US-based General Atomics (GA) on10 August marked the completion and shipment of the first Central Solenoid module for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) under construction in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance in southern France, with a celebration at the firm’s Magnet Technologies Centre (MTC) in California. The module recently arrived in France after being shipped from the MTC in late June and is scheduled to reach the ITER site in the coming weeks. Five additional modules, plus one spare, are at various stages of fabrication, with the second module expected to ship this month. The Central Solenoid will be assembled as the modules arrive on site and is scheduled to be fully installed in 2023-24. ITER is scheduled to begin its first plasma operations in 2025.

The event was attended by key politicians as well as Mayor Todd Gloria (City of San Diego) and senior representatives of the US Department of Energy (DOE), Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, ITER, US ITER, and representatives from the organisations and subcontractors involved.

The Central Solenoid is a critical component of the ITER project, an international collaboration of 35 nations that will demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy. This massive magnet, which will be 59 feet tall and 14 feet in diameter, and will weigh 1,000 tons, will drive 15 million amperes of electrical current that will be used to shape and control the fusion reaction.

“I am immensely proud of our team for reaching this important milestone,” said Neal Blue, CEO and Chairman of General Atomics. “The Central Solenoid is a critical component for ITER and the most significant in-kind contribution the United States is making to this international collaboration.” John Smith, GA’s Director of Engineering and Projects and Project Manager for Central Solenoid Module Fabrication, said the Central Solenoid is “one of the most complex and demanding pulsed magnet programmes ever undertaken”. He added: “Pulsed superconducting magnets of this power and scale have never been made before. Successfully designing, fabricating, testing, and shipping the first module, with six more in various stages of production, is truly a testament to the skill and dedication of the team here at General Atomics.”

The Central Solenoid modules are being manufactured under the direction of the US ITER project, managed by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Under the ITER agreement, all members share equally in the technology developed while funding only a portion of the total cost. The USA is contributing approximately 9% of ITER’s total construction costs.

The Central Solenoid is one of 12 hardware systems that US ITER, funded by the DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, is providing to the project. More than 80% percent of the funds appropriated by Congress for ITER are used domestically to support high-tech jobs and manufacturing by funding in-kind contributions such as the Central Solenoid. General Atomics partnered with dozens of independent vendors and contractors in the San Diego metropolitan region and throughout the USA to support its fabrication.