A weight of 1,000 tons and the size of a seven-story building: the first part of a gigantic magnet, announced as the most powerful in the world, will arrive this Thursday at the site of the experimental nuclear fusion reactor Iter, in Saint -Paul-lez-Durance (Bouches-du-Rhône).
This magnet called “Central Solenoid” constitutes a major milestone of Iter, an international program bringing together 35 countries which aims to control the production of energy from the fusion of hydrogen, as in the heart of the Sun.
A first 66-ton piece
Manufactured by General Atomics in California, it consists of six modules, the first of which is due to arrive overnight from Wednesday to Thursday at the construction site of the future reactor, launched in 2010.
Transported by sea from the United States, this first 66-tonne piece arrived at the port of Marseille and is currently on its way to the Iter site, on the banks of the Durance, about a hundred kilometers away. The other five modules of the magnet will complete the puzzle “at the latest in 2024,” Bernard Bigot, CEO of Iter Organization, told AFP.
The superconducting magnet will be placed in the heart of the tokamak fusion reactor, a huge ring-shaped magnetic chamber where the temperature can reach 150 million degrees. By heating the plasma (a hydrogen gas), it allows the hydrogen nuclei to collide and merge into heavier helium atoms, releasing colossal energy.