The world’s largest fusion machine/device, ITER, located in the south of France is being designed with help from Assystem’s engineers in Sunderland.
As electricity demand increases, the need for a sustainable zero-carbon energy source is urgent, hence nations like China, Europe, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA are collaborating to explore the potential of fusion energy. Together they represent half of the world’s population and 80% of the global GDP. The UK involvement is channelled through the EU organisation, Fusion for Energy (F4E), managing Europe’s contribution to ITER.
Fusion is the process that powers our Sun, and scientists believe that if they replicate the same reaction on Earth it will provide an unlimited source of energy to the world.
In Sunderland, a small team have been working on designing robotic equipment that can safely remove irradiated components and dust from the heart of the machine.
Known as remote handling, it is a bespoke and highly complex system of tooling that will be key to machine maintenance when replacing components exposed to extremely high temperatures in the range of 250°C. In fact, the gas resulting from the fusion reaction, known as plasma, is expected to reach 150,000,000°C, ten times the temperature of the Sun's core.
In Sunderland, Fanny Fouin, senior mechanical engineer, Assystem said: “In our offices overlooking the Wear, our focus is on creating robotic equipment that can operate in such harsh environment, such as high temperatures and levels of radiation in the world’s largest fusion experiment”
“ITER will be the world’s biggest experiment on the path to fusion energy and it will help us to develop fusion reactors putting an end to our excessive reliance on fossil fuels.”
35 countries are involved in the design and build of the first of its kind experiment. The first big ITER tests are planned for 2025. Specialists predict that it will take 30-40 years to see fusion on the commercial scale.
As well as designing the robotic equipment, Assystem is responsible for the construction management at ITER, overseeing the installation of ITER components from all over the world.
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