Building blocks in the future of energy

ITER aims to be the first nuclear fusion reactor to produce more energy than is required to power its plasma.

Wood’s support to the project, based in Provence, France, goes back decades. Current work includes the first wall panels (FWPs) for the blanket which protects the ITER machine from the plasma; the test blanket modules (TBMs), which are an essential part of breeding tritium to fuel the fusion reaction in future reactors; and the remote handling system for the neutral beam, which heats the fuel in the tokamak.   

The ITER machine will house over 440 FWPs, with around 220 of those being produced under contract to Fusion for Energy (F4E), which manages the European contribution to ITER. The FWPs will experience phenomenal temperature gradient from facing the plasma, which is planned to be at 10 times the temperature of the centre of the sun (some 150 million degrees Celsius).

During operation, the ITER FWPs will be cooled by pressurised water. The FWPs consist of 6-10 mm thick beryllium tile coating panels of approximately 1 m x 1.5 m. These panels comprise a stainless steel and copper chromium zirconium (CuCrZr) alloy heatsink covered with beryllium tiles, all bonded together using hot isostatic pressing (HIP).

In 2014 a JV comprising Wood, Leading Enterprises and Iberdrola was awarded a contract to design and build a full scale prototype of an FWP, which will be covered with about 700 beryllium tiles that are bonded to the plasma facing surface of the panel. This is scheduled for delivery in Q4 2018. 

The ITER TBMs and its associated ancillary systems, including cooling system and tritium extraction system, forms the test blanket system (TBS) that will be fully integrated in the ITER machine and buildings. 

The European helium-cooled lithium-lead (HCLL) test blanket system and the helium-cooled pebble bed (HCPB) TBS are being developed to demonstrate tritium breeding technology within the ITER reactor. Wood has developed accident analysis models of these TBS using the modified MELCOR and RELAP5 accident analysis codes.

One of the plasma heating systems is the neutral beam. Three heating neutral beam (HNB) injectors heat the plasma in the tokamak by firing a stream of neutral (un-charged) particles into it at a tangent.  Exposure to radiation means that the HNB machines will become highly activated and because this precludes human access, internal maintenance and repairs will need to be carried out remotely. 

Wood is responsible for the design, manufacture, installation and commissioning of the remote handling systems which will connect/disconnect components weighing up to 40 tonnes and transport them out of the cell to a separate facility.

Wood also leads the MOMENTUM joint venture, which is the construction management-as-agent contractor at ITER, responsible for co-ordinating the assembly of more than one million components in the ITER machine.



Ian Grayson, Wood