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Media Corner
08 October 2013

The ITER convoy: 800 tonnes crossing the south of France

The ITER convoy: 800 tonnes crossing the South of France

Transporting the exceptionally heavy ITER components that will be manufactured in different parts of the world is no easy task. It requires impeccable logistics, excellent coordination and last but not least the vehicle and the right infrastructure that can sustain the load. The plan is to ship the components to the south of France and then transport them all the way to Cadarache where they will finally be assembled.

Now try and imagine crossing 41 different picturesque villages of France’s Provence driving a vehicle that is 33 m long, 10 m high, 9 m wide, that together with its load weighs 800 tonnes and has 352 tyres. Could you be at the driving seat? The spirit behind the well-orchestrated campaign for the ITER convoy, undertaken by the French authorities between 16-20 September, was to test all of these parameters without disturbing the daily life of the local population.

The preparatory works for the test drive, the total cost of which reached 112 million EUR, started a long time ago in order to enlarge 35 km of route, build and reinforce 26 bridges, improve the size of 19 roundabouts and develop new parts of the highway. Crowds joined the 140 members of France’s gendarmerie, who escorted  the vehicle vigilantly at 5 km/h throughout the four nights, in order to witness history in the making and take pictures of this impressive operation.

F4E’s Federico Casci, Head of Project Office and Eric Pangole, Technical Officer for transport activities, were also there to follow step by step the convoy’s trip to ITER. We managed to speak to them right after the convoy crossed the gates of the ITER site to find out more about the significance of this event. “This is an important achievement for Europe. It is the conclusion of many years of work involving actors from different bodies like EFDA and CEA at an earlier stage. Once the Cadarache site was selected and new organisations were set up like F4E, ITER International Organization (IO) and Agence ITER France, then most of the involved people carried on with their duties ensuring continuity” explains Federico Casci. Transportation studies were carried out more than ten years ago to prepare the candidature of the Cadarache site to host ITER.

Eric Pangole explains that “It is also a symbolic milestone for Europe and France since it finally demonstrates that the Cadarache site fully meets the ITER requirements in terms of logistics and transportation infrastructure. Moreover, it is an important achievement for F4E given the fact that it has contracted and financed the test of the itinerary. We have participated in working groups related to this subject and have been involved together with AIF and IO in the selection process of the contractor, Daher, responsible for the transportation of the ITER components.”

The transport operation is considered impressive due to the exceptional dimensions and weight of the ITER components together with the number of actors involved, which range from public authorities to private companies. The most extraordinary part of the test convoy exercise, however, was seeing all these years of hard work and preparations unfolding in front of our eyes even at the slow pace 5 km/h. It was a tour de force in slow motion.

The traject from the sea to ITER © AIF

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