One of the key components of ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is reported to be ready for installation at the plant’s construction site in Provence, France.
ITER is the biggest fusion machine in history and the €22.5 billion project was designed to test the theoretical possibility of using atomic fusion to economically generate electricity.
The vast bowl-shaped cryostat base – fabricated in India by the engineering company Larsen & Toubro (L&T) – has a length of 110m, a width of 50m, a height of 27m and weighs 1,250 tonnes.
L&T Heavy Engineering manufactured a specially-designed frame, to transport the base, via road and sea, from Hazira in India to the site in southern France.
When completed, the cryostat will be the vacuum-tight container that will surround the ITER vacuum vessel and superconducting magnets within the chamber known as the tokamak.
The tokamak is a Russian-designed magnetic device, confining hydrogen isotopes while they are heated, accelerated and fused together.
When the ITER reactor is completed and powered up in 2025, fusion will occur at a temperature of 150 million °C, within the tokamak, releasing vast amounts of energy, and ultimately (theoretically) producing ten times the electricity required to power the reactor itself.
Following the delivery of the cryostat, ITER’s director-general Bernard Bigot said, “The fabrication of this component has been an unprecedented engineering challenge and achievement in terms of both its massive size and its intricate specifications.”