Plainsboro, NJ - The U.S. Department of Energy's (USDOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has awarded subcontracts for the fabrication of major components for the National Compact Stellarator Experiment (NCSX), now under construction at the Laboratory. NCSX will explore the physics of an innovative concept for fusion energy production and will advance the understanding of the related basic science. PPPL is building the new experiment in partnership with the USDOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
A team led by Energy Industries of Ohio, Inc., of Independence, Ohio, has been selected to manufacture the winding forms upon which unique, modular electromagnetic coils will be mounted. Team members include the C.A. Lawton Company, Pattern Division, of DePerre, Wis.; MetalTek International, Carondelet Division, of Pevely, Mo.; and Major Tool and Machine, Inc., of Indianapolis, Ind. In addition to being part of the winding form team, Major Tool and Machine was awarded a subcontract to manufacture the NCSX vacuum chamber. These components will form the heart of NCSX, which will use a magnetic field to confine a hot ionized gas (plasma) fuel. The modular electromagnets will help shape the magnetic field confining the NCSX plasma within the vacuum chamber.
"These are the most challenging and critical components of NCSX, and we are delighted to award these contracts to such superbly qualified industrial subcontractors," said PPPL Director Robert J. Goldston. The key innovative feature of NCSX is its complex shape, designed through advanced computer simulations, that is predicted to be able to support a high-efficiency, fully steady-state fusion system.
The complex shape makes construction of its components especially challenging. Energy Industries' contract is valued at approximately $8 million and Major Tool's at approximately $4.5 million. Funded entirely by the USDOE's Office of Science, the construction of NCSX will cost an estimated $86.3 million. It is scheduled to begin operation in 2008.
NCSX's modular coils are among the most complex, innovative electromagnets ever designed. Energy Industries will manufacture six identical sets, each comprised of three types of intricately shaped forms. Delivery of the first winding form is expected in May, 2005. PPPL engineers will then wind layers of insulated copper conductor around the forms to create the modular coils. The 25,000-pound NCSX vacuum vessel resembles a twisted doughnut. It will be made of Inconel 625, an alloy that is hard to form, but has high electrical resistivity that will suppress electrical currents that might interfere with plasma confinement.
As an alternative energy source, fusion has many advantages, including worldwide long-term availability of low-cost fuel, no contribution to acid rain or greenhouse gas emissions, no possibility of a runaway or chain reaction, by-products unsuitable for weapons development, and minimum problems of waste disposal. PPPL, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science and managed by Princeton University, is a collaborative national center for science and innovation leading to an attractive fusion energy.