Research

ITER

Artist's impression of the ITER site when completed (courtesy: www.iter.org)ITER – an international project now being constructed at Cadarache in France – will be a scaled-up version of JET, with linear dimensions twice the size, and ten times the plasma volume. In ITER, scientists will study plasmas, with a major radius of six metres, in conditions similar to those expected in an electricity-generating fusion power plant. It will also test a number of key technologies for fusion power stations, including superconducting magnetic coils, the blankets surrounding the plasma which will breed tritium and absorb the neutrons' energy, and remote maintenance.

The many specialist systems required for ITER are allocated to the seven ITER parties and mainly comprise the heating equipment and many measuring systems (‘diagnostics'). Before these systems can be built, further research, development and design is needed. The European ITER Domestic Agency, Fusion for Energy (F4E), is allocating this work to consortia of fusion laboratories, mainly funded by grants (supported 60:40 by national and F4E funds), with some 100% funding via F4E contracts.

ITER tokamak design (courtesy: www.iter.org)Prototypes of the main components (including superconducting coils, full-size vacuum vessel segments, power handling components and assembly and maintenance technology) have been constructed and tested in collaboration with industry. R&D for some of the specialist equipment for ITER (for example, diagnostic and heating systems) is being performed by fusion laboratories around the world, before procurement can commence. Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is currently leading consortia for the LIDAR diagnostic (which measures the temperature and density of the plasma) and the Ion Cyclotron Resonance Heating system. It also has a major role in the Neutral Beam heating system and more minor roles in other areas.

Visit the ITER website for more information.