Some 200km of superconducting cables have been manufactured for the ITER fusion reactor

200km of superconducting cables manufactured for ITER

Some 200km of superconducting cables have been manufactured to form the superconducting magnets of the world’s largest tokamak fusion reactor ITER. 

The cables, worth some €610m (£444m), are the single largest superconductor procurement in industrial history.

ITER has already received 70 per cent of the superconductors, which took seven years to manufacture.

China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States were responsible for the production of the superconductors, which will be used to make the magnets that will shape and control the plasma inside the vacuum vessel.

“Economically, we have injected €610m into industrial companies and laboratories around the world, which have now gained invaluable expertise that can be applied in other critical fields such as medical imaging, energy, and transportation,” said ITER director-general Bernard Bigot. “Technologically, we have used the latest materials science while pushing production to unprecedented levels.”

Without superconducting technology, nuclear fusion wouldn’t be possible. Superconductors consume less power and are cheaper to operate than conventional magnets, while carrying higher current and producing stronger magnetic fields.

The ITER superconducting magnet systems, with a combined stored magnetic energy of 51GJ, will produce the magnetic fields that will initiate, confine, shape and control the plasma at temperatures reaching 170 million degrees Celsius.

The internally cooled superconductors are made of niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) superconducting strands  and will be cabled together and contained in a structural steel jacket.

The next stage in the fabrication of ITER magnets is the integration of the superconductors into the final coil assemblies.

“It is inspiring to see the ITER conductors as a reality after a development programme that goes back over 30 years, with ITER partners working as a team to master the complex technologies involved,” said Magnet Division head Neil Mitchell, who has led the development of the ITER conductors since 1992.


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