“Fusion energy, created daily on the sun, transforms hydrogen into helium, releasing huge amounts of energy,” explains Phil Schneider, Product Manager All-Metal Valves. “To achieve this process has been a dream of mankind since the 19th century.”

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is the world's largest fusion project and will begin to test the possibility of sustained fusion in 2025. Thirty-five nations (including China, the EU countries, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and USA) are collaborating on the development of the world's largest tokamak (magnetic fusion device). In a tokamak reactor, nuclear fusion is generated in a plasma focused by large magnetic fields.

“Igniting a controlled fusion reaction is simple in concept but incredibly complicated to actually execute. But the pay-off is enormous. By controlling fusion, we could theoretically tap into an infinite source of energy, as hydrogen is abundantly available right here on Earth,” adds Phil Schneider.

Potentially, this form of energy could supply enough power to run the earth’s entire electricity grid forever. Controlled fusion produces no greenhouse gases and does not require the hazardous nuclear fuel used in nuclear reactors.

As a dedicated ITER development partner, VAT assembled an ITER Valve Catalog, a product portfolio of vacuum valve solutions that can withstand the extreme temperature and radiation conditions of the ITER tokamak reactor. The catalog provides a range of vacuum valve solutions needed in the different areas of the reactor. This overview will help ITER project partners select the corresponding valves for the modules they supply to the project. Most of these valves are all-metal valves that use metal-to-metal sealing instead of elastomers. Special O-rings, more resistant to radiation, are used in the compressed air operated actuators.

As part of the VAT development effort, an all-metal sealed pendulum valve was developed with special features that include VATRING technology for an opening diameter of 1.6 m – making it the largest pendulum valves with VATRING technology ever designed. Primary function of the Absolute Valve is to isolate the tokamak vacuum vessel and neutral beam vacuum vessel volumes from one another allowing the vessels to be vented to atmospheric pressure independently.

"The development work for the ITER project is of particular importance to the VAT team, as we are working at the limits of what is technically feasible in many areas," says Phil Schneider. "We are eager to see how our valves perform in the fusion test and where we will discover potential for improvements."