Where do all the neutrons go?

Earlier this month at Culham Center for Fusion Energy (CCFE), in the UK, more than 40 scientists representing numerous institutes across Europe, China, India and the US attended the 7th ITER Neutronics Meeting. Although the word „neutronics”—used by scientists for the past 60 years—is still not listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, the field of research it refers to is essential to both fission and fusion development.

„I wrote to the editors of the dictionary and they promised they would soon remedy this situation,” smiles ITER Nuclear Shielding Analysis Coordinator Michael Loughlin.

The field of neutronics covers the theoretical and experimental behaviour of the neutron, the electrically neutral sub-atomic particle that is present in every atom with the exception of hydrogen. In a fusion reaction, an extremely energetic (14 MeV) neutron is produced, providing energy that—in future fusion power plants—will generate electricity.

Shooting out of the plasma with tremendous speed, most neutrons will impact whatever stands in their way (some will just traverse the interatomic void as if matter didn’t exist). The positive side of this process is that neutrons will heat the water circulating in the vacuum vessel wall; the not-so-positive side is that they will progressively alter and activate any materials they come into contact with.

Neutronics are at the heart of ITER design, and ITER „is driving the field of neutronics worldwide.” The challenges faced by the field in ITER are completely new. „First, because ITER will be the first fusion device to have a significant production of neutrons,” explains Michael, „and also because the device is very large and its structure extremely complex.”

It is the neutronics experts' job to understand and model the behaviour of neutrons in order to shield both equipment and people from their impact. But individual neutrons can behave in many different ways. „They can hit different objects at different angles: some will bounce off; some will be absorbed; some will transmute; some will traverse matter unaffected …”

Computer codes, data bases and statistical methods (the famous „Monte-Carlo method„) enable neutronics experts to extrapolate the behaviour of the neutron flux from that of a couple billion individually tracked neutrons. „This way, we can know how many neutrons will reach the coils, how much they will heat them, etc. And this goes for every system in ITER, for they will all be affected by the impact of neutrons,” says Michael.

Meetings like the one that was held in Culham provide neutronics experts from all over the world with an opportunity to discuss results, to define what analyses ITER is going to need and how they will be performed.

In terms of neutronics, „ITER is illuminating everything; it forces us to find solutions and the payback is already here in terms of applications for nuclear technology and safety, high-quality radiation maps, and calculation and training,” says Michael.

Yes, definitely, „neutronics” deserves to enter the dictionary.


Vacuum Handbook recognized well beyond ITER

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about ITER „vacuum requirements” is to be found in a 44-page document (with an added 250 pages of appendixes) called the Vacuum Handbook.

The Vacuum Handbook was approved at project level in 2009 and forms part of the ITER Project Requirements and, as such, is a mandatory document to be followed by the ITER Organization, Domestic Agencies and Suppliers of vacuum equipment to the project.

„Vacuum requirements” encompass the whole set of requirements that must be observed when designing, manufacturing, installing and testing components destined to operate in a vacuum environment.

The Vacuum Handbook, whose first edition was issued in June 2009, is „both general and specific” says Liam Worth, of the ITER Vacuum Section and one of the main contributors to the document. „The Handbook contains a general background on the vacuum environment with the mandatory requirements pertaining to each of the ITER vacuum systems with the 21 appendices providing the guidelines to achieve conformity with those requirements.”

The Handbook’s requirements should be clearly stated in all Procurement Arrangement documentation and are expected to filter down the Suppliers.

Three years into its existence, the Vacuum Handbook „has been very well adopted,” says Liam. „Its value can be judged by the number of deviations from the original edition. As of today, we have granted only one…”

The value of the document is now recognized well beyond the ITER and fusion world. „Non-fusion industries have asked us for copies. And of course, we’re happy to give them.”

„The Handbook”, says Liam, „recapitulates all our knowledge and know-how into one coherent document. All in all, this amounts to about one hundred years of experience.”

At the coming 27th Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT) in Liège, (Belgium) two satellite meetings on the Vacuum Handbook will be held — an opportunity to „explain the rationale behind the requirements, provide some training and reach, beyond ITER and the ITER Domestic Agencies, the wider fusion community as well as industrialists.”


Conductors for six out of 18 Toroidal Field coils manufactured

The production of superconducting cables for ITER’s large and powerful Toroidal Field (TF) coils is making remarkable progress: as of today, 330 tons of strands made out of Nb_SUBSCRIPT_3_/SUBSCRIPT_Sn, a special alloy made of niobium and tin, have been produced in factories in China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. In the pre-ITER world, global production was 15 tons a year. „The current production status represents 75% of the total required TF strands”, reports Arnaud Devred, Section Leader for ITER’s Superconducting Systems. "Out of these strands, conductors for six out of the machine’s 18 TF coils have been produced."

The 18 TF coils will produce a magnetic field around the ITER torus helping to confine and control the plasma inside. The coils are designed to achieve operation at magnetic fields up to 13 Tesla. They are made of cable-in-conduit superconductors, in which a bundle of superconducting strands is cabled together and contained in a structural jacket. Unit lengths of theses cables — measuring 760 metres or 415 metres depending on their position within the coil – are then spooled into a D-shaped double spiral called a „double pancake” giving the structure the characteristic shape of ITER’s TF coils.

As of today, a total of 30 760-m Unit Lengths and 13 415-m Unit Lengths have been manufactured by the procuring agencies in Japan, Korea, Russia and Europe which adds up to the material required for six of the 18 TF coils.

„Quality tests”, says Devred, „are currently underway to confirm that these unit lengths can be accepted for coil winding”.

Nb_SUBSCRIPT_3_/SUBSCRIPT_Sn


Electrifying months at ITER China and IO

Finalizing a Procurement Arrangement(PA)signature and, at the same time, organizing Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR) for two major systems is a very demanding task that the Chinese Domestic Agency and ITER Electrical Engineering Division performed between April and July 2012.

Assembly of documentation for the materials of the Procurement Arrangement for the Pulsed Power Electrical Network (PPEN) worth 21.9 kIUA, was finalised between January and June 2012 and signed at the last ITER Council in Washington DC.

During that same period, the Preliminary Design Reviews for two other major power supply Procurement Arrangement had to be organized, these took place last week in Beijing for the Poloidal Field AC/DC Power Converters worth 61.1 kIUA and the for Reactive Power Compensators & Harmonic Filtering System worth 16.5 kIUA.
It should be noted that for the Chinese Domestic Agency these three PAs together exceed 35% of its total in kind contribution to ITER.

Read more about the electrifying months at China Domestic Agency and ITER Electrical Engineering Division here


Authorization to Proceed for Korean jacket sections

The ITER toroidal field conductor is a Cable-In-Conduit Conductor (CICC); in this type of conductor a cable is contained inside a metal conduit that is assembled through the „butt welding” of individual jacket sections.
ITER Korea, which is responsible for 20.18 percent of total quantity of ITER toroidal field conductor, has completed the procurement of the necessary quantity (approximately 20 km) of jacket sections from POSCO Specialty Steel company. The production was completed officially on 14 July 2012 with the approval from the ITER Organization of the Authorization To Proceed Point (ATPP) for the last batch of jacket sections.

A jacket section is a seamless stainless steel tube with special characteristics. For higher strength, the material is very low in cobalt and carbon for lower neutron activation, and relatively high in nitrogen content compared to standard 316LN-grade stainless steel. The jacket sections produced by POSCO Specialty Steel have an outer diameter of 48 mm, a thickness of 1.9±0.1 mm, and a unit length of 13 m.

The thickness/tolerance is only a half of that of conventional seamless tubes, so a series of high-precision drawing processes are required. The most important and toughest requirement is the low temperature (< 7 K) mechanical property for which the elongation at break must exceed 20 percent. Among the six Domestic Agencies procuring ITER toroidal field conductor, only three companies have been qualified to supply the jacket sections.

POSCO Specialty Steel, the largest seamless tube supplier in Korea, was awarded the contract from ITER Korea in August 2009. The Italian Consortium for Applied Superconductivity (ICAS), conductor supplier for the European and Korean Domestic Agencies, also awarded POSCO Specialty Steel a contract for the same item. To date, POSCO Specialty Steel has completed production for ITER Korea; the production for F4E/ICAS is ongoing.


Winding can begin in Italy

The European winding line for toroidal field coils in La Spezia, Italy is now ready. This impressive line—40 metres long, 20 metres wide, 5 metres high—has made it possible to carry out winding trials that have never been done before on a line of this scale and with such precision: recently, the first full-size double pancake turn was successfully completed with the large dummy conductor that had been delivered in May.

The toroidal field winding facility is located on the premises of ASG, supplier to the European Domestic Agency and part of a European consortium that includes Iberdrola and Elytt.

The winding line in La Spezia will have the task of winding niobium-tin superconducting cables into the characteristic shape of ITER’s toroidal field coils—a D-shaped double spiral called a double pancake. The spooled cable will be delivered in a single 760-metre length weighing seven tons.

The first task of the winding line will be to unspool and straighten the cable, after which the cable will be cleaned and sandblasted. The continuous, 760-metre length will then shaped into the 12m x 9m double pancake and heat treated at over 650°C in a specially constructed inert atmosphere oven. Finally, following electrical insulation, the double pancake will be transferred into the grooves of the stainless steel radial plates to form a double pancake module.

So that the double pancake fits precisely into the radial plate grooves, it is vital to control the accuracy of the conductor’s trajectory in the double pancakes. The winding line is thus required to achieve precision in bending the conductor on the order of a few tens of parts per million—a very demanding target considering its large dimensions. Successful results of the first trial winding of a full-size turn demonstrated that the winding line is, indeed, capable of achieving the required precisions.

After insertion into the radial plates, each double pancake module will be impregnated with epoxy resin, stacked in groups of seven, and jointed electrically to form „winding packs.” These winding packs will be inserted into stainless steel cases that, in turn, are welded together to form the completed toroidal field coil.

For the moment, the winding line will continue to undergo testing. In total, 70 superconductor lengths are needed to produce the European contribution to ITER’s toroidal field magnet system (ten toroidal field coils); Japan will contribute the other nine toroidal field coils.

Europe’s superconductor lengths will be produced by five different suppliers. Each specific supplier’s conductor will have slightly different mechanical behaviour; therefore, testing will be carried out in the winding line during the next few months on prototypes from each supplier before the start of real production. Final qualification, to take place in the autumn, will consist of winding a real (not a dummy) superconducting cable into a full-size double pancake prototype.

Another large technical area is also in its final installation phase in the ASG premises: a large inert atmosphere oven measuring 48 x 20 x 5 metres that will be used to carry out the heat treatment of the double pancakes. The oven has been dimensioned to heat treat up to three double pancakes at a time. After the successful completion of leak testing—carried out to verify the capability of the furnace to keep the concentration of impurities during the heat treatment below the required threshold of tens of parts per million—the oven is now in the final installation phase. Workers are completing the assembly of external components (electrical connections, sensors, piping, fans and vacuum pumps) and the final testing should start at the end of July.

With the completion of the winding line and the oven, Europe can report that the principal and most complex elements for the production of the toroidal field coils are now in place.


"Blue Energy" inspires UK graphic design student

French Academician Guy Laval coined the expression in his 2007 book „Blue Energy: a history of nuclear fusion.”

Laval’s book opened with a scene from a not-too-distant future. In an unnamed „northern European country,” the president is about to inaugurate the world’s first commercial fusion reactor. „By connecting this reactor to the grid,” he says to the audience, „mankind is entering a new era. This moment marks the end of a time of restrictions and the dawn of new industrial developments, freed from the constraints and anxieties of the past.”

The day and month of the ceremony has been chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the JET’s inauguration, in 1984. Laval, however, does not tell us the year—it could be 30 years from now, it could be further away in the future.

As the president pushes the button that connects the reactor to the grid, words flash in every European language on a giant screen: „Blue energy will save the Blue Planet.”

Jaye Louis Doulce, a 28 year-old graphic design student at University College, Falmouth (UK) never read Guy Laval’s book, but he too was inspired by the promises of what he calls „atomic fusion.” He chose „Blue Energy” as the subject of his third-year final project and accordingly produced design, catchphrases and posters that would befit an advertising blitz for fusion energy.

What Jaye’s campaign aims to achieve is to „eradicate the stigma that surrounds all forms of nuclear energy and make nuclear energy a movement that will inspire and encourage people to enrol in an energy efficient revolution.”

Since „the process that is to give us limitless amounts of clean energy has been right above our heads the whole time,” Jaye has chosen to create „a widely understood image of our solar system” with the sun like the core of an apple (or like the vacuum vessel of a tokamak „sliced in half”) sitting at the centre and the planets, each carrying a symbol of everyday technology, orbiting around it.

The poster’s colour scheme is of course blue, with a slogan saying: „There was a time when energy was a dirty word …”

Fusion has not reached the stage, yet, when a massive advertising campaign is necessary to promote what Jaye calls „its amazing benefits.” But it will someday, in the not-so-distant future that Academician Laval described in the opening of his 2007 book.


Cryopumps: fewer, cheaper and no less efficient

In the pre-2001 design, when ITER was to be nearly the size of Saint-Peter’s Basilica in Rome, 16 cryopumps were to be accommodated at the divertor level of the vacuum vessel.

Cryopumps have the essential function of removing impurities and helium ash from the plasma, enabling the plasma to continue to burn and produce fusion power.

The requirements for vacuum pumping are linked to the plasma fuelling rates—even in the „smaller” ITER these had to be maintained. Design developments in cryo-pumping allowed the machine to be optimized with ten cryopumps in 2001 and eight in 2003.

Eight cryopumps has been the Baseline design figure until recently, when the ITER Director-General proposed to simplify the divertor ports of the machine and remove all „T-shaped” branch ducts. This left only five or six positions where cryopumps could be placed.

This bold proposal was quite a challenge for the ITER Vacuum team. „Let’s say our creativity was strongly stimulated…” recounts ITER Vacuum Section Head, Robert Pearce. „A five-pump solution was proposed, but this was considered rather risky for the goals of achieving ITER’s fusion power mission.”

Following discussions at the Science and Technology Advisory Council in November 2011 and at the Ninth ITER Council later that month, a much improved solution was found: there would be six divertor cryopumps in ITER doing the job that was originally assigned to sixteen.

„Basically, improvements in the cryopumping system design over many years have allowed the cryopumps to sit in bigger housings, enabling them to pump longer and store more gas and impurities,” says Robert. The new housings are „simpler” and have a volume of greater than 14 m3, as compared to 8 m3 in 2003. As the pumping configuration at the bottom of the machine (divertor level) was changed, it became possible to make improvements that resulted in the easier integration of other systems.

„We think that the overall six-pump solution is better in the end: we now have six identical systems. Operations are made simpler and the performance of the system is as good previously,not affected,” conclude Robert and his Vacuum team.

Considering that each branch duct and cryopump is a multimillion-euro component, the savings for the ITER project are considerable.


Where conductors are born

Manufacturing the toroidal field conductors for the ITER magnet system is a sophisticated, multistage process. Early this year, specialists at the All-Russian Cable Scientific Research and Development Institute (VNIIKP) in Podolsk, Russia twisted semiconductor strands into a 760-metre niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) cable—the second product of this kind manufactured in Russia. 

At the end of February, at the High Energy Physics Institute in Protvino, this cable was pulled through a stainless steel jacket that had been assembled on site. The process involved the most advanced Russian technology and knowhow. The jacket itself—reaching nearly a kilometre in length and composed of more than 70 tubes welded together by gas tungsten-arc welding technology—was exposed to triple testing of the weld seams' quality and reliability.

During the next stage in the process, the jacketed cable, called a conductor, was compacted and spooled into a solenoid measuring four metres in diameter. Following vacuum and hydraulic tests at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, the conductor will be shipped to Europe.

Follow this link to a 10-minute video in English that will bring you inside the Russian factories involved with toroidal field conductor manufacturing for ITER.

Click here to see the video in Russian.


ITER contracts lead to new jobs in New Jersey

At Oxford Superconducting Technology in Carteret, New Jersey (USA), two contracts for ITER have the company creating jobs, investing in new equipment, expanding its production capacity, and operating three shifts a day.

Oxford Superconducting will produce nearly 10,000 miles of niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) superconducting wire for the ITER project as part of contracts signed with the European and the US ITER Domestic Agencies. The company has increased its production to 30 tons per year, up from just a few tons previously.

The ITER contracts have pushed the company to strengthen its design and manufacturing processes. „The ITER quality requirements are quite rigorous, so we’ve had to increase our expertise in that area,” says Jeffrey Parrell, vice president and general manager of the company. „These improved skills will be with us after the project is over, and we’ve already applied them to other areas of business as well.”


The day the rain comes

There was a time when the 42-hectare ITER platform was as flat as a pancake. Now, as work progress on the deep underground drainage network, the landscape is in some areas reminiscent of a World War I battlefield.

Eleven-metre-deep trenches now crisscross the platform to accommodate 1.6 km of concrete piping. These pipes, measuring up to 2.2 metres in diameter, will collect rainwater from the platform buildings, roads and trenches.

A branch of the underground network has been designed to evacuate the overflow of a „centennial rain” — extreme rainfall that, statistically, occurs only once every century, but that can lead to water flow estimated at 17.8 m3 per second.

Based on this estimate, a safety margin of approximately 20 percent has been applied to the calculation of ITER’s underground rainwater network, which has been dimensioned for a flow of 21.5 m3 per second.

The whole network connects to the storm basins located at the southwest corner of the site through an underground network that was put in place by Agence Iter France during the site preparation phase.

This giant plumbing operation, which necessitated the removal of 50,000 m3 of earth, began in March and will be completed in November.


At International Forum, fusion rhymes with innovation

One Prime Minister (Italy’s Mario Monti); one former French President (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing); a US Supreme Court Justice (Stephen Breyer); a European Commissioner (Michel Barnier); several World Bank executives; high-profile university professors; a number of international CEOs; the Director-General of ITER … all were gathered in Aix-en-Provence last weekend to participate in the Rencontres Économiques, an international forum aiming to promote a better understanding of global economic challenges and „to reflect on the actions that will influence the future of human society.”

One of the main themes discussed this year: Innovation. What creates favourable conditions for innovation? Which innovations are most likely to succeed? Can society impulse innovation? The ITER project, which Director-General Osamu Motojima presented as „innovation itself,” was quite naturally the focus of strong interest from the participants.

As explained in the documentation distributed to the audience, fusion research in general and ITER in particular have been a major booster for innovation. The complexity of the ITER design has already pushed a whole range of leading-edge technologies to new limits. Time and again, innovative technological solutions have been developed to address specific ITER challenges, solutions that have found applications well beyond the bounds of fusion technology.

There are already numerous examples of fusion spin-offs that are providing concrete solutions to real and current problems.
Already, superconductor R&D has led to significant spin-offs in Magnetic Resonance Imaging; diagnostics developed for the study of plasma turbulence have found applications in advanced satellite thrusters; innovative techniques to bond carbon-fibre composites originally developed for tokamaks are now used in aerospace… even the clothing industry has benefitted from fusion spin-offs: the electronic looms that produce high added-value cloth and fabrics from computer-generated design owe much of their performance and reliability to the very micro-actuators that were developed for tokamak components.

One of the most valuable innovations of ITER however, does not belong to the realm of science or technology. The collaboration between 34 nations in pursuit of one goal, Director-General Motojima stressed, „is creating a new culture standard.” The ITER project is a strong testimony to human creativity and resourcefulness; it demonstrates daily that nations—when confronted with a global challenge—can pull together to establish a completely new model for international cooperation.

Another brochure about fusion spin-offs here


Written procedures are her game

As an international organization—and one applying for nuclear licensing in France—ITER is required to have a well-documented management system, with approved procedures describing the process flow for every area of the project.

Since 2008, the Quality Assurance Division has been developing the Management and Quality Program (MQP), a process-based system that organizes ITER’s management documents into a structure governing relations, procedures, and working instructions.

„The written procedures contained in the MQP program basically instruct end users how to do their work,” says Florence Tadjer, who joined the Division in April. „But of course it is not enough that these documents exist: they must also be well understood and applied throughout the project.”

As MQP Liaison Officer for the Administration and Plasma Operation Directorates, Florence will work in an advisory role with process „owners” on management documents, ensuring that the proper rules are followed to write documents, and deciding whether the document contains the type of guidelines that should be incorporated into the MQP framework or not. „In fact, not every departmental document needs to be part of the MQP,” says Florence. „On the other hand, it is also my role to identify those documents that should be incorporated.”

Florence comes to ITER from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where she was a quality manager in the laboratory responsible for analyzing safeguard samples from nuclear facilities. It was her responsibility to maintain the laboratory’s quality certification by updating the quality management system and conducting regular audits in order to make sure that the quality system was well implemented in all areas of the laboratory.

„Training and auditing are part of the quality manager’s job,” insists Florence. At ITER, the team of Liaison Officers will work to improve the MQP documentation, and expend a lot of effort to communicate about the program and make sure that training is offered on the implementation of the system.

„ITER is a young organization and things are still evolving. A lot remains to be done and I know I’ll enjoy the lack of routine!"


The challenge of communicating a grand project

„Inspiring,” was the comment from Gieljan de Vries from the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) after last week’s meeting with the communication staff from the ITER Organization, the seven Domestic Agencies and other major fusion labs. „There are nice ideas floating around to get more cooperation going.”

The communication teams from the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies meet once a year in person. Monthly video conferences fill the gap and are useful for keeping up with one another, but these cannot replace face-to-face discussions on how to develop and implement new ideas and joint strategies.

Last week, 28-29 June, the international communicators for the project met at the ITER Headquarters in Cadarache to swap news and—in order to further enhance communication within the world-spanning fusion community—this time the „circle of friends” was expanded. For the second time, Petra Nieckchen, the head of communication at EFDA/JET, joined the meeting, as did Gieljan de Vries, DIFFER; Annie-Laure Pecquet and Jean-Marc Ané, Institut de la Recherche sur la Fusion Magnetique (IRFM); Isabella Milch, Max-Planck-Institute for Plasmaphysics (IPP); and Kitta McPherson, Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL).

The first day of this two-day exchange was devoted to reports on the most recent progress in each ITER Member. It soon became obvious that action is now shifting toward industry, judged by the number of facts, figures, and photographs that were presented.

Guests were also treated to a tour around the ITER construction site and a close-up look into the Tokamak Pit. While for many of the 25 participants this was not the first time on site, progress made since their last visit was tangible. For others, it was a very welcome opportunity to see the action first hand rather than looking at the (regularly updated!) construction images on the ITER website.

The second day started with a tour to the neighbouring Tore Supra Tokamak and a demonstration of how the design development and design integration is done at ITER with the help of a „virtual reality” room, a 3D-experience that left the group very impressed.

Back from this excursion it was time to meet Robert Matthews, an award-winning science journalist who worked as correspondent for The Times and The Sunday Telegraph. He is currently a science consultant for BBC Focus. He also reads physics at Oxford University, is a chartered physicist, and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

He spoke about the challenges of communicating a grand challenge project such as ITER. His presentation and the following discussion, to which a second guest-speaker, Norbert Frischauf—a high-energy physicist and communication consultant—joined in, proved highly inspiring and will certainly have an impact on how we view and understand our work in the future.


Power is on!

The ITER switchyard is now „live”: the power has been on since Wednesday 27 June.

One year after work began on the four-hectare switchyard, the installation was connected to the 400kV „Boutre-Tavel” power lines that supply electrical current to a vast area of south-eastern France.

For the moment, ITER doesn’t need the power that the double 400 kV lines can now provide. However, it was necessary to power the installation on in order to enable the French power transportation authority RTE (Réseau de Transport d’Électricité) to „close the loop” in the distribution network.

Installing and financing the ITER switchyard and power-line extension was part of France’s commitment to ITER. After three years of technical studies and consultation the works were completed on time (8 months for the extension, 12 for the switchyard) and within budget (EUR 22 million).

Read the joint Agence Iter France/RTE press release in French.


How to handle the Petabytes

When it was announced in 1985 that the American „Cray-2” supercomputer had achieved a capacity of one Gigaflop per second, even some scientists had to consult the dictionary. The term Giga is derived from the Greek—meaning giant—and is the abbreviation for one million. A Gigaflop computer can perform one million floating-point operations (Flop) per second.

In 1985, this was one thousand fold the capacity achievable with your home computer. Today, every mobile phone contains a Gigaflop processor. And while the „big bang” hunters at CERN are dealing with Petaflops (10_SUPERSCRIPT_16_/SUPERSCRIPT_ calculations per second), the new kid on the large science block, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which will be built in south Africa and Australia, will require supercomputers that can digest data on the Exa scale. That is a 1 followed by 18 zeros.

The steep increase of computer memory known as Moore’s Law is comparable to the performance of magnetic fusion devices … and to their generation of data. Since the first plasma pulse on JET in 1983, the raw data collected during each discharge has roughly doubled every two years. Today, about 10 Gigabyte of data is collected per each 40 second pulse; the data collected over 70,000 JET pulses amounts to roughly 35 Terabytes.

When ITER starts operation, the data generated will again reach new dimensions. Each plasma discharge—lasting 300 to 3000 seconds—will generate an estimated tens of Gigabytes per second, leading to a total of a few hundred Petabytes per year. And is not only the storage and archiving of the huge amount of data that poses a challenge, but also its accessibility in real-time.

In a recent workshop organized by Lana Abadie, responsible for the scientific archiving system within the CODAC team, the challenge of storing and accessing the flood of scientific data was addressed by experts from many different institutes and backgrounds.

„We need to store this data almost real-time to allow physicists to start their analysis code in order to allow calculations for the next pulses,” explains Lana. „This data is what we call raw data, i.e., data coming from the ITER machine unfiltered. The main producers will be the various diagnostics systems. Then we need to store processed and simulated data. Different physics applications will use raw data and process them. This output needs to be stored too—and made accessible.”

In other words, raw, processed, and simulated data will be accessed in the same way. But accessing the data in an efficient way is not an easy task. „Imagine you have a pile of 20,000,000 Ipods of 16GB—equivalent to the yearly production of all types of ITER data. Let’s say you are looking for a song that was produced last February, but you don’t even know the exact title. You remember that it was something like 'I follow' and that it was a remix of an earlier song by the same artist. Of course, you could spend quite a few hours finding the song. The challenge for CODAC is to provide data access within a few seconds. It is very important to understand the different archiving techniques and to stay abreast of upcoming technologies in that area.”
 
The CODAC archiving system has to be ready for First Plasma with a well-proven scalability. The data will be stored first in the CODAC server room and will then be streamed to the IT computing centre. CODAC will develop a first prototype within the next two years. The team is currently studying a system based on HDF5, a well-known scientific data format used by many institutions such as NASA. HDF5 allows the storage of all types of data and corresponding metadata.


IAEA Director-General Amano: "I have faith in the ingenuity of human beings."

On Friday 6 July, the ITER Organization welcomed the following distinguished guests: Yukiya Amano, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Shunji Yanai, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (ITLOS), and Ichiro Komatsu, Ambassador of Japan in France.
 
ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima gave a general presentation in which he highlighted recent construction and licensing milestones. A large party of senior management accompanied the visitors to the ITER platform where, in 24 months, major steps toward building ITER have been made.
 
In a short interview with Newsline, Director-General Amano reflects on the role of the IAEA, his perception of fusion and ITER, and the energy challenges that will characterize the decades to come.
 
Follow this link to view images of the visit.

 

Director-General Amano, do you consider that after Fukushima the perspective on nuclear energy has changed fundamentally?

Actually no, I do not. The most important change is that global public opinion has become very sceptical about nuclear safety. Many people have lost confidence that nuclear power plants can be operated safely. Restoring this confidence represents a major challenge for governments, plant operators and nuclear regulators. I believe it can be done, but it will take time and an unshakeable commitment to putting safety first—always—and to transparency.

However, as far as the future of nuclear power is concerned, all the indications point to a growing number of nuclear power plants throughout the world in the next 20 to 30 years. There are exceptions such as Germany, which has decided to close all of its existing reactors, and Switzerland, which has decided not to build any new ones. But at the global level, the use of nuclear power is set to continue to grow, although perhaps at a slower rate than we anticipated before Fukushima Daiichi.

The latest IAEA projections suggest that at least 90 new nuclear power reactors will come online in the next 20 years, on top of the 435 in operation at the moment. That is the conservative estimate—the actual increase could be much higher. This is borne out by my discussions with government leaders when I visit our Member States. They are of course interested in exploring the potential of renewable energy, but many of them see it as an adjunct to nuclear—and other major sources of energy—not as an alternative.
 
What is your perception of fusion energy and ITER?

Nuclear fusion holds the promise of an inexhaustible, clean and safe source of energy—one of the dreams of humankind. If this dream can be realized, it will have dramatic implications for the future on many levels, from economic growth to climate change and fighting poverty. However, fusion is technically very difficult, and many key problems, in material science for example, are still to be solved.

The ITER project, with Member states representing half of the world’s population, is a historic milestone on the way to fusion energy. It is a huge challenge, both from an engineering and a management point of view. This challenge can only be met through concerted international efforts.

My hope is that ITER will open the door to fusion power and provide the ITER Members with the technology to design and build the first generation of fusion power stations. The challenge is huge, but I have faith in the ingenuity of human beings and the ability of our scientists and engineers to overcome even the most daunting technological hurdles.
 
What is the IAEA’s role in facilitating fusion research?
The IAEA played the role of godparent to the ITER project as it grew from an idea floated at the 1985 Summit in Geneva between U.S. President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev into an international organization in 2006.

Today, the IAEA serves the worldwide fusion and plasma physics community by publishing the leading scientific journal and organizing the largest biennial conference in the field. We also directly support research through Coordinated Research Programmes and the provision of nuclear data. ITER has a special place in all of these activities and we regularly organize workshops and physics schools together.

For the more than 120 IAEA Member States that are not part of the ITER Organization, the IAEA performs an important bridging function, disseminating knowledge from ITER to the wider community and providing a platform for exchange between ITER and the rest of the world.

What is your perception of an „ideal world” as far as energy issues are concerned?

I would not presume to tell countries what is the ideal energy mix for them as their individual circumstances vary so widely.

However, I believe that access to energy is essential for all countries for their development and for the welfare of their people.

We should make the best use we can of all the sources of energy at our disposal, in a clean, efficient and sustainable way. All sources of energy have their advantages and disadvantages, and they need to be looked at from a wider perspective.  Clearly, fossil fuels will play a central role for many decades to come. Equally, renewables will play an important role, and I welcome efforts to improve their effectiveness. And, as I mentioned earlier, I see the use of nuclear energy continuing to grow in the coming decades.


Looking into the heart of the matter

The Helmholtz Association (34,000 employees, 18 research centres) is Germany’s largest scientific organization with strategic programs in six core fields, among them the development of fusion energy. The Helmholtz Association’s nuclear fusion program is currently pursuing two priority goals: to carry out Germany’s contributions to building and operating ITER, and to finalize and operate the Wendelstein 7-X Stellarator in Greifswald.

This week, the president of the Helmholtz Association, Juergen Mlynek, assembled the heads of the German fusion research institutes and paid a visit to ITER to get first-hand information about the project’s status. The group was welcomed by ITER Deputy Director-General Rem Haange who summarized the most recent progress before the bus took the group to the very heart of the matter, the Tokamak Pit.