General Atomics Awarded Contract to Develop Key Component for ITER

ECH transmission line wave guide assemblies will form key element of plasma-heating system

ECH waveguide assemblies
A rendering of one of the electron cyclotron heating (ECH) waveguide assemblies that GA is developing for the ITER fusion experiment. The assemblies carry high-frequency microwaves of up to 1 megawatt into the tokamak to heat the plasma to fusion conditions. The microwaves travel through the large machined aluminum tube in the center, while the small copper tubes on top and bottom provide cooling during operation. Courtesy General Atomics.

San Diego, November 6, 2020 – General Atomics (GA) has been awarded a contract by US ITER, based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to develop the manufacturing process for components for the system that will transmit microwave heating into the heart of the ITER international fusion experiment in France. These components, known as waveguide assemblies, are composed of precision-machined, ultra-straight metal tubes up to three meters in length. The assemblies will carry high-frequency, high-power microwaves as part of ITER’s electron-cyclotron heating (ECH) system, which is used to heat the plasma to fusion conditions.

The contract, awarded today, covers development of manufacturing procedures that will be qualified by fabrication of ten ECH transmission line waveguide assemblies at GA’s Magnet Technologies Center (MTC) in San Diego. Production of the approximately 1,700 waveguide assemblies that will be installed in ITER will be the subject of future US ITER contracts not yet awarded.

GA is a world leader in low-loss, high-frequency microwave transmission line components, and it has been developing and delivering waveguides and related systems in support of fusion and other projects for more than 30 years. GA’s corrugated waveguide technology is being used in fusion experiments around the world. This approach allows for extremely efficient microwave transmission with very little loss of energy over long distances, which is essential for operation of an experiment the size of ITER.

ITER is the largest science project ever built on earth, with an objective to prove that fusion can be a practical source of clean, nearly limitless energy for the future. Currently under construction in Cadarache, France, with operations slated to begin in 2025, ITER will demonstrate reactor-scale fusion power—showing that it is possible to create a Sun on earth.

Corrugated aluminum waveguides
Corrugated aluminum waveguides produced by GA for a fusion experiment in Asia. Similar waveguides will be produced for ITER. Courtesy General Atomics.

“The ECH system is a critical component for ensuring ITER’s successful operation,” said Jim Anderson, head of GA’s Radio Frequency Technology department. “This award is a recognition of the important work that GA continues to deliver in support of ITER, and of our cutting-edge capabilities in high-frequency, high-power microwave technology.”

GA contributes to the ITER project in multiple ways, starting with research at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, which GA operates as a national user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the largest operating magnetic fusion research facility in the U.S., DIII-D has been the site of many scientific discoveries that informed the design and operation of ITER.

The MTC, where the waveguide assemblies will be produced, is also the facility where GA is fabricating the ITER Central Solenoid. Standing 59-feet tall, the Central Solenoid will be the largest pulsed superconducting magnet ever built. It will operate at temperatures of 4K – near absolute zero – and drive 15 million amperes of current into the ITER tokamak to heat and stabilize the plasma. GA is also building several ITER technical systems, including diagnostic devices, and doing important theoretical physics research to support the project.

About General Atomics: Since the dawn of the atomic age, General Atomics innovations have advanced the state of the art across the full spectrum of science and technology – from nuclear energy and defense to medicine and high-performance computing. Behind a talented global team of scientists, engineers, and professionals, GA’s unique experience and capabilities continue to deliver safe, sustainable, economical, and innovative solutions to meet growing global demands.

For more information contact:
Zabrina Johal

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