Graphic shows how the central solenoid fits into the mammoth ITER experimental fusion reactor.


The fusion reactor magnet that can lift an aircraft carrier

By Ninian Carter

June 18, 2021 - The first module of the central magnet for a state-of-the-art hydrogen fusion reactor has embarked on an epic road trip across the United States, on its way to the ITER megaproject in southern France.

Assembly is soon to start on the central solenoid of the ITER nuclear fusion reactor, a vast international experimental research and engineering megaproject being constructed in Cadarache, France.

When completed, the six story structure will be the world's most powerful magnet, with a magnetic field strength of 13 Tesla, about 280,000 times greater than the Earth's magnetic field – theoretically capable of lifting a 90,000 tonne aircraft carrier.

The first of six modules (plus one spare) that will form the central solenoid is finally complete after five years of construction and testing by General Atomics in Poway, California, and is now embarking on a mammoth road trip across the United States to Houston, Texas.

The 110 tonne, 4.25 metre-wide cylinder will then be loaded onto a ship for a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to Marseille in France, where it will be driven a short distance to the ITER facility for final assembly.

A special 24-axle transport vehicle is needed to carry the heavy, wide load, that will only be driven at night so as to minimise interruptions to everyday traffic flow. It's expected to reach Houston in late July, Marseille by late August and the ITER site in early September.

The ITER reactor should be operational by 2025, whereupon it will commence experiments to see if it can achieve the Holy Grail of energy generation – output more energy than is needed to create it, in this case, use 50MW of heating power to create plasma of 500MW – a 10-fold increase in energy.

PUBLISHED: 18/06/2021; STORY: Graphic News