Contract for main fusion reactor buildings

16 January 2013

The largest civil engineering contract for the Iter project has been announced, laying a path for the €500 million ($665 million) construction of main buildings - including the one that will house the Tokamak reactor itself.

A seven-company consortium called VFR won the contract towards the fusion reactor being built at Cadarache in southern France. The central Tokamak Building will be 120 metres long and 80 metres in height and width. This is to be supported on anti-seismic bearings which are already in place to support the 23,000 tonne mass of the reactor system.

Iter buildings (Iosis)
An impression of the Iter complex

In addition to this central building, VFR will also construct separate specialist buildings for diagnostics, tritium, radio frequency heating, the cryoplant compressor and coldbox, ventilation and air conditioning, control, fast discharge, cleaning and site services. Three bridges are also included in the contract, which will take five-and-a-healf years to fulfil.

The Iter project is meant to take achievements in nuclear fusion 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. Located within the EU, that bloc 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.

The consortium

The VFR consortium consists of French firms Vinci Construction Grand Projets, Razel-Bec, Dodin Campenon Bernard, Campenon Bernard Sud-Est, GTM Sud and Chantiers Moderns Sud with Spanish company Ferrovial Agroman.

After five years of gradual site preparation, construction was officially authorised by French government decree in November last year. About 200 construction workers are currently on site but this figure will grow to 3000 by mid-2014. The facility is currently expected to reach full operation in 2027.

Other recent contracts for Iter include a €12 million ($15.9 million) deal for EADS CASA Espacio of Spain to make nine fibreglass pre-compression rings which will reduce fatigue on Iter's huge magnetic components and extend their lifespan to 20 years. Six of the coils will be installed when Iter begins operation with three spares kept within the cryostat below the Tokamak unit itself.

Another contract worth €4 million ($5.3 million) and signed this month will see the UK's Amec deliver the test blanket module. This makes use of neutron radiation produced by the reactor to create tritium for use as fuel. Amec is also involved an engineering arm of Iberdrola of Spain to develop a semi-prototype panel for the internal wall of the reactor cavity.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News