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Of Interest

See archived entries

Central solenoid

1st delivery celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic

Standing 18 metres tall at the very heart of the ITER Tokamak, the central solenoid will generate an intense magnetic field which, in turn, will induce an electrical current inside the plasma and initiate the heating process that will ultimately allow fusion reactions to happen.

The 110-tonne module was placed in stillage in the Cleaning Facility adjacent to the Assembly Hall. A second module is already on its way and some of the assembly tooling is schedule to arrive soon. (Click to view larger version...)
The 110-tonne module was placed in stillage in the Cleaning Facility adjacent to the Assembly Hall. A second module is already on its way and some of the assembly tooling is schedule to arrive soon.
The figures are mind-boggling: once assembled, the six modules that form the central solenoid will weigh approximately 1,000 tonnes, deliver a magnetic field of 13 tesla, and induce a plasma current of 15 million amperes. In lay terms, it means that the ITER central solenoid could lift an aircraft carrier out of the water and that its support structures are dimensioned to withstand forces equivalent to twice the thrust of a space shuttle at lift-off.

The central solenoid is the most emblematic of all the contributions óf the United States to the ITER Project. Fabrication of the modules began nearly ten years ago at a General Atomics facility created expressly for the purpose—the Magnet Technologies Center close to San Diego, California.

The first of the completed modules left the factory on 21 June this year, travelled more than 2,400 kilometres by road to the port of Houston, Texas, and then crossed the Atlantic, reaching southern France on 27 July. Last week, in the early hours of Thursday 9 September, the 110-tonne component passed the gates of the ITER construction site where it will be placed in storage to wait for its siblings. A second module took to the sea earlier this month and is expected at ITER in November.

A small ceremony was organized on site at ITER with senior management and the magnet team, and in the virtual presence of representatives from US ITER, General Atomics, the US Department of Energy and other Domestic Agencies. (Click to view larger version...)
A small ceremony was organized on site at ITER with senior management and the magnet team, and in the virtual presence of representatives from US ITER, General Atomics, the US Department of Energy and other Domestic Agencies.
The arrival on site of the first element of the "most powerful magnet in the world" drew considerable media attention: newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and documentary producers covered the component's journey along the ITER Itinerary and its subsequent move into storage.

By late afternoon, with the module safely in stillage, a small ceremony was organized with the virtual presence of representatives from US ITER, General Atomics and the US Department of Energy.

Tim Luce, ITER Head of Science & Operation since 2017 and a former senior scientist at General Atomics, reminisced about the formidable industrial endeavour of building this first-of-a-kind component. Standing in front of the module, he said: "We have retired the risk of 'Can it be done?' The component is right here to prove that. But what you can't see are the late nights, the weekends, the anxiety during the testing phases that went into the making of this magnet."

Speaking from Washington, James Van Dam, the head of Fusion Energy Sciences at the US Department of Energy, praised the "great job" from General Atomics and the "close working relationship" between US ITER, the Japanese Domestic Agency (which provided the 43 kilometres of niobium-tin conductor required for the central solenoid) and the ITER Organization. "ITER," he said, "represents world-changing science. It will indeed transform the world."

From Oak Ridge, Tennessee, US ITER Director Kathy McCarthy stressed the value of the experience gained by this endeavour. "It not only supports the achievement of the ITER mission, but will also inform future fusion and high-power magnet endeavours. Building 'the heart of ITER' yields hands-on experience and insight for precise fusion engineering and manufacturing."

On 10 August, before the magnet shipped, General Atomics had marked the successful completion of the component with a celebration at the firm's Magnet Technologies Center in Poway, California (see links at the end of the article). ''Pulsed superconducting magnets of this power and scale have never been made before,'' said John Smith, Director of Engineering and Projects and manager for the central solenoid project at General Atomics. ''Successfully designing, fabricating, testing, and shipping the first module, with six more in various stages of production, is truly a testament to the skill and dedication of the team here at General Atomics.'' (Click to view larger version...)
On 10 August, before the magnet shipped, General Atomics had marked the successful completion of the component with a celebration at the firm's Magnet Technologies Center in Poway, California (see links at the end of the article). ''Pulsed superconducting magnets of this power and scale have never been made before,'' said John Smith, Director of Engineering and Projects and manager for the central solenoid project at General Atomics. ''Successfully designing, fabricating, testing, and shipping the first module, with six more in various stages of production, is truly a testament to the skill and dedication of the team here at General Atomics.''
From half a world away, in California, the Director of Engineering and Projects for General Atomics, John Smith, stressed that the manufacturing of the central solenoid "ranks among the largest, most complex and demanding magnet programs ever undertaken. I speak for the entire team when I say this is the most important and significant project of our careers. We have all felt the responsibility of working on a job that has the potential to change the world."

The effort, however, does not end here. "Now, we turn to 'Can we get the other modules in time?' and 'Can we assemble them properly?'" Tim Luce concluded.

The challenge will keep the teams busy for close to two and a half years.

Click here to view a video of the last leg of the module's journey.

Click here for a press release and a video of the US celebration on the General Atomics website.



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