It has been an unusual July so far in Provence. Thunderstorms have broken over the site almost every afternoon, causing work to be stopped until the storm front moves on.
Storms over the ITER platform do not come unannounced: when one approaches, the French storm forecast agency Metéorage (a subsidiairy of Météo-France) sends an alert to security personnel, who activate the appropriate siren. Depending on the distance of the incoming storm, the siren sounds an „orange alert,” stopping only the heavy activity, or a „red alert,” requiring full site evacuation.
This spectacular bolt of lightning was captured last Wednesday from a fifth floor window in the ITER Headquarters building after a red alert was sounded.
Lightning is a high current electric discharge in the air that generates a ramified column of plasma. This specific bolt might have been looking for its kindred—the plasma that will be created within the ITER vacuum vessel. The place was right but the time some seven years too early.