The cooling pipes that snake along the surface of the vacuum vessel thermal shield will be removed and replaced. Here, on a right-hand outboard panel, workers determine the impact of pipe removal on the surface of the component. (Photo: ITER Organization)
ITER’s machine assembly phase began about two and a half years ago. Now, staff are reversing some of that assembly work to make needed repairs. According to a news article published by the ITER Organization on January 9, ITER is “facing challenges common to every industrial venture involving first-of-a-kind components.” Over one year after problems were first detected and less than two months after they were made public in late November, tests and analysis are producing a clearer picture of necessary repairs to the tokamak’s thermal shield panels and vacuum vessel sectors.
“There is no scandal here,” said ITER director general Pietro Barabaschi. “Such things happen. I've seen many issues of the kind, and much worse.”
A total of about 23 kilometers (about 14 miles) of piping are welded to the surface of the thermal shield panels. The piping on a vacuum vessel thermal shield panel is clearly visible in this photo. (Photo: ITER Organization)
The ITER Organization is working on a new baseline schedule for the magnetic confinement fusion experiment launched in 1985 and now under construction in southern France. First plasma was scheduled for December 2025 and deuterium-tritium operations for 2035 under a schedule approved in November 2016 that will soon be shelved. In addition to impacts from COVID-19 delays and uncertainty resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine, ITER leaders must now factor in repair time for “component challenges.”
The JET tokamak. (Photo: European Consortium for the Development)
Nuclear fusion “might actually be on the cusp of commercial viability” today, says a recent article in Fortune magazine. The article offers a brief review of recent technical and entrepreneurial developments in fusion energy. It also places these developments in perspective regarding the hurdles that remain before commercialization can be realized.
The first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel was placed in the assembly pit in May. Here, a technician positions targets on the surface of the component to be used in laser metrology. (Photo: ITER Organization)
Delivery of electricity from fusion is considered by the National Academies of Engineering to be one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. The tremendous progress in fusion science and technology is underpinning efforts by nuclear experts and advocates to tackle many of the key challenges that must be addressed to construct a fusion pilot plant and make practical fusion possible.
Ambassador Philippe Étienne (sixth from left) and staff from the Consulate General of France with senior leaders from General Atomics at the GA Magnet Technologies Center in Los Angeles. In the background are two partially completed ITER central solenoid modules. (Photo: GA)
General Atomics’ Magnet Technologies Center in Poway, Calif., played host last week to French ambassador Philippe Étienne, the company announced June 16. During the visit, which was hosted by Vivek Lall, chief executive of the General Atomics Global Corporation, Étienne viewed ITER central solenoid modules—all destined for shipment to France—in several stages of the fabrication process.
“General Atomics and French organizations have a strong relationship in both the defense and energy sectors, as well as in the unmanned field, that meet both France’s and the United States’ important interests,” Étienne remarked during his visit.
Government policies and innovative technologies are the key to fusion energy economics
Artist’s rendering of the U.K.'s STEP fusion reactor. (Image: U.K. Atomic Energy Authority)
Fusion energy is attracting significant interest from governments and private capital markets. The deployment of fusion energy on a timeline that will affect climate change and offer another tool for energy security will require support from stakeholders, regulators, and policymakers around the world. Without broad support, fusion may fail to reach its potential as a “game-changing” technology to make a meaningful difference in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and geopolitical energy security.
The process of developing the necessary policy and regulatory support is already underway around the world. Leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, China, and elsewhere are engaging with the key issues and will lead the way in setting the foundation for a global fusion industry.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (center) tours the ITER site with ITER chief scientist Tim Luce. (Photo: ITER)
“We cannot eliminate our way to net zero,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) during a visit to the ITER site in Cadarache, France, on March 25. “We have to innovate, not eliminate, our way to carbon neutrality."
Manchin was joined by Ali Nouri, assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Energy; Kathy McCarthy, director of the U.S. ITER Project Office; and other U.S. officials for a tour of the ITER Assembly Hall led by ITER chief scientist Tim Luce, head of the ITER Science and Operations Domain. The visit was described in an ITER Newsline article published on March 28.
Approval from French regulator ASN is required before ITER vacuum vessel welding can begin. (Photo: ITER)
In a February 28 article posted on the ITER Organization website, Gilles Perrier, head of ITER’s Safety and Quality Department, addressed the decision by French nuclear safety regulator ASN (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire) to delay the anticipated February 1 release of a preset tokamak assembly “hold point.”
The interior of JET with a superimposed plasma. (Image: EUROfusion)
A new record has been set by the world’s largest operating tokamak, the Joint European Torus (JET). According to the EUROfusion scientists and engineers who work on JET at the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, the landmark experiment, announced on February 9, which produced 59 megajoules of fusion energy over five seconds, is powerful proof of fusion’s potential as a clean energy source.
This June 2021 photo of ITER vacuum vessel sector #6 includes two panels of thermal shielding ready to slide into place. (Photo: ITER/Courtesy of Chang Hyun Noh)
Following a week of heightened attention to all things hydrogen preceding Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day (October 8), Bernard Bigot, director general of the ITER Organization, published an op-ed on October 11 in The European Files, a magazine billed as an “effective work tool for European deciders.” Bigot’s article, “Hydrogen fusion: The way to a new energy future,” doubled as a fusion primer, promoting the technology as a future source of clean energy that is fueled by hydrogen and is capable of providing heat and power to produce more hydrogen.
Taken from above, this photo of the subassembly tool shows the complex system of alignment units used to slowly swing two toroidal field coils (bottom left and right) into position around the vacuum vessel sector. In the background, poloidal field coil #5 sits on the floor of the Assembly Hall, awaiting installation in the assembly pit in mid-September. (Photo: ITER)
Inside the ITER Assembly Hall, aided by a 20-meter-tall sector subassembly tool known as SSAT-2, the first of nine 40-degree wedge-shaped subassemblies that will make up the device’s tokamak is taking shape. On August 30, the ITER Organization announced that all the components of the first subassembly were in place on the SSAT-2. After the wings of the subassembly tool slowly close, locking two vertical coils in place around the outside of a vacuum vessel section that is already wrapped in thermal shielding, the completed subassembly will be ready for positioning in the ITER assembly pit in late October.
Flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels. (Image: Sébastien Bertrand)
The European Commission last week adopted the Euratom Work Programme 2021–2022, implementing the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2021–2025, a complement to Horizon Europe, the European Union’s key funding program for research and innovation.
ITER CS Module 1 (shown here at right with the General Atomics fabrication team) is being loaded onto a specialized heavy transport vehicle for shipment to Houston, Texas, where it will be placed on a ship for transit to France. (Photo: General Atomics)
After a decade of design and fabrication, General Atomics (GA) is preparing to ship the first module of the central solenoid—the largest of ITER’s magnets—to the site in southern France where 35 partner countries are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak and the first fusion device to produce net energy.