French industrial gas manufacturer Air Liquide has signed a contract to build a giant cryoplant, the largest in the world, to keep cool Europe’s future fusion reactor ITER.
The €65m cryoplant, basically a giant fridge, will cool the fusion reactor down to -269˚ C.
“Thanks to ITER, the frontiers of science and technology are pushed further and Europe’s industry is becoming more competitive,” said Professor Henrik Bindslev, Director of Fusion for Energy. “To be part of the biggest international energy project means being confident enough to put your expertise to the test and brave enough to take it a step further.”
The project, including engineering, procurement, installation and testing of the facility and auxiliary systems, is expected to be completed in five years.
The most advanced cryogenic technologies will be deployed to generate extremely low temperatures needed for the ITER magnets, thermal shields and cryopumps. For example, the magnets will be cooled with super critical helium to reach the superconducting state at 4,5 K, close to absolute zero, in order to confine the hot plasma.
“Our participation in ITER is driven by technological innovation, underpinned by the recognition of our expertise and in line with our commitment to invest in tomorrow’s energy mix,” said Cristiano Tortelli, Vice-President of Global Air Liquide E&C Solutions.
Two nitrogen refregirators with a cooling power of 1,200 kW at 80K will cool down ITER’s Liquid Helium Plant and the 80K helium loop boxes. In addition, they will supply the purification system, quench tanks, heaters and dryers with nitrogen in liquid or gaseous form. The two 80K helium loops will cool down the thermal shields of the cryostat, vacuum vessel, and regenerate the cryopumps. It is estimated that 8kg of helium per second will be processed. A helium purification system is planned to recover and clean helium gas from any impurities. The largest components are two quench tanks weighing 160 tonnes and measuring 37m by 4.4m each.