World’s largest carbon-free energy project clears milestones amid pandemic


The ITER project – a collaboration of 35 nations, comprising India, to prove that fusion power can be produced on a commercial scale and is sustainable — is nearing the start of assembly in France despite the challenging circumstances from the horrid coronavirus, officials announced on Wednesday.

ITER, the world’s largest experimental fusion facility, is being built in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, some 35 km north of Aix-en-Provence in southern France.

“The start of assembly is planned for July and a date will be set soon,” ITER spokesperson Laban Coblentz told IANS.

The tokamak building is ready to receive components.

“The first of the large structural support elements — the 1,250 ton cryostat base — has been positioned in place,” he said in a statement.

ITER’s massive first-of-a-kind magnets and other components are in final stages and/or already being shipped to France from China, Korea, Japan, Italy, India, Russia, and the US.

The first 440-ton sector of the vacuum vessel, which will contain the fusion plasma at 150 million degrees Celsius (ten times hotter than the centre of the sun), was completed in Korea on April 20 and will arrive at ITER in July.

The first of ITER’s giant superconducting magnets, capable of shaping and controlling the superheated ITER plasma within the vacuum vessel walls, have been completed and shipped to the worksite.

The first two D-shaped toroidal field magnets — each 17 meters high, weighing 360 tons — arrived from Japan and Italy in April. A third is en route from Japan, Coblentz said in an email.

The first of the circular poloidal field magnets — 10 meters in diameter, weighing 400 tons — is in shipment from China.

And the first of six modules of the central solenoid, which, at 1,000 tons and 18 meters high, will be the “beating heart” of ITER and the largest pulsed superconducting magnet ever built will be shipped from the US in August.

Factories around the world are finalizing the fabrication of many more components of unprecedented size and precision. In total, the ITER machine will be made up of more than one million components.

To address the coronavirus, he said, “We are massively teleworking, both staff and contractors, but still able to maintain critical activities onsite, and have been making progress.”

“We hope that we will soon be able to re-open our doors to public visitors.”

Energy from hydrogen fusion will be a monumental shift in the world’s economy and the planet’s environment as it changes to carbon-free fusion energy for baseload power.

India is one of the seven partners, both in-kind and in-cash, in a first-of-a-kind global collaboration.

The 1,250-tons cryostat base, the first two sections of which have been constructed by Larsen & Toubro (L&T), is India’s largest single procurement contribution to the ITER facility that spans over 42 hectares.

Designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power, ITER, originally the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, will be the world’s largest experimental fusion facility.

Fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars, when light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released.

Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, abundant and environmentally-responsible energy source.

The project aims to complete through first plasma in 2025, a key milestone toward full fusion power by 2035.

ITER is a global collaboration. Europe will contribute almost half of the cost of its construction, while the other six members of this joint international venture (China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US) will contribute equally to the rest.