“Constructing the machine piece by piece will be like assembling a three-dimensional puzzle on an intricate timeline,” he said on Tuesday. “We have a complicated script to follow over the next few years.”
Billed as the world’s largest science project, ITER is gigantic. The circular device, called Tokamak, has a 30-metre circumference, stands 30 metres high, and is made up of more than a million parts.
Some pieces transported to France weigh several hundred tonnes. Tools to put the reactor together match that size, with giant lifts that must transfer components over the walls and down into “the pit.” A key component being built by the US, the Central Solenoid, is the most powerful of ITER’s numerous magnets. Together, they will be strong enough to lift an aircraft carrier.
ITER confirmed that when assembly is completed in December 2025, it will launch first plasma, which should prove the reactor concept works.
Despite slight delays due to the coronavirus lockdown, ITER was still on track to start up in full power mode in 2035, an ITER spokeswoman said.
The components have been produced by ITER consortium member states, who contribute to the project mainly in kind.
Unlike existing fission reactors, which produce energy by splitting atoms, ITER would generate power by combining atoms at a temperature of 150 million degrees Celsius in a process similar to the nuclear fusion that produces the sun’s energy.