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For close to ten years we have watched it slowly come to life. We have witnessed the manufacturing of the niobium-tin strands, the cabling and jacketing of conductor, the machining of radial plates, the insertion into the steel case... And there it was, a strange shape in its transport frame, tightly wrapped in protective material and sitting on a 342-wheel trailer: the first of the 18 D-shaped toroidal field coils required for the ITER machine.
A little before 2:00 a.m. on Friday 17 April, the convoy negociates the last of the 16 roundabouts that punctuate the 104-kilometre-long ITER Itinerary.
Procured by Europe and finalized in Italy, toroidal field coil #9 (TF9) travelled on the last leg of its long journey during the night of 16 April to 17 April—a 19-kilometre stretch from the French village of Peyrolles to the ITER construction site that included plane-tree-lined roads, a purpose-built bridge and a narrow passage between two cliffs that was widened in the summer of 2018.
At some points along the way, the width of the roadway barely exceeded that of the convoy. At others, overhanging branches had to be pruned ahead of the component's passage by an advance team.
A drone captures the arrival of the convoy on the ITER site. Photo: ITER Organization/EJF Riche
Following a carefully defined trajectory, the convoy progressed slowly and steadily, at times as slow as walking pace. Not only was the load more than 10 metres wide, it was also exceptionally heavy—with the combined weight of the coil, the transport frame and the trailer, the convoy exceeded 600 tonnes.
In order to pull such a behemoth, Mammoet, the Dutch company contracted by ITER global logistics provider DAHER, had designed a unique transport vehicle: a 342-wheel, self-propelled modular transporter powered by a pair of 1,000 hp "power packs."
A little before 2:00 a.m. on 17 April, the convoy reached the ITER gates. Once again, the many parties involved in the complex logistics of an ITER convoy—Agence Iter France, DAHER, the Mammoet crew, French gendarmerie forces, escort and technical assistance personnel—had performed faultlessly.
There are still 18 other toroidal field coils to be delivered (18 required by the machine plus one spare). The next, TF12 from Japan, is expected on the ITER site on Saturday 25 April.
Read moreabout the first toroidal field coil to be delivered on Fusion for Energy's website.