Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Lynne Degitz (degitzlk@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


US ITER Awards Contract to General Atomics for Manufacturing Superconducting Magnets

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., July 19, 2011 — The US ITER Project Office at Oak Ridge National Laboratory competitively awarded a multi-year contract to General Atomics to produce superconducting magnets for the central solenoid of ITER, an experimental fusion facility that aims to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy for the commercial power grid.

The central solenoid (CS) system is crucial for the success of the ITER device, as it induces the majority of magnetic flux change necessary to initiate the plasma, generate the plasma current, and maintain this current during operation. The central solenoid contributes to shaping the plasma and acts as a large transformer, driving plasma current.

The CS system is composed of six coil packs that use a superconducting niobium-tin cable-in-conduit conductor, held together by a massive pre-compression structure. Upon assembly, the CS will be nearly 40 feet high and weigh more than 1000 tons, making it the world's largest pulsed superconducting magnet.

Nuclear fusion occurs naturally in stars, like our sun. When hydrogen gets hot enough, the process of fusion occurs, releasing energy. Fusion holds promise as a safe and abundant energy source. ITER will allow scientists to explore the physics of a burning plasma.

ITER is designed to produce 500 megawatts of fusion power for over 400 seconds. Inside the tokamak, plasma temperatures will reach over 100 million degrees C. The ITER machine will be the largest tokamak ever built.

Based in San Diego, General Atomics has a long history of fusion innovation, including the Department of Energy DIIID National Fusion Facility. DIIID is the nation's largest magnetic confinement experiment and has contributed to key physics findings relevant for the design and operation of ITER.

The United States is one of seven ITER members, along with the People's Republic of China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation. The ITER facility is currently under construction in France near Cadarache in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur.

The US ITER Project Office is hosted by ORNL, with partners Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Savannah River National Laboratory, and sponsored by the US Department of Energy Office of Science. For more information, please visit http://www.usiter.org. UT-Batelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy.