Infrastructure Energy & MaterialsMay 7, 2021

Harnessing the power of nuclear fusion with the ITER project

Fusion power holds the promise of providing unlimited, clean energy in a…
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Avatar Rebecca Lambert

Fusion power holds the promise of providing unlimited, clean energy in a safe, environmentally friendly way. But, after decades of research, we are yet to find a way of harnessing it sustainably.

Unlike conventional nuclear power plants, which generate energy by splitting atoms, nuclear fusion involves smashing two atoms together. This releases nearly 4 million times more energy than a chemical reaction such as the burning of coal, oil or gas and four times more than nuclear fission. Put another way: Containing a nuclear fusion reaction is like trying to keep the sun in a box.

But experiments prove that fusion reactions can be achieved on Earth. Doughnut-shaped gigantic electromagnets called tokamaks keep the ionized gases, known as plasma, contained within magnetic fields as they are heated to temperatures reaching 10 times that of the sun’s core. This process uses colossal amounts of energy and, to date, no nuclear fusion plants have produced more energy than they’ve consumed. A global project called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) plans to change that.

Based in the south of France, the ITER project was founded by seven member states – China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States – and brings together 35 nations working to build the most advanced and largest tokamak magnetic confinement fusion experiment. When complete, it will be twice the size of the largest machine currently in operation and demonstrate that fusion power can be generated on a commercial scale.

Building the tokamak is one of the most complex engineering endeavors in history. Thousands of people are working towards the project’s success, constructing millions of components around the world before shipping them to France to be assembled into the giant reactor.

“Constructing the machine piece by piece will be like assembling a 3D puzzle on an intricate timeline,” said Bernard Bigot, director-general of ITER. “Every aspect of project management, systems engineering, risk management and logistics of the machine assembly must perform together with the precision of a Swiss watch.”

ITER needed an industry-leading platform to orchestrate this ambitious and hugely complex project and found the answer in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Discover how ITER is using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to achieve seamless global collaboration, maintain a single source of truth throughout the entire plant lifecycle and keep project schedules under control.

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