2013 October - Fusion Field trip to ITER and Tore Supra
On the 21st of October, a group of 34 students and employees of the TU/e woke up early in order to head off towards the holy grail of nuclear fusion in Southern-France, ITER. After its construction, ITER will be the largest tokamak in the world and is expected to be the first fusion reactor to yield a net energy gain.
The study trip was organized for students of the course ‘Fusion of the back of an envelope’ to attend, but since there were seats left in the touring bus, anyone interested was able to join.
ITER is a huge international project which represents almost the entire mankind. Every participating country pays their part of the multi-billion dollar check and has to construct some of the parts of the apparatus. The size of the project makes it very complex and time-consuming.
After a fifteen hour trip we arrived at Avignon in the evening. Avignon is a very beautiful city with an impressive ancient town center. We sat down at a restaurant to have dinner, did some sight-seeing and concluded the evening with a drink. After that everybody went to bed early because breakfast would be served at 6:30 am.
The journey was planned to continue the next morning at 7:00, but due to some problems the touring car had a delay and did not arrive before 7:45. Sadly enough this did result in the fact that we could not get access to the headquarters of ITER, but we were still able to go to the visitor center and get a nice overview of the building site.
The size of the site is very impressive and it gives an idea of the scale of the project. From the terrace the different facilities that are required to operate the reactor can be seen, some of them finished, some of them not. The scale model at the visitor center shows all the buildings that will be built, and gives a good idea about how the site will look like in five to ten years.
The site at this moment is interesting to see, but it will be much more impressive when ITER is in operation. Therefore I really hope to be able to come back to ITER in the next decade.
After the overview of the site a presentation was given about the construction of the tokamak itself. This presentation gave an interesting list of all the parts which are currently under construction all over the world. Controlling this production phase is very complex and being able to get all the parts towards ITER is a task on itself. Many adaptations have been made to the local infrastructure solely for this purpose.
After a last look at the ITER site the touring car took us to the adjacent CEA site. The CEA is a French public establishment whose mission it is to develop applications of nuclear power. After having lunch in their restaurant we took a tour around the site and headed towards Tore Supra, the fusion reactor of the CEA.
After an introduction we were led towards the control room of the Tore Supra. It was really interesting to see and in a way reminded me of a bridge of a spaceship. The room was full of computers which were used in order to control and diagnose the plasma of the reactor.
From here on we continued our tour towards the reactor itself. During our trip we were lucky because the reactor was open for maintenance and adjustments, so we were able to get a close look at it. When you think of the fact that Tore Supra already is an impressively big machine with many diagnostics, surely ITER will be mind-blowing!
This visit concluded our trip and after this we entered the touring bus again for a long journey back home. Exactly two days after we left, we arrived back in Eindhoven with the bus in which everyone was tired but satisfied.