Contract for Iter remote handling system

06 June 2014

A contract has been awarded for the supply of a remote handling system for installing, maintaining and recovering components of the international Iter fusion project's Tokamak during its operational life.

Remote handling system for ITER divertor 460 (Assystem)
The divertor remote handling system within the Tokamak (Image: Assystem)

Iter's European domestic agency, Fusion for Energy (F4E), awarded the contract for the divertor remote handling system to a consortium led by French engineering consultancy Assystem. Its partners include the UK's Culham Centre of Fusion Energy and Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd, as well as Finland's Technical research Centre (VTT) and the Tampere University of Technology (TUT).

The divertor - a key component of the Iter machine - is located at the bottom of the vacuum vessel and extracts impurities from the superhot plasma. It consists of 54 removable cassettes, each measuring 3.4m long, 1.2m wide and 0.6m thick and weighing 10 tonnes. The remote handling equipment will be used to manipulate and transport these cassettes, which are expected to be replaced three times during the Iter machine's lifetime.

The design, manufacture, delivery, installation and commissioning of Iter's divertor handling system will be covered through the contract, as well as the manufacture of two multifunctional movers and two toroidal movers. The contract - worth around €40 million ($55 million) - is expected to run for up to seven years.

A divertor test platform - a full-scale model of the divertor - was built at VTT's facilities in Tampere, Finland, for the development and testing of the remote maintenance system. The test platform measures some 20m in length and weighs 65 tonnes.

F4E director Henrik Bindslev said, "This contract is a turning point for Iter's remote handling system because it will lead us to production mode."

The Iter project - under construction at Cadarache in southern France - is meant to take nuclear fusion research to a new level with the largest ever Tokamak unit, which should be capable of sustaining plasmas that produce 500 MWt for as long as seven minutes. The EU is funding half of the cost while the remainder comes in equal parts from the other partners: China, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea and the USA.

Construction work on Iter began in 2010 and is expected to come to an end in 2019. A commissioning phase will follow that will ensure all systems operate together and prepare the machine for the achievement of first plasma in November 2020. Iter's operational phase is expected to last for 20 years.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News