NEF CDT Visits ITER and CEA Caderache

Last week PhD students from the Nuclear Energy Futures Centre for Doctoral Training (NEF CDT) had the opportunity to visit two sites of nuclear significance in the south of France. Researchers from the University of Bristol, Imperial College London and Bangor University were given a tour of both ITER and the nearby CEA Cadarache.

These sites were directly relevant to the research being conducted by the NEF CDT as specialisms include remote handling, plasma physics, nuclear fuel and materials. Students were able to see the status of ITER and the Jules-Horowitz Reactor (JHR), as well as the inside of two material testing labs. As ITER and JHR are still under construction it meant that areas that would normally be out of bounds were able to be accessed, allowing students to see the inside of hot cells, the inside of a tokamak and the intense development that these sites undergo.

A large group of students all wearing high-vis vests stand in front of a large site with large buildings behind them.
Students pictured in front of the ITER site

ITER (originally Latin for ‘The Way’ but now also standing for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an ambitious collaborative project consisting of seven members: The EU, China, Russia, India, Japan, Korea and the US. It is due to be the largest tokamak ever built, standing at 60m tall, weighing over 23,000 tonnes and with a plasma volume of 830 cubic metres. For comparison, JET could hold a plasma volume of 100 cubic metres. The cross-sectional design of this tokamak can be seen below in a 3D Lego model and can be compared to what is currently already built. The blue and yellow sections are yet to be inserted. Seeing the scale of this project in real life puts research into context and helps visualise where individual efforts fit into the bigger picture.

The inside of a tokomak. The curved walls are incomplete, and the central pillar has netting and scaffolding around it. There are large sections of the floor covered in pink sheets of plastic.
The current status of the tokamak
A 3D Lego model of a cross sections of the ITER reactor. The central pillar is made of green bricks, and the walls which make up the interior walls are made of an inner layer of blue bricks and an outer layer of yellow bricks.
A 3D Lego model of ITER when completed


The Cadarache site is the largest energy research centre in Europe, covering 1600 hectares and including 18 nuclear installations. This includes the Jules-Horowitz reactor (JHR), a soon to open materials research reactor. Other members of the group also visited the Papirus and Poseidon laboratories, where some of the 5000 members of the Cadarache staff are testing components in a mock-up reactor to observe how they withstand the conditions. They are also investigating liquid metal and liquid salt reactors as part of their work.

A smaller group of students pose at the ITER site below a blue sky.
Members of the CDT on top of the Jules-Horowitz Reactor

The CDT were very grateful for the opportunity to visit these interesting research centres and would like to thank the kind members of the Cadarache team who accompanied the students and were happy to answer the many questions presented to them during the day!

Words kindly written by Hannah Tipping, PhD student at the University of Bristol.

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