India produces world’s largest cryostat


India on Tuesday achieved a key milestone towards realising full fusion power by manufacturing the world’s largest high-vacuum pressure chamber — crucial cryostat — that is now ready for installation in the $25 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in southern France.

ITER — a project which aims to prove that fusion power can be produced sustainably on a commercial scale — is now 65 per cent ready. The project aims to complete through first plasma in 2025, a key milestone toward full fusion power by 2035.

Weighing 3,850 tonnes, the cryostat base manufactured by the Indian company Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Ltd in its industrial facilities in Hazira in Gujarat is the largest vacuum vessel ever built out of stainless steel.

“Till date, 43 sectors are manufactured by us at our manufacturing facility in Hazira and dispatched to ITER site. Another 14 sectors are under manufacturing”, L&T Heavy Engineering Executive Vice President Anil Parab told IANS here.

Considering mammoth size and shape of various sectors, it is utmost challenging to design, handle and then transport in a safe way through road and sea mode, he said. Specially designed transportation frame was manufactured and used for its safe transportation. “It took an average 40 to 45 days for transporting from Hazira to ITER site in France,” he said.

India, being one of the seven member nations of the ITER project that aims to build a greener planet, is in charge of manufacturing the cryostat.

The cryostat forms the vacuum-tight container surrounding the ITER vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets and acts essentially as a very large refrigerator.

On August 17, 2012, ITER-India project director Shishir Deshpande and Parab signed the contract for the manufacturing of the cryostat.

The design of the ITER cryostat — which provides the high vacuum, ultra-cool environment for the vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets, represented a huge international endeavour involving engineers and technicians.

Parab said two sections of the cryostat, lower cylinder and base sections, were handed over ahead of the schedule and the third section that is the upper cylinder is under assembly at ITER workshop and will be ready by the end of December.

Saying that Indian companies are reaping benefits in the construction of the ITER project, he said, “As part of such a challenging endeavor, India is anyway entitled to have all technical know-how which will be available for Indian companies for Indian installation of ITER.”

“The ITER program helped us to develop critical technology for large-scale stainless steel manufacturing, Oversize critical machining and assembly of large sectors meeting stringent shape requirements.” According to Parab, L&T has always worked hand-in-hand with ITER team and fulfilled all the commitments in delivering equipment of the ITER project to maintain overall schedule of the program.

“The fabrication of the cryostat has been an unprecedented engineering challenge and achievement in terms of both its massive size and its intricate specifications,” ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot said in a statement.

At a cost of at least $25billion, the project could be the answer to the world’s clean energy needs when it is switched on — but that won’t be for another 16 years. The ITER facility is being built in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, some 35km north of Aix-en-Provence in southern France, by a scientific partnership of 35 countries.

ITER’s specialized components, roughly 10 million parts in total, are being manufactured in industrial facilities all over the world. They are subsequently shipped to the ITER worksite, where they must be assembled, piece-by-piece, into the final machine.

Each of the seven ITER members — the European Union, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States — is fabricating a significant portion of the machine. This adds to ITER’s complexity.