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ITER: The hotter-than-the-sun reactor

  • An aerial view of the 42 hectare International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) platform taken in February 2013. In total 90 hectares were cleared for the project, leaving half of the 180 hectare area set out for ITER in its original wooded state. Work on the platform in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, Cadarache, France, first began in 2007, and will continue until the nuclear fusion plant is operational in 2020. The number of construction workers involved is expected to climb to 3 000 at the height of co
  • ITER operates using the 'tokamak' concept of magnetic confinement, in which the plasma is stored inside a doughnut-shaped vacuum vessel. The fuel - made from two isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) - is heated to temperatures of around 150 million degrees Celsius, to form plasma. Strong magnetic fields stop the plasma coming into contact with the walls. Superconducting coils surrounding the tokomak vessel and an electrical current driven through the plasma create the magnetic fields. This image sho
  • This is a model of the ITER tokamak produced in July 2013. The ITER tokamak will be nearly 30 metres tall, and weigh 23 000 tons. The ITER tokamak is made up of an estimated one million parts. The different parts are being built in factories across the world and will be delivered to the ITER site in Cadarache for assembly. © ITER Organization
  • The cryostat is a large, stainless steel structure that provides a super-cool insulation. The entire vacuum vessel of the tokamak is surrounded by the cryostat.  The most efficient coating material for the cryopanels that keep the vacuum vessel clean is coconut-shell charcoal. A supply of Indonesian coconut charcoal is being stored at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany for ITER’s cryopumps. Image courtesy of Peter Ginter / ITER Organization
  • ITER will be equipped with a water cooling system to manage the heat generated during operation of the tokamak. The internal surfaces of the vacuum vessel must be cooled to approximately 260 degrees Celsius – only a few metres away from the 150 million degrees Celsius plasma.© ITER Organization
  • An image of construction work taking place on the tokamak foundation. Seventeen metres below the surface of the platform, the concrete base mat, retaining walls, and seismic pads of the seismic isolation pit are put in place to protect the buildings and the equipment from ground motion in the case of an earthquake. © ITER Organization
  • The one million constituent parts of the tokamak are being built by ITER’s member regions. In China, scientists are working on the jacketing of superconducting cable within the recently built facility at the Institute of Plasma Physics, in Hefei, China. Image courtesy of Peter Ginter / ITER Organization
  • The plasma is held inside a doughnut-shaped space called a toroid within the vacuum vessel. In total, 18 toroidal field coils will surround the vacuum vessel and produce a magnetic field to confine the plasma particles. Each coil is 14 metres high, 9 metres wide, and weighs 360 tons. European toroidal field coils are being produced in La Spezia, Italy. Each toroidal field coil is made up of a winding pack and a protective shell of stainless steel. At the La Spezia winding line, 750-metre lengths of toroidal