Siemens to work on ITER fusion heating systems

Siemens and Fusion for Energy (F4E) are collaborating on the heating systems for ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), the technology project hoping to validate fusion energy’s potential. 

F4E – the EU’s branch of ITER – will partner with Siemens to develop three units of equipment that will host power supplies for the Neutral Beam Injectors (NBI), one of ITER’s heating systems. The requirements of these systems are beyond current industrial practices, as they will need to heat plasma to 150 million degrees Celsius – ten times hotter than the core of the sun.

The sun is a natural fusion reactor.
The sun is a natural fusion reactor.

“Through this collaboration, a European global innovator will contribute to the largest international collaboration that is expected to influence the future energy mix, ” said Pietro Barabaschi, F4E acting director.

One unit will go to a research facility in Italy, where NBI components will be tested before they go into production mode. The other two units will be manufactured as part of the ITER system, designed to deliver 33 MW of power in order to inject neutral particles to the core of its super-hot plasma. The work is expected to last seven years, with an overall value of around €18 million.

According to F4E, the high voltage units act like air-insulated Faraday cages, distributed over two floors and covering a surface of 150 m2. They will contain transformers, power distribution systems, and control cubicles weighing approximately 45 tonnes. The entire box with its structure will reach 100 tonnes and will stand on tall post insulators more than 6 metres above the floor.

ITER’s total cost of construction is projected to be in the region of €13 billion.   About half of the funding will come from the EU, with the remainder provided by the other six parties to the venture (China, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA).

Earlier this month, a team of researchers from the UK claimed that fusion reactors could become economically viable in the coming decades due to recent advances in superconductor technology.