MASCOT Telemanipulator in JET (Joint European Torus) vessel

Remote handling in fusion reactors


The quiet market town of Culham, England, plays host to the Joint European Torus (JET) – Europe’s largest fusion device.

JET has been running plasma physics experiments since 1983 under the auspices of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) –a collaboration between fusion research institutions and the European Union. JET is the precursor to a full-scale fusion device called ITER, which is currently being constructed in the South of France and is expected to begin operations around the middle of the decade.

Fusion requires temperatures in excess of one million degrees Kelvin to be reached in the fusion reactor core. At these temperatures, the Deuterium-Tritium gas mixture used as the fuel source becomes a scorching hot, electrically charged gas known as a plasma.

With high temperatures and radiation levels –and the small matter of working a vacuum– much of the maintenance work in the reactor is handled by a team of robotic manipulators, themselves controlled by a team of remote handling specialists. This technology was tested to the full over the past year as man and machine worked together to replace more than 3,000 tiles in the wall of the reactor.

Lorne Horton, a well-known figure in the field of pedestal and edge physics and Head of the Close Support Unit Operation and Enhancements Department at JET joined EuroScientist to talk fusion, robotic manipulators, and his plans to put the sun in a box.

Click play below to listen to interview

Featured image credit: CC-BY-SA 4.0 by The Naked Cat Fighter

Emmet Cole
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