Crucial remote handling contract for fusion project awarded

Assystem has signed a seven-year contract with Fusion for Energy (F4E) to help develop the divertor remote handling system for ITER, the international fusion energy project.

All activities – ranging from design, manufacturing, delivery, on-site integration, commissioning and final acceptance tests for ITER’s divertor – will be covered through this contract, which is valued at approximately €40m.

Other project participants include the Culham Centre of Fusion Energy (CCFE) and Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), plus Finland’s Technical Research Centre (VTT) and the Tampere University of Technology (TUT).

‘This contract is a turning point for ITER’s remote handling system because it will lead us to production mode,’ said Prof Henrik Bindslev, director of F4E, the organisation managing Europe’s contribution to ITER. ‘We have managed to bring together industry, fusion laboratories, SMEs and research centres under one contract that will unleash their potential and help them advance further in their domain.’

When the ITER machine, in Cadarache, southern France, is operational, some of the components in its vacuum vessel will be exposed to neutron radiation so maintenance, inspection and repair will be conducted through remote handling.

The ITER divertor, located in the lower part of the ITER machine, will consist of 54 divertor casettes measuring 3.4m x 1.2 m x 0.6m, made from steel, copper and tungsten and weighing 10 tonnes each.

It is in this part of the machine that the superhot plasma temperature (around 150million °C) will be most felt. The divertor casettes will form the machine’s massive depository into which the helium ‘ash’ and plasma impurities will fall. It is foreseen that these components will be replaced three times during the lifetime of the ITER machine.