A consortium of European companies has been awarded the architect engineer contract for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) buildings and civil infrastructures. The contract is said to be the one of the biggest engineering contracts ever in Europe.

The contract, worth some €150 million ($200 million), was signed by the Engage consortium and Fusion for Energy (F4E) on 13 April. F4E is the European Union’s (EU’s) organization for Europe’s contribution to Iter. The Engage consortium comprises Atkins of the UK, French companies Assystem and Iosis, and Empresarios Agrupados of Spain.

The architect engineer will assist F4E during the entire construction process, from the elaboration of the detailed design to the final acceptance of the works. The contract covers the construction of the entire Iter complex, including 29 out of a total of 39 buildings, site infrastructure and power supplies.

The contract represents around 1.7 million hours of work, spread over the eight years it is expected to take to design and construct the Iter buildings, according to F4E. At the peak of the design activity, more than 230 engineers and designers will be working under the contract.

F4E has also signed a contract with France’s Apave for health and safety protection coordination and legal inspection services for the Iter project. That contract — worth some €9 million ($12 million) — will review the design during conception, establish the health and safety plan and follow up the work during the construction phase. F4E said, “The Iter project will comply with French legal requirements regarding the solidity of nuclear and non-nuclear buildings.”

“F4E has the full responsibility of the construction of the technical buildings necessary for the implementation of the Iter reactor,” said F4E director Frank Briscoe. He added, “The signature of the two contracts is a big step towards Iter’s construction phase. They are a clear demonstration of Europe’s capacity to deliver and involve industry in the biggest energy experiment of our time.”

Seven parties — China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the EU — are cooperating to build Iter, a 500 MWt tokamak, at Cadarache. The partners agreed in mid 2005 to site Iter at Cadarache. The deal involved major concessions to Japan, which had put forward Rokkasho as a preferred site. The EU and France will contribute half of the €12.8 billion ($18.7 billion) total cost, with the other partners — Japan, China, South Korea, USA and Russia — putting in 10% each.

Site preparation at Cadarache began in January 2007. The facility is expected to be in operation around 2018. As part of the reactor’s phased commissioning, it will initially be tested using hydrogen. Experiments using tritium and deuterium as fuel will begin in 2026.

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