Amec Foster Wheeler awarded Iter robotics contract

11 May 2015

Fusion for Energy (F4E) has awarded a contract to the UK's Amec Foster Wheeler for a remote handling system for the Iter fusion reactor's neutral beam cell. F4E said it is "one of the largest robotics contracts to date in the field of fusion energy".

Under the €70 million ($78 million) framework contract, Amec Foster Wheeler will design, manufacture, factory test, deliver and commission Iter's neutral beam remote handling system. F4E - the European Union's organization responsible for Europe's contribution to Iter - said the contract is expected to run for seven years.

The neutral beam injectors will fire high-energy particle beams to heat up the plasma inside the Tokamak until it is hot enough for fusion to take place. During outages, the complex internal systems of these machines must be maintained, repaired and replaced remotely. The neutral beam cell's remote handling system will serve this purpose.

The remote handling system will include a 90-meter monorail that will run above the neutral beam cell. It will incorporate transfer trolleys, beam line transporters and a variety of supporting beams that will operate in coordination with tooling and manipulators. Some of the key tasks performed will include maintenance work on the neutral beam injectors, with the cutting and welding of myriads of pipes, and the transportation of heavy components to the neutral beam cell storage area or its main entrance for refurbishment and disposal.

Under the contract, Amec Foster Wheeler will be prime contractor, while a group of laboratories and companies will act as specialist sub-contractors. These include the UK's Culham Centre for Fusion, Hyde Group and Capula; Reel SAS of France; Germany's Wallischmiller Engineering GmbH; KU Leuven-MaGyICs of Belgium; and, Finland's Technical research Centre (VTT) and the Technical University of Tampere.

F4E acting director Pietro Barabaschi said, "Thanks to this collaboration, leading innovators will be joining forces to deliver high-end engineering for Iter's maintenance system and will push forward know-how in robotics, a field with many applications."

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. The facility is expected to reach full operation in 2027. Iter's operational phase is expected to last for 20 years.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News