ITER deal moves fusion experiment forwards

Yoana Cholteeva 15 October 2019 (Last Updated June 22nd, 2020 16:32)

An international consortium has secured a contract to build the tokamak reactor of the ITER international hydrogen fusion project.

ITER deal moves fusion experiment forwards
Like in a star, the reactor will apply extreme heat and pressure to gaseous hydrogen fuel, turning it into a plasma, a form of electrically-charged gas. Source: Framatome

An international consortium has secured a contract to build the tokamak reactor of the ITER international hydrogen fusion project.

The consortium includes French firm Framatome, alongside China Nuclear Power Engineering, China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction Company, Southwestern Institute of Physics and the Institute of Plasma Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who will construct and install the experimental machine.

The consortium will install the tokamak’s stainless-steel pressure chamber, known as the cryostat, and its thermal shield, magnet power supply, electromagnet correction coils, cooling equipment and instrumentation

Framatome’s Installed Base Business Unit senior executive vice president Catherine Cornand said: “Framatome is proud to contribute to the most ambitious energy project in the world.

“Over the past six decades, Framatome’s teams have acquired unparalleled experience on more than 380 reactors worldwide,” she added. “This contract is recognition of our expertise and know-how in the fields of innovation, engineering and services, installation, maintenance, and component replacements on demanding and complex nuclear projects.”

The construction involves 35 nations including China, Russia, Japan, India, Korea, and the US, which are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak, made to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy following the principle that powers the Sun and the stars.

Like in a star, the reactor will apply extreme heat and pressure to gaseous hydrogen fuel, turning it into a plasma, a form of electrically-charged gas. In intense temperatures of up to 300 million degrees, these plasma particles collide and fuse into one another, releasing what ITER calls “huge amounts of energy”, which is then absorbed as heat by the walls of the reactor, and used to turn water into steam and power turbines.

While industrial-scale fusion reactors have not yet been constructed, ITER claims that its tokamak will have a plasma chamber ten times the volume of the largest existing reactor, and will be able to produce 500MW of fusion power from just 50MW of heating power input.

ITER director-general Bernard Bigot said: “We look forward to collaborating with world-renowned industry specialists for the on-time and specification assembly of one of the world’s most challenging, promising and important scientific instruments.”

ITER recognises the potential of fusion as the process requires little fuel and provides large amounts of carbon-free, sustainable energy. The company has also set goals to create a system for liquid helium, the largest super connecting magnets system and the largest microwave heating technology.