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Assembly of International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Begins in France

June 5, 2020 (EIRNS)—Progress towards developing an understanding of nuclear fusion, the power source necessary to unlock the next chapter of human history, took a significant (if not exactly speedy) step forward last week, with the installation of an enormous component of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. ITER, under construction in Cadarache, France, is a joint international venture to build what will be the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic confinement device for studying thermonuclear fusion, the process that powers the Sun.

May 27 saw the installation of the 1,250-ton steel base of the cryostat—the chamber in which a powerful magnetic field will be used to control the flow of plasma. This feat of precision engineering required 10 years for its completion. After the pieces of the base were designed and built in India, they were brought to France in 2015, where further adjustments were made, and the pieces welded together. Final assembly of all of the cryostat pieces will require several hundred meters of weld joints, which will have to meet incredibly strict standards of precision.

This milestone keeps the ITER project on track for achieving first plasma by 2025, the current target date for operation. While this date has been repeatedly pushed back because of budget cuts and inconsistent participation on the part of, mainly, the United States, the successful installation of the cryostat base is an exciting achievement. But the glacial pace of the overall project points to the need to greatly expand other, national fusion programs as well!

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