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The first-wall components of the next-generation machines will have to support very high thermal loads. Different solutions have been proposed to handle the energy flux in the scrape-off layer and to prevent the tiles from overheating. The necessity to monitor the tile surface temperature to prevent their damage has stimulated the development of reliable optical diagnostics, in spite of the severe constraints imposed by the hostile reactor environment. We have implemented a new infrared thermal imaging system on the Frascati Tokamak Upgrade machine. It has: (1) high dynamics to allow measurements in the whole temperature range covered during plasma operation; (2) high temporal resolution (≪1 ms) for measurements during fast events as well as edge localized modes (ELMs) and disruptions; (3) high spatial resolution to discover hot spots, which can seriously affect plasma operations. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.