Assembly of ITER tokamak officially under way

29 July 2020

A ceremony was held yesterday within the ITER Assembly Hall to mark the official start of the assembly of the tokamak fusion device of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) at Cadarache in south-eastern France. Assembly of the tokamak is expected to take five years to complete.

The ceremony in ITER's Assembly Hall (Image: Iter Organisation)

Construction of ITER began in 2010. In March this year, the European Domestic Agency handed over the central building of the ITER scientific installation - the Tokamak Building - to the Iter Organisation for the start of machine assembly. The main components of the tokamak have already arrived at the ITER construction site from all over the world. The first magnets from Europe and Japan have been delivered, while the 1250-tonne steel base of the cryostat, manufactured by India, is already installed in the Tokamak Building. This week, the first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel arrived in France from South Korea, preparing the way for machine assembly.

At the ceremony yesterday, President Emmanuel Macron of France and dignitaries from the seven ITER Members acknowledged the importance of the moment, reaffirmed their confidence in ITER's success and congratulated the "One ITER team" for the progress achieved.

"Today is an historic moment," said Iter Organisation Director-General Bernard Bigot. He said ITER is "the first-of-a-kind machine made up of many first-of-a-kind components and breakthrough inventions. To build this machine - a star on Earth - requires a level of international collaboration that is also first-of-a-kind." He added, "Building a fusion power plant isn't easy. We are moving forward as rapidly as possible, but in order to succeed we must also be deliberate. Quality and safety are always to be first. If we succeed, it will be worth all the time and effort that has brought us to this point.

"Today, as we look forward to the machine assembly phase, we know that the hardest part lies ahead. Constructing the machine, piece by piece, will be like assembling a giant three-dimensional puzzle on an intricate timeline."

ITER will be the world's largest tokamak: 30 metres in diameter and of similar height, weighing a total of 23,000 tonnes, comprising about 1 million individual components and 1200 engineering packages. The 500 MW tokamak fusion device (requiring an input of 50 MW) is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy. The European Union is contributing almost half of the cost of its construction, while the other six members (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA) are contributing equally to the rest. First plasma is scheduled for 2025 and the start of deuterium-tritium operation is set for 2035.

"We know we need a replacement for fossil fuels as soon as possible," Bigot said. "We understand very clearly the promise of fusion power as a safe, reliable, environmentally sustainable and virtually unlimited source of energy. If fusion power becomes universal, complimentary to renewable energies, the use of electricity could be expanded greatly."

Speaking via video link, Macron said: "ITER is a promise of progress and confidence in science; it is already a scientific and technological feat. Imagine that this experiment is conclusive and that industrial applications follow ... we will have developed a new form of energy that is non-polluting, carbon-free, safe and practically without waste; energy that will answer the needs of populations in all parts of the world, meet the challenges of climate change and preserve natural resources."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News