First plasma for WEST fusion reactor

19 December 2016

WEST is the new name for Tore Supra, a plasma facility near Cadarache in southern France, which has been upgraded to undertake research towards the Iter fusion project. The reactor celebrated its first plasma on 14 December.

Tokamak fusion reactors feature a divertor structure to remove any unwanted atoms from the plasma chamber, including the helium produced by fusion itself. All of these elements are flung by centrifugal force into an absorber material, which naturally heats up tremendously.

WEST is designed to test prototype components and accelerate their development for Iter, which will be by far the world's most powerful fusion reactor when it starts up, hopefully in 2025. The name WEST stands for 'W' Environment in a Steady-state Tokamak, where W is the chemical symbol for tungsten, the material that will be used for the Iter divertor.

WEST coil rewinding workers (CEA) 460
Workers celebrate completing the rewinding of divertor coils in August (Image: CEA)

France's nuclear and renewable research agency CEA owns WEST and will use it to minimise the cost and schedule risks of industrialising Iter's components by testing prototypes. It will also give initial findings on the functioning of the divertor and test the durability and ageing of tungsten materials.

Transforming Tore Supra into WEST required an extensive refit, beginning in 2013. The previously uniform plasma was changed to focus energy on the divertor by installing new poloidal field magnetic coils in the vacuum vessel. A new cooling system was been installed, including active cooling for the divertor, and all plasma-facing components are now metal to allow for more experiments to take place.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News