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ITER: the world's largest Tokamak

the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is an international research and engineering project which is currently building the world's largest and most advanced experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor and will be constructed in Europe, at Cadarache in the south of France.

Why ITER: Objectives

Growth and Development in economy for any country are completely based on the energy and electrical power. At present, Generation of energy is highly depended on thermal and hydro power. While sources like solar energy, wind energy and nuclear energy contribute less then 5% to power generation. After 2 decades the demand of the energy would be ten times more than the present demand. The renewable energy sources like solar power and its derivatives, wind energy and biomass might not produce enough to sustain the worldwide demand. Fusion power is one of the technologies that could sustain such a high demand of electricity. ITER is a step towards future production of electricity from fusion energy. ITER will produce at least ten times more thermal energy than the energy required operating it, which can be converted to electricity in future power producing reactors based on fusion. ITER's mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, and prove that it can work without negative impact. Specifically, this includes: To momentarily produce ten times more thermal energy from fusion heating than is supplied by auxiliary heating (a Q value of 10). To produce steady-state plasma with a Q value greater than 5. To maintain a fusion pulse for up to 480 seconds. To ignite a 'burning' (self-sustaining) plasma. To develop technologies and processes needed for a fusion power plant including superconducting magnets and remote handling (maintenance by robot). To verify tritium breeding concepts. To refine neutron shield/heat conversion technology (most of energy in the D+T fusion reaction is released in the form of fast neutrons).

Indias contributions to ITER

ITER will be built mostly through in-kind contributions by the seven partners, meaning they will build their share of ITER components through an appropriately formed Domestic Agency (DA) and industries and deliver them to ITER for final assembly of the device. India will be contributing, like other partners except the host EU, about 10% of the ITER construction cost.

The Machine
ITER is based on the 'tokamak' concept of magnetic restriction, in which the plasma is contained in a doughnut-shaped vacuum vessel. The fuela mixture of Deuterium and Tritium two isotopes of Hydrogenis heated to temperatures in excess of 150 millionC, forming a hot plasma. Strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the walls; these are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel, and by an electrical current driven through the plasma. ITER is divided into two sections, I. The tokamak II. External systems The tokamak is the main part of the iter where fusion takes place while external systems helps to maintain temperature , power supply and fuel supply to tokamak.

1.0 The Tokamak

1.1 Magnets
The ITER Magnet System comprises i. 18 superconducting Toroidal Field ii. 6 Poloidal Field coils, iii. a Central Solenoid, and iv. a set of Correction coils This magnetically confines, shape and control the plasma inside the Vacuum Vessel. The power of the magnetic fields required to restrict the plasma in the ITER Vacuum Vessel is extreme. For maximum efficiency and to limit energy consumption, ITER uses superconducting magnets that lose their resistance when cooled down to very low temperatures.

Toroidal Field System

The 18 Toroidal Field (TF) magnets produce a magnetic field around the torus, whose primary function is to confine the plasma particles. The superconducting material for both the Central Solenoid and the Toroidal Field coils is designed to achieve operation at high magnetic field (13 Tesla), and is a special alloy made of Niobium and Tin (Nb3Sn). In order to achieve superconductivity, all coils are cooled with supercritical Helium in the range of 4 Kelvin (-269C). Superconductivity offers an attractive ratio of power consumption to cost for the long plasma pulses imagined for the ITER machine.

Poloidal Field System

The Poloidal Field (PF) magnets pinch the plasma away from the walls and contribute in this way to maintaining the plasma's shape and stability. The PF field is induced both by the Magnets and by the current drive in the plasma itself.

Central Solenoid
The main plasma current is induced by the changing current in the Central Solenoid which is essentially a large transformer, and the 'backbone' of the Magnet System.

1.2 Vacuum Vessel 2

The Vacuum Vessel is an airtight steel container inside the Cryostat that starts the fusion reaction and acts as a first safety containment barrier. In its doughnut-shaped chamber, or torus, the plasma particles spiral around continuously without touching the walls. The size of the Vacuum Vessel dictates the volume of the fusion plasma; the larger the vessel, the greater the amount of power that can be produced. The Vacuum Vessel will have double steel walls, with passages for Cooling Water to circulate between them. The inner surfaces of the Vessel will be covered with Blanket Modules that will provide shielding from the high-energy neutrons produced by the fusion reactions. Some of the Blanket Modules will also be used at later stages to test materials for Tritium Breeding concepts.

1.3 Blanket
The ITER Blanket is one of the most critical and technically challenging components in ITER The Blanket covers the internal surfaces of the Vacuum Vessel, providing shielding to the Vessel and the superconducting Magnets from the heat and neutron fluxes of the fusion reaction. The neutrons are slowed down in the Blanket. Here the kinetic energy of these neutrons is transformed into heat energy and collected by the coolants. In a fusion power plant, this energy will be used for electrical power production. For purposes of maintenance on the interior of the Vacuum Vessel, the Blanket wall is modular (constructed with standardised units).these modular dimensions allow flexibility and variety in use. It consists of 440 individual segments, each measuring 1x1.5 metres and weighing up to 4.6 tons. Each segment has a detachable first wall which directly faces the plasma and removes the plasma heat load, and a semi-permanent Blanket shield dedicated to the neutron shielding. Together with the Divertor it directly faces the hot plasma. Because of its unique physical properties, Beryllium has been chosen as the element to cover the first wall. The rest of the Blanket shield will be made of high-strength copper and stainless steel. In later experiments some modules may be used to test Tritium Breeding concepts.

1.4 The ITER Divertor

Located at the very bottom of the Vacuum Vessel, the ITER Divertor is made up of 54 remotely-removable cassettes. This part is also in direct contact with plasma. High energy plasma particles strike on the material of divertor and kinetic energy of this particles converts into heat flux and the amount of heat is too large that material of divertor requires continuous water cooling. The material of divertor should be able to withstand high temperature up to 3000 C. Iter will use carbon fibre reinforced carbon composite (CFC) as divertor target. This material is having high thermal conductivity. Metal like tungsten is also having capability to withstand high temperature and due to its low erosion rate it has longer life time. it can be used as a divertor material

1.5 Diagnostics
An extensive diagnostic system provides the measurements necessary to control evaluate and optimize plasma performance in ITER. These include measurements of temperature, density, impurity concentration, and particle and energy confinement times. This system will be having 50 individual measuring systems including lasers, X-rays, neutron cameras, impurity monitors, particle spectrometers, radiation bolometer (measure heat radiation), pressure and gas analysis, and optical fibres.

1.6 External Heating Systems

In order for the gas in the vacuum chamber to reach the plasma state and for the fusion reaction to occur, The temperatures inside the ITER Tokamak must reach 150 million Celsiusor ten times the temperature at the core of the Sun. The ITER Tokamak will rely on three sources of external heating that work in concert to provide the input heating power of 50 MW required bringing the plasma to the temperature necessary for fusion.


Neutral Beam Injection

Neutral Beam Injectors are used to shoot uncharged high-energy particles into the plasma. Here they colloid with each other and they transfer their energy to the plasma particles. Before injection, Deuterium atoms must be accelerated outside of the Tokamak to a kinetic energy of 1 Mega electron Volt (MeV). Only atoms with a positive or a negative charge can be accelerated by electric field. Electrons must be removed from neutral atoms to create a positively-charged ion. The process must then be reversed before injection into the fusion plasma; otherwise the electrically-charged ion would be deflected by the magnetic field of the plasma cage. In Neutral Beam Injection systems, the ions pass through a cell containing gas where they recover their missing electron and can be injected as fast neutrals into the plasma. The Neutral Beam Injector accelerates fast neutralized Deuterium particles into the plasma.


Ion Cyclotron Heating

Ion and Electron Cyclotron heating methods use radio waves at different frequencies to bring additional heat to the plasma, much in the same way that a microwave oven transfers heat to food through microwaves. Here energy is transferred to the ions in the plasma by a high-intensity beam of electromagnetic radiation with a frequency of 40 to 55MHz.


Electron Cyclotron Heating

Electron Cyclotron Resonance Heating (ECRH) heats the electrons in the plasma with a high-intensity beam of electromagnetic radiation at a frequency of 170 GHz (the resonant frequency of electrons). The electrons in turn transfer the absorbed energy to the ions by collision.

1.7 Cryostat
The Cryostat provides a super-cool, vacuum environment. It is made up of stainless steel structure surrounding the Vacuum Vessel and superconducting Magnets.

2.0 External systems

2.1 Vacuum System
The ITER Vacuum Vessel and Cryostat range amongst the largest Vacuum Systems ever built. Vacuum pumping is done before the starting of fusion reaction, to eliminate the entire unwanted molecules which can break in hot plasma and affect the reaction. Vacuum pumping is also required to create low density This process takes 24-48 hrs to generate high vacuum.

2.2 Cryogenics
Cryogenic technology creates and maintains low-temperature conditions for the magnet, vacuum pumping and some diagnostics systems. The ITER Magnets will be cooled with supercritical Helium at 4 K (-269C) in order to operate at the high magnetic fields necessary for the confinement and stabilization of the plasma. The cryoplant is composed of Helium and Nitrogen refrigerators.

2.3 Remote Handling

When operation begins in Iter, it would be impossible to make changes, conduct inspections, or repair any of the Tokamak components in the activated areas other than by remote handling. Very reliable and robust remote handling techniques will be necessary to manipulate and exchange components weighing up to 50 tons.

2.4 Power Supply

The ITER plant will requires 110 MW to up to 620 MW of electricity for peak periods of 30 seconds during plasma operation. Power will be provided through the 400 kV circuits that already supply the nearby CEA Cadarache sitea one-kilometre extension will be enough to link the ITER plant into the network. The Cooling Water and Cryogenic systems will together absorb about 80% of this supply. Emergency backup power for the ITER plant and facilities will be covered by two diesel generators.

2.5 Fuel Cycle

The fuel requires to start the fusion reaction will be deuterium and tritium, both are isotopes of hydrogen. To start the fusion reaction firstly all air and dust particle are removed with the help of vacuum system and then low density gaseous fuel is introduced into the vacuum vessel through gas injection system. Applied electric current to the gases make them ionize and plasma formation takes place. The fuels used in ITER will be processed in a closed cycle.

The "closed DT loop" fuelling cycle of ITER:-Stored Deuterium and Tritium are introduced into the vacuum chamber where only a small percentage of the fuel is consumed. The plasma exhaust is removed and processed through an isotope separation system that extracts out the fusion fuels for reinjection into the fuelling cycle.

2.6 Hot Cell

The Hot Cell facility provide a secure environment for the processing, repair, testing, and disposal of components that have become activated by neutron exposure. Fusion reaction does not produce any radioactive product but neutrons coming out of reaction can activate the wall material of the vacuum vessel .Also it gets contaminated by the metallic dust and tritium. The removal is done by remote handling and treatment, packaging and temporary storage of waste material would be done in hot cell.

2.7 Cooling Water

Cooling Water System requires managing the heat generated during operation of the Tokamak. It is used to remove heat from the Vacuum Vessel and its components, and to cool the Diagnostics, Heating, Power, and Cryogenic systems.

2.8 Tritium Breeding

Tritium and Deuterium are two isotopes of Hydrogen that will be used to fuel the fusion reaction in ITER Deuterium can be extracted in very high quantities from natural sources but the supply of tritium is limited. Fortunately it can be generated by the interaction of high energy neutrons with Li metal which is present in the blanket part. It is known as tritium breeding. this generated tritium can again be used as a fuel for the nuclear reactions and hence Tritium breeding is essential for the future of fusion energy.