If streetlights, water heaters and home appliances ran on DC current, ITER's twin magnet power conversion buildings could provide power to a city of 50,000 people. The clients for the infrastructure housed in these buildings, however, are not people but magnets—32 converter units, each weighing approximately 22 tonnes, dozens of corresponding "reactors," bridges to connect them, and kilometres of busbars are tasked with feeding the ITER tokamak's superconducting magnets ... all 10,000 tonnes of them.
Convertors and reactors are provided by Korea and China, busbars come from Russia, and India was responsible for delivering the cooling water system. Built by Europe and transferred to the ITER Organization in April 2019, the twin magnet conversion buildings are an effective illustration of the ITER international collaboration.
Because of the large amount of heat they generate, transformers, converters and reactors must be must be actively cooled at all times. When the installation is fully operational, cooling water will rush through the pipes and valves at the rate of close to 2,000 cubic metres per hour. "Even electronic switches must be cooled," explains David Stachler, the contract responsible officer for the installation of poloidal field coils units. "This is clearly a challenge as water and electricity are not supposed to coexist in such close proximity."
Like futuristic structures along a city boulevard, bizarre contraptions line up the whole length of the buildings, creating a most peculiar atmosphere.