Remote handling will have an important role to play in the ITER Tokamak. When operation begins, it will be impossible to make changes, conduct inspections, or repair any of the Tokamak components in the activated areas other than by remote handling. Very reliable and robust remote handling techniques will be necessary to manipulate and exchange components weighing up to 50 tons. The reliability of these techniques will also impact the length of the machine's shut-down phases.
The smooth operation of the ITER machine relies very much on the remote handling system. Here, one of the 440 blanket modules is being exchanged.
All remote handling techniques developed for ITER operate on the same principle. A remote manipulator is used to detach the component; the component is removed through a port and placed into the docked transport cask; a temporary door is placed over the vacuum vessel access port; and the cask is closed to prevent contamination. The cask is moved on air bearings along to the Hot Cell Facility. A similar docking occurs at the Hot Cell Facility and the component is removed to be repaired or replaced. The process is then reversed to bring that component back to the vacuum vessel.