General Atomics Completes Heat Treatment of ITER’s First Central Solenoid Module

The First Module’s Fabrication Process Completes a Key Milestone, Continuing to Show Significant Progress 

SAN DIEGO  26 April 2017 – Today General Atomics (GA) reached another key milestone in the fabrication of the ITER Central Solenoid as engineers and technicians at GA’s facility officially completed heat treatment of the first module. The Central Solenoid – an integral component of ITER’s unprecedented fusion facility – will stand over five stories tall and will be the world’s most powerful pulsed superconducting magnet.

“The heat treatment is what ultimately creates the solenoid's superconducting material, and completion of this process demonstrates that we are continuing to make good, consistent progress on this project,” said John Smith, GA’s program manager.

The process required to create the superconducting material inside the module windings is exacting. The temperature within the furnace can only change at a rate of five or six degrees Fahrenheit per hour, making both the heating and cooling processes very time consuming – it required more than one week for each.

In order to complete the critical heat treatment process, GA engineers and technicians positioned the first module in a massive one-and-a-half-megawatt furnace, which functions in a manner similar to that of convection ovens found in many kitchens. The benefit of the convection oven is the ability to shorten the overall process while maintaining uniform “cooking” of the module.

Inside the furnace, the module spent approximately ten-and-a-half days at 1,060 degrees Fahrenheit and an additional four days at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“After spending weeks carefully monitoring and controlling the temperature in the furnace, we will now begin the first of the module’s multiple insulation processes, called turn insulation. Simultaneously, samples that were heat treated along with the first module will be sent to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Florida to be tested, proving the heat treatment successfully created the superconducting material needed for ITER’s solenoid,” Smith said. “GA is pleased with our progress on the Central Solenoid fabrication to date, and we are proud of each successive milestone that we reach.”

ITER is a collaborative scientific partnership between 35 nations representing more than half the population of the world. This research and development project aims to demonstrate fusion power is a feasible clean-energy source that can be scaled globally. The U.S. ITER project is a collaboration of over 500 companies, laboratories, and universities across 43 states and the District of Columbia and is hosted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The U.S. ITER work is supported by the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences within the Office of Science of U.S. Department of Energy.

About General Atomics

General Atomics (GA) has been at the cutting edge of global high-technology innovation for more than 60 years. GA’s scientists perform research and development in critical fields such as nuclear energy, aerospace, medical diagnostics, advanced materials, and electromagnetics. GA leverages this groundbreaking research for both government and private industry, delivering innovative, practical solutions ranging from next-generation nuclear reactors and nuclear materials to remotely operated aircraft, and electromagnetic systems.

For more information contact:

Zabrina Johal 
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The first module of the ITER Central Solenoid being prepared for heat treatment in February 2017 at General Atomics’ facility in Poway, Calif. Courtesy: General Atomics  

A General Atomics technician prepares to remove the first ITER Central Solenoid module from the furnace following heat treatment. The process required five weeks of careful temperature control in order to create the superconducting material in the module windings. Courtesy: General Atomics 

The first ITER Central Solenoid module leaves the furnace area on its way to the next step of the fabrication process, where the windings will be wrapped with fiberglass and Kapton insulation. General Atomics is manufacturing seven such modules, six of which will together form the ITER Central Solenoid. Courtesy: General Atomics

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