces to develop the first illustration of the entire power plant.