The dark façade of the Assembly Hall building, overlooking ITER’s Tokamak complex, shines under the warm sunlight of Provence. Inside this vast hall the heavy ITER components will be assembled and lifted in order to be installed in the machine which will bring the energy of the sun to Earth. One of the walls of the Assembly Hall is covered by an immense illustration of the ITER machine, and almost like a teaser, it suggests that history will be written in this facility.
The two cranes with their equipment (hoists, trolleys) have been installed 46 metres above the ground. The girders measure more than 46 m in length, with overall cross dimensions of about 4 x 3.5 m, and will be able to lift together a total of 1500 tonnes, approximately the weight of four Boeing 747 planes at take-off. The tooling stems from a contract signed between F4E and the NKM NOELL-REEL consortium in 2013. The manufacturing of the different parts in the Netherlands, France and Spain, together with their transfer from the port of Marseille to Cadarache, have added additional layers of coordination.
The girders and trolleys were originally stored in a building nearby, where the Poloidal Field coils will be manufactured. A few weeks before the spectacular lifting operations kicked off they were transferred to the Assembly Hall where one by one was lifted at 46 m high. Due to their impressive size and weight, a monster crawler crane came to give a helping hand all the way from Saudi Arabia. This was its first job in Europe and under the guidance of several technicians, and a team of 25 people on the ground, the various pieces of equipment had to be carefully positioned, balanced and loaded. It has taken roughly 3 hours to lift each girder and two weeks in total to complete this delicate operation. Thanks to the successful collaboration between F4E and the NKM NOELL-REEL consortium, the cranes have been installed earlier than planned and the entire operation was carried out smoothly.