Craning their necks to take in the full size of what will be the ITER Tokamak, the crowd reacted spontaneously: "This is much bigger than I thought." "Really impressive!""I've never seen anything like it!" For the 11th time, the ITER Organization and the European Domestic Agency teamed up to open the doors and let close to 750 interested members of the public get a front-row view of the progress made on the construction site of this complex scientific endeavour.
Standing on the recently installed ''lid'' inside the bioshield — a unique opportunity for the participants in the 11th ''Open Doors Day'' at ITER.
Large buses seating more than 50 passengers toured the site at half-hour intervals. The Tokamak Building was the first stop offered on Saturday 21 October for the ITER Open Doors Day. Passing winding walkways and clambering across narrow steps, visitors entered the circular bioshield through an opening that will accommodate one of the neutral beam injectors, used to heat the plasma, and found themselves standing in the very space where the ITER machine will be installed and assembled. Experts on site guided visitors through the complex science and technology that would one day take shape there. Those interested in the details of the engineering of the concrete wall itself could inspect elements of the steel reinforcement that were displayed close at hand.
The large building looming above the visitors during their visit of the bioshield—the Assembly Hall—was the second stop of the tour. Its 60-metre-tall structure, covered in polished steel, makes it a gleaming landmark in the Provencal landscape. The building is still largely empty on the inside except for a very important feature: the gigantic twin overhead cranes with a lift capacity of 750 tonnes each, capable of maneuvering component loads of up to 1,500 tonnes. Visitors heard that these cranes would be instrumental in delivering the heaviest components of the machine to the Tokamak Pit for installation.
Many visitors, like Solange from France, were visiting ITER for the first time: "I didn't know about ITER, but I find this project very interesting and important. I hope that it all works out." Her friend Annie added: "It was very moving indeed, because in the end this will be for our children."
Others were repeat visitors, with a passion for the project that keeps them coming back. Giacomo, a PhD student from Italy, hopes to make a career in fusion: "I come here every time I can and it is always fascinating. I strongly believe in fusion and I decided to study it so I can contribute to a certain extent." His fellow PhD student Anastasia from Russia was equally enthusiastic: "I always come to the Open Doors Days. It's exciting to see things advancing — I saw the Assembly Hall for the first time today. The project is a great solution to the energy problem."
ITER Open Door Days are organized bi-annually, in the spring and autumn, hosted by the ITER Organization and the European agency for ITER, Fusion for Energy.