Sen. Manchin tours ITER facility

March 30, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
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.

French regulator puts ITER tokamak welding on hold

March 3, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
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.”

JET celebrates sustained fusion energy production

February 10, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear News
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.

Looking back at 2021—Nuclear News July through September

January 7, 2022, 2:24PMNuclear News

This is the fourth of five articles to be posted today to look back at the top news stories of 2021 for the nuclear community. The full article, "Looking back at 2021,"was published in the January 2022 issue of Nuclear News.

Quite a year was 2021. In the following stories, we have compiled what we feel are the past year’s top news stories from the July-September time frame—please enjoy this recap from a busy year in the nuclear community.

ITER director general hails the promise of hydrogen—in fusion

October 12, 2021, 3:18PMANS Nuclear Cafe
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.

A fitting situation for first ITER subassembly

September 1, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
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.

Euratom program receives EC funding

July 9, 2021, 12:38PMNuclear News
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.

First ITER central solenoid module ready for transatlantic journey

June 18, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
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.

ITER magnet assembly begins

April 28, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
Photo: Bruno Levesy

On April 26, as the ITER Organization announced that magnet assembly had begun with the April 21 placement of the divertor coil in the bottom of the machine, the organization also published an Image of the Week that bears an unmistakable—and unintentional—resemblance to the Olympic rings. The pre-compression rings were being prepped for installation in the ITER Assembly Hall when the serendipitous arrangement was captured by Bruno Levesy, a project manager at ITER.

ITER updates: Components, commitments converge toward first plasma

March 1, 2021, 12:06PMNuclear News

The ITER site in Cadarache, France. Photo: ITER Organization

With first plasma operations at ITER planned for 2025, milestones are being reached in quick succession. While several of the 35 countries contributing to the construction of the super-sized fusion tokamak are pursuing fusion programs of their own, they remain committed to ITER and are eager for the data and operating experience it is expected to yield.

Euratom leads the project being built in Cadarache, France, as the host party for ITER. On February 22, the European Council approved the continuation of European financing of ITER from 2021 to 2027, with a contribution of €5.61 billion (about $6.86 billion) in current prices.

A new goal for fusion: 50 MWe for the U.S. grid by 2035–2040

February 19, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

Coordinated federal and private industry investments made now could yield an operational fusion pilot plant in the 2035–2040 time frame, according to Bringing Fusion to the U.S. Grid, a consensus study report released February 17 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).

Developed at the request of the Department of Energy, the report builds on the work of the 2019 Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research, and it identifies key goals, innovations, and investments needed to develop a U.S. fusion pilot plant that can serve as a model for producing electricity at the lowest possible capital cost.

“The U.S. fusion community has been a pioneer of fusion research since its inception and now has the opportunity to bring fusion to the marketplace,” said Richard Hawryluk, associate director for fusion at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and chair of the NASEM Committee on the Key Goals and Innovations Needed for a U.S. Fusion Pilot Plant, which produced the report.

A growing part of the fusion community

January 29, 2021, 12:27PMNuclear NewsGuest Contributor

Fusion energy is no longer a far-off goal. It is now routinely achieved at laboratory scale but requires more energy to control the fusion reaction than the fusion reaction has released.

The path to viable fusion power from a magnetically confined plasma source requires the creation of a burning plasma, whereby the primary heating source comes from the fusion reaction itself.

To begin to consider the economic viability of a fusion power plant, the reaction must have a significant energy gain, or “Q” factor (the ratio of output power to input heating power), in a reaction that is sustained over a time frame of minutes or hours.

Construction has begun on an international experiment—the ITER tokamak—that aims to achieve a sustained reaction, and numerous privately funded smaller experiments have the potential to move forward toward this goal.

Nuclear News reached out to companies in the fusion community to ask for insights into their ongoing work. All are members of the Fusion Industry Association. Most companies submitted briefs at a specified word count, while others ran long and some ran short. Their insights appear on the following pages.

Big fusion moment coming soon, Popular Mechanics says

January 29, 2021, 10:19AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Rendering of SPARC, a compact, high-field, DT burning tokamak, currently under design by a team from MIT and CFS. Source: CFS/MIT-PSFC - CAD Rendering by T. Henderson

The fusion community is reaching a "Kitty Hawk moment" as early as 2025, according to the Popular Mechanics story, "Jeff Bezos Is Backing an Ancient Kind of Nuclear Fusion."

That moment will come from magnetized target fusion (MTF), the January 25 story notes, a technology that dates back to the 1970s when the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory first proposed it. Now, however, MTF’s proponents say that the technology is bearing down to reach the commercial power market. The question is, Will it be viable before the competing fusion model of tokamaks, such as ITER, start operations?

Notes on fusion

January 22, 2021, 12:23PMNuclear NewsDavid Kingham and Josh Kennedy-White

The ST25-HTS tokamak.

Governments around the world have been interested in fusion for more than 70 years. Fusion research was largely secret until 1968, when the Soviets unveiled exciting results from their tokamak (a magnetic confinement fusion device with a particular configuration that produces a toroidal plasma). The Soviets realized that tokamaks were not useful as weapons but could produce plasma in the million-degree temperature range to demonstrate Soviet scientific and technical prowess to the world.

Following this breakthrough, government laboratories around the world continued to pursue various methods of confining hot plasma to understand plasma physics under extreme conditions, getting closer and closer to the conditions necessary for fusion energy production. Tokamaks have been by far the most successful configuration. In the 1990s, the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory produced 10 MW of fusion power using deuterium-tritium fusion. A few years later, the Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom increased that to 16 MW, getting close to breakeven using 24 MW of power to heat the plasma.

Understanding the ITER Project in the context of global Progress on Fusion

January 15, 2021, 2:24PMNuclear NewsBernard Bigot

(photo: ITER Project gangway assembly)

The promise of hydrogen fusion as a safe, environmentally friendly, and virtually unlimited source of energy has motivated scientists and engineers for decades. For the general public, the pace of fusion research and development may at times appear to be slow. But for those on the inside, who understand both the technological challenges involved and the transformative impact that fusion can bring to human society in terms of the security of the long-term world energy supply, the extended investment is well worth it.

Failure is not an option.

New model stretches the limits of fusion torus control

August 17, 2020, 7:37AMNuclear News

PPPL physicists Raffi Nazikian (left) and Qiming Hu, with a figure from their research. Photo: PPPL/Elle Starkman

Stars contain their plasma with the force of gravity, but here on earth, plasma in fusion tokamaks must be magnetically confined. That confinement is tenuous, because tokamaks are subject to edge localized modes (ELM)—intense bursts of heat and particles that must be controlled to prevent instabilities and damage to the fusion reactor.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and at General Atomics (GA) recently published a paper in Physical Review Letters explaining this tokamak restriction and a potential path to overcome it. They have developed a new model for ELM suppression in the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, which is operated by GA for the DOE. PPPL physicists Qiming Hu and Raffi Nazikian are the lead authors of the paper, which was announced on August 10 by PPPL.

Assembly of ITER begins in Southern France

July 30, 2020, 12:09PMNuclear News

Those attending the livestreamed July 28 celebration in person (shown here from above) followed recommended social distancing measures.

First-of-a-kind components have been arriving in recent months at the ITER construction site in Cadarache, France, from some of the 35 ITER member countries around the world. The arrival on July 21 of the first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel from South Korea marks the beginning of a four-and-a-half year machine assembly process for the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as an energy source.

ITER reaches major construction milestone

June 3, 2020, 3:58PMNuclear News

The 1,250-ton cryostat base is positioned over the ITER tokamak pit for installation. The base is the heaviest lift of the tokamak assembly. Photo: ITER

ITER, the world’s largest international scientific collaboration, is beginning the assembly of the fusion reactor tokamak that will include 12 essential hardware systems provided by US ITER, which is managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The first major machine element to be installed is the 1,250-ton base of the cryostat, which was placed into the tokamak assembly pit on May 26. ITER is located in southeastern France.

South Korea completes first vacuum vessel section for ITER

May 5, 2020, 9:59AMNuclear News

ITER vacuum vessel section no. 6, shown here, was completely assembled in April. South Korea is providing four of the nine 40-degree vacuum vessel sections; Europe is providing the other five. Photo: ITER

South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has completed work on the first vacuum vessel section for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), the ITER Organization reported on April 28. The 440-ton section is now being prepared for shipping this summer to the ITER construction site, located near Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.

Jacobs wins $25 million in ITER, UKAEA contracts

April 21, 2020, 8:45AMNuclear News

Jacobs has been awarded several contracts to support work on the ITER fusion project. Photo: ITER Organization

The global engineering company Jacobs announced on April 14 that it has been awarded several contracts with an estimated combined value of more than $25 million. The contracts are with the ITER Organization, Fusion for Energy, and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and are intended to support fusion energy projects in France and the United Kingdom.