Europe is responsible for the production of ten Toroidal Field coils. These powerful superconducting magnets, which are massive in size and complex to manufacture, are necessary to confine the hot gas of the ITER device. Just to give you an idea, each of them measures 17 x 9 m and weighs approximately 320 tonnes— as much as an Airbus A350. In the core of each of these powerful beasts lies a winding pack—a solid piece of equipment containing around 4.5 km of heated-treated insulated conductor, all neatly inserted into metallic cases with grooves, known as radial plates. The subcomponents go through various stages of insulation, laser welding, impregnation, electrical tests until they become one component. To view the manufacturing process explained by F4E experts, click here.
The last of the ten winding packs is completed and ready to depart. As the wooden box containing the equipment starts exiting the factory of ASG Superconductors, the team of people overviewing its transit start applauding. There are mixed feelings in the air. A sense of pride and joy for contributing to its production, and that of melancholy for being the last one. This feels like the final act of a story that started roughly 11 years ago with F4E placing the first contracts for their fabrication. The first of them was produced in May 2017 and by the end of 2020 they were all ready. Shipment and logistics needed to be aligned with other activities, keeping the component on stand-by for some time.
The ten winding packs result from the successful collaboration of at least 40 companies and more than 700 people. The main contractors have been ASG Superconductors, SIMIC, CNIM, Iberdrola Ingeniería y Construcción, Elytt and the ICAS consortium. The action unfolded in several factories. It started in Turin (Italy), where ICAS had to produce the conductor. CNIM, Toulon (France), and SIMIC, Marghera (Italy) had to split the fabrication of the radial plates. ASG Superconductors, in collaboration with Elytt Energy, and Iberdrola Ingeniería y Construcción, manufactured the inner-core of the magnets. All pieces were delivered to La Spezia, converting ASG Superconductors into the winding packs hub.
Robert Harrison, F4E Technical Officer, has been following their production from the beginning. In fact, he relocated to Italy in order to be present in the factory. The completion of the first and the last winding pack have been very significant. “Having been present from the start of production of component prototypes till the fabrication of the last winding pack, it gives me great satisfaction to have seen the manufacturing through to completion”.
Alessandro Bonito-Oliva, F4E Magnets Programme Manager, developing the production strategy and co-ordinating the F4E staff and suppliers, reflects on the accomplishment of this achievement. “The last winding pack, completed several months ago and stored in ASG before shipment, represents a very important milestone for ITER. It results from ten years of excellent collaboration between many suppliers co-ordinated by F4E with the support of ITER Organization. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the different parties involved in the production of these technologically complex coils. In particular, the work done by the F4E Toroidal Field magnets team in guiding and co-ordinating the activities carried out simultaneously in different parts of Europe.”
Antonio Pellecchia, ASG Superconductors Sales Manager, explains: “We are counting 40 years in research and fusion projects. However, working on an international project like ITER was very special for ASG Superconductors. It meant developing a new production plant, hiring more people, forging international cooperation, and meeting challenging milestones. We hope to use all these competences in manufacturing the sophisticated coils for fusion and green energy projects in the near future. This said, we continue to work for the production of the European poloidal filed coils in Cadarache. We are in till the end.” The winding pack will travel by sea to reach Porto Marghera, in order to go through the final manufacturing tests in the factory of SIMIC. It is there that it will become a fully-fledged magnet. So far, Europe has delivered six out of the ten Toroidal Field coils to ITER, with the most recent one arriving before the end of the year.