Resisting the thrust of two Space Shuttles

US ITER is building one of the world’s largest and most powerful electromagnets to energize the ITER Tokamak; the 13-metre-tall central solenoid will be located in the heart of the machine. In order to maintain structural integrity in the face of thousands of tons of force, the solenoid requires a specially designed support structure to hold the electromagnet in place.

„With a typical solenoid, the electromagnetic forces pull the magnet together. But the ITER central solenoid is made of six different modules which are not all pulling together at the same time. They can be opposing each other with large magnetic forces,” notes Bob Hussung, the lead mechanical engineer for central solenoid structures at the US ITER project managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The forces affecting the central solenoid can be very large, in the range of 60 meganewtons, or over 6,000 tons of force. „For perspective, the Space Shuttle at lift-off had about 30 meganewtons of thrust. So we are handling about two Space Shuttles’ worth of magnetic thrust,” says Hussung. „With ITER, we’re avoiding a launch! We’re dealing with all of these magnetic forces, and we have to hold the solenoid in a very accurate position.”

To prevent movement of the modules in the solenoid during tokamak operations, the support structure is designed like a large cage, with 18 tie-plates outside the modules and 9 inside, plus lower and upper key blocks which connect to the tie-plates and attach the entire structure to the ITER tokamak. The complete central solenoid assembly weighs 1,000 tons.

Two approaches are being studied to determine the best way to fabricate the long tie-plate structures. A welded tie-plate, manufactured by Major Tool, Inc. in Indianapolis, Ind., has performed well in initial testing, with results within the ITER requirement margin. A single piece tie-plate, forged by Kind, LLC in Gummersbach, Germany and machined by G&G Steel, Inc. in Russellville, Ala., is also being fabricated; testing will begin in May.

Hussung observes, „The big question for the one-piece tie-plate was 'can you fabricate it.’ The answer is clearly yes, it is forgeable. Now the mechanical properties need to be confirmed through testing at liquid helium temperatures.”

Read more on the US ITER website.

A fruitful week for signatures

The presence of representatives from the ITER Members for meetings of the Management Advisory Committee last week was also the occasion to advance the ITER Organization’s procurement agenda: during „MAC week” Procurement Arrangements were successfully finalized with the United States, China and Korea.
In order to conclude the Procurement Arrangement for Standard Components, Vacuum Auxiliary Systems with the United States, a „massive” amount of work was accomplished by the vacuum team comprising ten people from the ITER Organization and five from the US Domestic Agency, according to ITER Vacuum Section Leader Robert Pearce. This Procurement Arrangement—the first to be signed with the US Domestic Agency this year—covers the manufacturing of several hundred pumps of different sizes and technologies, valves, supporting structures and connections.

„It is massive in terms of complexity—it is a highly distributed system that interfaces with about every part of the machine,” says Pearce. „And it is also massive due to the sheer number of individual components that have to be produced, assembled, tested and delivered.”

This brings to 85 the number of Procurement Arrangements signed by the ITER Organization to date out of a total of 140 planned work packages, not including about 45 Complementary Diagnostic Procurement Arrangements. Each Procurement Arrangement represents the transfer of work from the ITER Organization to the Domestic Agencies.

Three Complementary Diagnostic Procurement Arrangements were signed last week, two with the Chinese Domestic Agency and one with the Korean Domestic Agency.

China will supply equatorial port number 12 and a radial X-ray camera diagnostic for monitoring x-ray emission on ITER. Korea will supply upper port number 18. These Procurement Arrangements comprise complete port integration, including port plug, post interspace and port cell structures, diagnostics and services. The integration is a very important and challenging task which is required to ensure the proper functionality of all integrated systems, and diagnostics in particular, as well as to fulfil demands of safety, maintenance and handling.

The x-ray camera installed in equatorial port plug 12 consists of in-port and ex-port modules that are based on similar cameras on other machines, particularly JET. The hot plasma core is a strong source of x-rays. These x-rays carry information about the radiated power, electron temperature, plasma position, and plasma internal motion. Upper port 18 contains the vacuum ultra violet spectroscopy system already undertaken by the Korean Domestic Agency and completes the Korean diagnostic scope.

"Cooperation will make this project successful"

Following closely on the heels of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee, STAC, which convened at ITER Headquarters from 14-16 May, the ITER Council’s management advisory body, the Management Advisory Committee, MAC, met from 21 to 23 May to examine strategic management issues such as schedule, cost and the implementation of plans for installation and assembly, testing and commissioning.

Close to fifty experts from the seven ITER Members were present in the Council Chamber of the Headquarters Building to address the charges from the last ITER Council (IC-11, November 2012) as well as the additional charges that resulted from the special meeting of the MAC in March.

As at the last meeting, the schedule remained the focus of discussion. MAC recognized the efforts of the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies that have resulted in improvement, particularly on the critical systems and components, and made further suggestions.

In the all-hands meeting that followed the closing session of the MAC, the ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima told the hundreds of staff members assembled, „At the conclusion of three days of discussion, I can tell you that the MAC was a productive one for us. We can draw up an action plan today, based on the recommendations from the MAC experts. As a Unique ITER Team we have made intense efforts to improve schedule performance and to implement the related corrective measures. We can and will keep this positive schedule trend.”

In break-out sessions over the course of the three days, MAC Chair Ranjay Sharan, from India, had time to comment: „Issue-based solutions are being found, one after another. The most important thing is that collaboration has increased and the Unique ITER Team (UIT) is working. We may be only in the initial stages … the UIT has yet to give concrete results … but we understand one another’s problems better. I want to insist on this: cooperation is the tool that will make this project successful.”

The report and recommendations formulated by the 15th meeting of the Management Advisory Council will be discussed at the next meeting of the ITER Council, which will take place in Tokyo, Japan from 19-20 June 2013.

STAC Chair reflects on latest meeting

The 14th meeting of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) took place recently at the ITER Headquarters, from 14-16 May. We had the honour to be the first committee that met in the impressive Council Room after it was inaugurated by the ITER Council last November.

The STAC advises the ITER Council on two areas: the monitoring of ongoing project activity and the assessment of new proposals which imply a change in the ITER Baseline. The work at every meeting is based on the „STAC charges” adopted by the ITER Council. We assess the input from the ITER Organization that replies to recommendations made by the STAC and answers questions implied in the STAC charges.

The preparation of each STAC meeting involves an important work load on key ITER Organization staff and, as Chair of the STAC, I am aware that we must be careful with the amount of work that our requirements put on ITER Organization resources. I must also recognize the high overall quality of the reports and presentations delivered to our committee.
One of the first agenda points since I have participated in the STAC is the review of the project schedule from a technical point of view. Essentially, we analyze the technical causes of delays, including aspects which are midway between the technical and the managerial world such as configuration control, quality control, process control, etc.

As is happened in previous meetings, STAC 14 continued to express its concern about delays in the project. A number of systems are „critical or supercritical,” which means that they drive the First Plasma schedule, amongst them buildings, vacuum vessel, the poloidal field coils … and even the toroidal field coils could come into this category if delays are not stemmed. In addition, the „microschedule” reflected in the milestone achievement index and similar management parameters also indicates delays. However my personal perception, and to some extent that of many STAC members, is that the processes are improving and that the project schedule will soon consolidate. The STAC also acknowledged the organizational efforts and the implementation of recovery plans in order to mitigate the delays.

As I explained during the meeting with the staff in the afternoon of 16 May, my personal view on the delays is that they are not dangerous per se for the project but they undermine our credibility in front of stakeholders and society and this is the actual danger. In order to rebuild credibility our best tool is to keep working hard, as everyone involved is already doing. The ITER project is not only extremely complicated technically, it is also a nuclear project, which adds complexity. It was conceived with a complicated collaborative structure and, unfortunately, an underestimated allocation of resources. The fact that it is effectively progressing and that many components are actually being constructed should encourage all of us.

In addition to the technical analysis of the schedule STAC also looked at deferrals, i.e., procurements which are proposed to be delayed in order to free resources for other items that are needed in earlier phases of the project. We were worried about the deferred implementation of some systems, in particular diagnostics, and we have requested the ITER Organization to make every possible effort to implement those systems in time in order to avoid delays to the deuterium-tritium campaign derived from a slow implementation of the research plan.

During STAC-14 we noted that the organization and the progress of neutronics analysis has improved, for which we commended the ITER Organization. We have requested further detail on the results obtained for the next meeting of the STAC, in particular in relation to the heating of toroidal field coils and shutdown dose rates near the ports.

The news presented to the STAC on the central solenoid conductor was very good: in the last tests of a new cable developed by the Japanese Domestic Agency it showed very good stability—in fact, the degradation noted in earlier samples was essentially non-existing. Thus, we are now confident that the construction of the central solenoid can go ahead while keeping ITER’s performance as originally planned.

This STAC had the responsibility to make a clear recommendation on an important technical decision: whether or not to include in-vessel coils for ELM control in the Baseline. After we evaluated the specific problems that a lack of ELM control could cause, in particular when operating with a tungsten divertor, our unanimous recommendation was to include the coils in the ITER Baseline. STAC concluded that the potential benefits of the use of the coils in achieving ITER’s mission outweigh the risks, which were found to be very modest taking into account the solid design of the coils and the fact that they will be thoroughly tested during the non-nuclear phase.

STAC expects to make a recommendation next October for another key technical decision: the material for the first ITER divertor (tungsten or carbon).

At STAC-14 we analyzed the input from the ITER Organization regarding progress in divertor technology and tungsten divertor physics and the preliminary report prepared by the ITPA topical groups, which provided an excellent in-depth review of what is known today concerning tokamak operation with high Z* walls. The results from JET and other devices give a positive view of the operation with tungsten divertor in ITER but impose some scenario restrictions that must be further considered for ITER. Experiments to be carried out at JET in the near future, aiming at local melting of some tungsten elements of the divertor, will provide important input for a final recommendation by the STAC on its next meeting.

A final element in the last STAC meeting was the monitoring of progress in a number of areas: remote handling, quality control, ion cyclotron, and negative neutral beam heating. On this last item STAC looks forward with interest to the recent start of activities in the ELISE facility, which will provide important input to the physics and engineering design of the neutral beam injection sources for ITER.

In summary, STAC 14 corroborated important steps in the progress in the ITER project, which we expect to see reinforced next October thanks to the continued effort of all ITER Organization staff.

* A high Z element, like tungsten, is an element with a high
atomic number—its nucleus includes a large number of protons.

Let there be light!

Once the components of the ITER Tokamak are assembled and individually verified, a delicate and complex series of operations will be necessary before lighting the fire of First Plasma.

Commissioning, as this phase is called, means that all the different systems of the machine—vacuum, cryoplant, magnets—will be tested together in order to verify that the whole installation behaves as expected.

These commissioning operations all converge toward one point: the breakdown of the gas inside the vacuum vessel.

It happens in the following way: Initially, the toroidal field coils are electrically charged. Then the varying electrical current in the central solenoid and poloidal field coils generates an electric field around the torus of the tokamak causing the atoms in the gas to collide with the accelerated electrons. The gas in the vacuum vessel becomes ionized (electrons are stripped from the atoms) and reaches the state of plasma.

„At this moment,” explains Woong Chae Kim who joined ITER two months ago as Section Leader for Commissioning and Operations, „First Plasma will be achieved and the commissioning process will be over.”

ITER commissioning is expected to last more than two years and every step—from vacuum vessel leak-testing to the electrical charging of the magnets—will bring its own challenges. Woong Chae, however, is confident. „In the long history of tokamaks, start-up operations have never failed. Technically, I am not afraid. I’ve done it before …”

„Before” was five years ago, when Woong Chae was in charge of plasma commissioning at KSTAR. On 13 June 2008, following six months of commissioning operations, the large Korean tokamak (and the first to implement superconducting niobium-tin coils) achieved a First Plasma that surpassed the original target parameters.

From a technical perspective, commissioning KSTAR was close to what it will be at ITER. The difference lies in the regulatory status of the two devices—ITER is a nuclear installation, KSTAR is not—and in the inner workings of the organization.

„I participated in several design reviews for ITER components over the past four years and have had many opportunities to experience the complexity of the decision-making process within the ITER Organization. It is indeed a very complex machinery, even more than I had anticipated …”

KSTAR, which he joined in 1995 when the project was launched, taught something essential to Woong Chae: „While doing your own job on your own system or component, it is essential to have an overview of the whole device. If you don’t, coordination and interfacing becomes very, very difficult …”

Woong Chae chose to train as a fusion physicist/engineer because he felt fusion was „cool.” „It’s ideal as an energy-producing source, fascinating in terms of physics and technology and so different from the things one comes across in daily life.”

The first fusion device he encountered at graduate school in Seoul was the small tokamak SNUT-79 that Korea had developed in the late 1970s—the country’s first significant step onto the fusion stage. At the time, says Woong Chae, „the device was already a museum piece standing at the centre of the laboratory.” He then worked on the mirror machine HANBIT („Great Light”) in Daejeon, a partial reincarnation of the MIT’s 25-metre-long TARA, where he „learned how to manage big projects.”

After spending 18 years at KSTAR, Woong Chae felt that ITER was the „natural playground" for people like him—people who thrill at the challenge of „organizing men and procedures in order to make things happen.” Several ITER colleagues like Chief Engineer Joo Shik Bak or CODAC Section Leader Mikyung Park made a similar choice.

Woong Chae has moved to Aix-en-Provence with his wife, who spent a year in France as a graduate student, and their 16 year old son. They live near „Painters Ground” and have a beautiful view of Mount Sainte-Victoire. „Although I do not speak much French and am not what you would call a specialist in impressionism, I’m on familiar ground. In the early days of my marriage, we lived in Daejeon, close to restaurant named … Cézanne.”

Construction kick-off for Tokamak Complex

Early on Tuesday, 30 April the usual hustle and bustle on the fifth floor of the ITER Headquarters came to a short halt as ITER management gathered in front of a video camera to participate remotely in an event taking place at the European Domestic Agency, Fusion for Energy (F4E) in Barcelona. An event marking another milestone in the project’s history book: the kick-off meeting for Tender Batch 03, which is project code for the contract covering the construction of the Tokamak Complex plus another eight support buildings.

The Tokamak Complex will be a seven-storey reinforced concrete building with a steel-frame crane hall and a total mass of around 335,000 tons. It comprises the Tokamak Building plus the adjacent Diagnostic and Tritium buildings.  All three are connected and supported by a common basemat.

In addition to the Tokamak Complex, another eight buildings will be erected within the frame of the TB03 contract over the next 66 months, as well as 60 nuclear doors that will provide containment and radiation shielding during ITER operation and maintenance and three bridges. The scope of work comprises all civil works, heavy doors supply and implementation and finishing works.

The preparation for Tender Batch 03 began with a competitive dialogue in July 2011 and concluded with the award of the contract to the VFR consortium on 20 December 2012. The VFR consortium brings together VINCI Construction Grands Projets, Razel-Bec, Dodin Campenon Bernard, Campenon Bernard Sud-Est, GTM Sud and Chantiers Modernes Sud as well as the Spanish company Ferrovial Agroman.

„The start of this contract is one of the most important ITER milestones, as building construction is the main driving force of this project,” Director-General Osamu Motojima stated in his remarks following opening words from F4E Director Henrik Binslev. „This kick-off meeting will be recorded in the history of the project and fusion research,” Motojima went on, before he welcomed the Vinci consortium as „a new and important member” of the ITER team. „We are very much looking forward to working together closely. It will be my great pleasure to witness the daily progress from my office window.” 

Read more about the kick-off meeting on the F4E website here

Progress on stage and behind the scenes

The ITER site has undergone significant transformation in the past year. Following the completion of the Seismic Isolation Pit for the Tokamak Complex in April 2012, attention was turned to site infrastructure works such as the deep drainage networks, critical networks, the creation of a platform Contractors Area (from where the different construction work packages will be managed), and finally the foundation for the Assembly Building. These projects are now in their final phases.
As the focus returns to the heart of the ITER platform—the Tokamak Pit, where concrete pouring will resume this year—we asked Laurent Schmieder, project manager of the division for site, buildings and power supplies at the European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy (F4E), about the state-of-works on the platform and what we can expect to see in the months to come.

A new phase of construction is about to begin. Can you describe what has been accomplished on the ITER platform since the last major milestone of Seismic Isolation Pit completion?

A lot! In the last six months, our teams have focused on the construction of the Assembly Building foundation slab, an activity that required some excavation, much reinforcement and, since November, concreting work. The Assembly Building slab is about 95 percent complete and will be finished early June. Second, we oversaw the excavation for the deep rainfall drainage network and the installation of hundreds of metres of sizable (two-metre diameter) concrete pipes. These works caused major upheaval on the platform—currently, as we backfill and level, the mountains of dirt are slowly disappearing. Finally, we have erected Contractors Area 2 on the northwest corner of the platform. This area will host contractor workshops, a canteen to deliver 1,500 meals per day, and an infirmary for the welfare of the workers. We have had approximately 250 workers on site these past months; another 200 people in the offices are preparing construction drawings and finalizing ongoing calls for tender. In the next six months, you can expect to see the bottom slab (B2) of the Tokamak Complex take shape. We will also finalize the deep networks and continue the realization of technical galleries around the Tokamak Building.

The European Domestic Agency is responsible for the construction of 39 scientific buildings and dedicated areas on the ITER platform; before each project can start, tender offers have to be launched and contracts awarded. What is the status of contracts?

At F4E, we label our work packages by Tender Batch (TB). Last December we signed Tender Batch 03 (TB03) for the construction of the Tokamak Complex and auxiliary buildings, one of our largest contracts in the area of the civil engineering works. In 2012 we also signed TB08 for site infrastructure works—together, TB03 and TB08 represent a value of EUR 350 million. Before summer time, F4E intends to sign for over EUR 500 million in contracts with the planned signature of TB02 (handling items, such as cranes, within the Tokamak Building), TB04 (mechanical and electrical installations), TB05 (the design and construction of the magnet power conversion and reactive power control buildings), TB07 (the design and construction of the cold basin and cooling towers, pumping stations and heat exchangers), and finally TB06 (external power supply equipment and installation. What it’s important for you to know is that these contracts cover the entire „buildings scope” except for the Hot Cell Facility, radwaste building and three surrounding buildings.

As you can see, we are making tremendous, behind-the-scenes progress. Each contract signature signifies that the tender design period is over and that the baton is being transferred to the contractors. But each signature is also an important and visible signal for the ITER project of progress made in construction.

The contract for Tokamak Complex construction (and all surrounding buildings) was kicked off on 30 April 2013 in Barcelona (see related article in this issue). After an introduction by F4E Director Henrik Bindslev and ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, all of us—F4E, ITER Organization and F4E’s Architect/Engineer Engage—reminded the contractor consortium of the provisions of the contract and invited them to formally to start the works. The first phase of the contract will include the approval of quality documents, the selection of workers, and preparatory works (worksite, workshop, and welfare facilities). During the second phase of works, the consortium will deliver the detailed construction drawings. We are expecting construction works to begin early in 2014.

With all of the distinct work packages planned for building ITER, how will you manage the organization of the site in the years to come?

Most of the Tender Batches will be organized in separate areas on the platform and be managed in parallel. Where that is not the situation, as in the case of transversal packages TB06 (electrical distribution) and TB08 (roads and tunnels), each contractor will be responsible for the coordination of the work on its own area but general supervision and coordination will be closely followed by the following key actors: Apave, for health and safety coordination, and Engage, for the technical supervision.

In 2014, F4E expects to have approximately 2,000 workers on the platform, all contracts combined. And from that moment forward, the construction site will be a hive of activity for years! On top of the challenge of keeping to schedule, we will pay very particular attention to health and safety. F4E will also be implicated in the overall organization and coordination of the construction site because—despite the general impression that the ITER site is very large—in actual fact we will see that, progressively, all pieces of available land will be used by the contractors. In this context, access control and space management will be key elements to be able to optimize the schedule.

The F4E building team, with the support of Apave, Energhia* and Engage, will represent a workforce of around 200 staff dedicated to the follow-up and the monitoring of something close to EUR 1 billion of investment on the ITER platform over the next five years.

* EnergHIA, which provides support to F4E, is a consortium that includes IDOM (Spain), Halcrow (UK) and Altran (Spain/France)

How can we help?

How can we help? It was this one sentence—or rather question—addressed to ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima after his welcome address that explained why communication officers from the seven ITER Domestic Agencies, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and from 25 European fusion associations had made their way from the different ends of the world to the ITER Headquarters last week.

The dissemination of information about the latest developments in the field of fusion research and of course the progress of the ITER project are the daily job of the communication officers working in the ITER Domestic Agencies in Oak Ridge, Hefei, Seoul, Barcelona, Moscow, Tokyo or Gandhinagar, or in one of the many fusion research facilities joined under the roof of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA). For the first time since the start of the ITER Organization, the EFDA Public Information Network met on the ITER premises in southern France to exchange ideas and opinions and to discuss appropriate communication tools.

Altogether, with more than 40 people present—dedicated to spreading the word about fusion—an impressive tool in itself.

Close team work and pleasure make winning robots

Some of the Region’s junior high and high school students woke last Thursday 16 May with one idea in mind: victory …

Since October for some, January for others, their science and technology classes, lunch breaks and Friday afternoons had gone to realizing and programming a small Lego robot—one that would successfully participate in and, if possible, carry the ITER Robots challenge launched by Agence Iter France and the ITER Organization for the second consecutive year. Each of the teams worked from a standard Lego kit that they customized, improving the optical sensors in some cases or modulating the articulating arm.

The five junior high and seven high school teams that had taken up the challenge arrived early at the Lycée des Iscles in Manosque, Lego model in hand, surrounded by their professors and classmates.

„A month ago, the jury visited the schools to assess the level of readiness, the technical maturity of each project,” said Jean-Pierre Friconneau, an engineer in the Remote Handling Section at ITER and moderator for the day. „I have to say that we were very impressed by the candidates’ understanding of the technical description, their organization. It was interesting to see the differences in the solutions imagined and very gratifying to see the young people’s enthusiasm.”

The first challenge, untimed, was to follow a pre-defined trajectory on the mat including curves, 90-degree turns and about-faces. A good number of the candidate teams—four of five junior high teams and four of seven high school teams—were eliminated after three unsuccessful tries at this stage.

As Jean-Pierre explained to the disappointed teams, because the lighting and surface conditions were not necessarily the same as those in the home practice areas only the teams that had included enough of a tolerance margin in their programs were successful: „Engineering comes down to making choices, and all engineers learn from their mistakes,” he told the students, as he encouraged them to persist in their exploration of mechanics, electronics and programming.

For the teams still in the race, the second challenge was a timed remote handling task that involved picking up as many blanket modules as possible from the ITER Tokamak model and delivering them successfully to the nearby Hot Cell.

„The technical complexity of this competition and the fact that the students have worked together, collaboratively, around a common project, responds in all points to what we’d like to see more of in schools,” said Bruno Pélissier who, as inspecteur pédagogique d’académie, is involved in the content of school programs in the area. „We supported this program—and worked hard to extend it to the high schools—because it provides an opportunity for practical, hands-on applications for what is learned in the classroom.”

At the junior high level, it was a clear victory for the Sainte-Tulle team for the second consecutive year, with a robot that was rapid and precise. Their recipe for success? „Close team work and pleasure in working on this project with our professors,” team leaders Alicia, Flavien and Mathis reported.

The high school competition was a tighter contest, with three teams advancing to the second stage—Lycée Thiers from Marseille,  Lycée d’Altitude from Briançon, and Lycée des Iscles—and only two on to the final stand-off where the jury gave each team minutes to re-program their robot to pick up a specific module, chosen by throw of the dice.

Even the professors were surprised to see how well the teams responded under pressure. „What I saw,” said a supervisor from Briançon, whose group placed second, „was that a group that was very disparate at the start came together around this year-long project. It motivated them. The students made their own choices in conceiving and programming their robots and we stood back and watched them go down unsuccessful roads before they found the solutions that worked. You have no idea how valuable an experience like that is. We’re really happy to be here today.”

In the end, the first prize at the high-school level went to the Lycée Thiers from Marseille. The winning team walked away with passes for an afternoon of Laser Game with their classmates and an educational robot that will allow them to continue their exploration of robotics.

Click here to view ITER Robots image gallery.

On 25th anniversary, Tore Supra enters the museum

At age 25, Tore Supra is still far from being a museum piece. It is in a museum however that the anniversary of the CEA-Euratom tokamak was celebrated last Tuesday evening in Aix-en-Provence.

Why a museum? Why not … the old priory of the Knights of Malta, now the Musée Granet, was the perfect venue for the informal commemoration, providing a large shaded courtyard for the speeches, beautiful rooms to wander through and exceptional works of art to admire…

As he briefly retraced the history of fusion research and the part played by Tore Supra, Richard Kamendje of the International Atomic Energy Agency, drew this parallel between fusion science and art:  „Every generation,” he said, „faces similar challenges. But because you are living in a certain moment in history, you answer these challenges with the tools that belong to your time.”

One of the very first fusion machines to implement superconducting coils, Tore Supra certainly rose to meet several challenges over its 25 years of operation. Originally led by the installation’s designer Robert Aymar, Tore Supra teams explored the domain of long plasma discharges, achieving a record six-and-a-half minute „shot” in 2003 that produced one Gigajoule of energy.

Tore Supra pioneered the technology of actively-cooled plasma-facing components, real-time diagnostics, in-vacuum robotics… A quarter century after First Plasma was achieved on 1 April 1988, this accumulated expertise forms one of ITER’s major assets.

An anniversary is an occasion to reflect on the past, often with emotion, and to welcome the future, often with enthusiasm. Both Alain Bécoulet, the present Head of CEA’s Research Institute on Magnetic Fusion ( IRFM, the laboratory that operates Tore Supra), and his predecessor Michel Chatelier (2004-2008) expressed their conviction that the machine’s future will be no less brilliant and exciting than was its past.

For Tore Supra and the IRFM team, this future has a name: WEST (W Environment in Steady-state Tokamak, where "W" is the chemical symbol of tungsten). The project, which consists in installing an ITER-like full tungsten divertor, „will bring Tore Supra into the group of fusion devices that are actually preparing for ITER,” said Bécoulet. The formal decision to „go WEST” was taken by CEA on 7 March 2013; the first experiments will begin in 2015.

The „family reunion,” which was attended by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, several senior ITER staff and some STAC members present in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance for their biannual meeting, ended with a private tour of the Musée Granet, guided by curator Bruno Ely.

Conversations on tungsten, plasma confinement, magnetic geometry and actively-cooled components gave way to considerations, no less passionate, about art: Cézanne’s early works (eight of which are on loan to the museum), 15th century French painting exemplified by a wonderful Virgin in Glory by the Master of Flémalle, and what Ely considers to be the jewel of his museum—a small, dark Rembrandt: Self-Portrait with Béret.

Europe delivers a world class test facility

If we are truly committed to the idea of a sustainable energy mix—with fusion as one of the elements—then we need to invest in facilities that will bring us a step closer to the realization of commercial fusion by helping us test the technology and the components of current and future fusion devices.

This is precisely the purpose of the European Dipole project (EDIPO) launched in 2005, whose mission is to manufacture a high field magnet that would ultimately be used to test ITER cable-in-conduit conductors (CICCs) with current up to 100 kA. Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), at the Centre of Research in Physics and Plasma (CRPP), is hosting this facility that was built thanks to a collaboration between CRPP, BNG (Babcock Nöll), the European Domestic Agency for ITER (F4E) and the European Commission.

The stakes for EDIPO were high from the very start because it had to meet two important conditions. First, it had to offer the fusion community the possibility to test short sample CICCs in a magnetic field up to 12.5 Tesla—an unprecedented level for this type of facility—in order to mimic the ITER environment. Second, the CICCs had to be tested at this level of magnetic field over a length equivalent to about 800 mm, which is roughly two times the high field length of the conductors currently tested in SULTAN.
Read more in the Fusion for Energy Newsletter.

First hardware afloat from China

On Thursday 25 April, the morning silence at the Institute of Plasma Physics (ASIPP) in Hefei, China, was broken by the noise of a high powered trailer. Inside the superconductor shop of ASIPP, workers were busy preparing to load the 737 metres of dummy conductor for ITER’s Poloidal Field Coil number five (PF5)—this represents the first delivery from China to the ITER construction site in France.
According to the Procurement Arrangement signed between the Chinese Domestic Agency and the ITER Organization, China will fabricate 64 conductors for ITER’s poloidal field coils, including four dummy conductors for cabling and coil manufacturing process qualification. ASIPP is responsible for all the poloidal field conductor fabrication in China. The fabrication of the PF5 dummy was completed in by ASIPP in 2011.
„This is the very first batch of ITER items to be shipped from China to the ITER site in Cadarache," said Luo Delong, Deputy Director-General of ITER China. Before, conductors for the toroidal field coils had been shipped to Japan and Europe. "This milestone is a further step for the ITER project. According to our schedule, we will now start massive production of conductors this year. Our goal is that all procurement items from China be supplied consistent with the ITER schedule and with ITER quality requirements.”

According to the shipment schedule the PF5 dummy conductors, which left Shanghai on 30 April, will arrive at the ITER site on 5 June.

Periodic review for Test Blanket Module Program

The ninth meeting of the ITER Council Test Blanket Module (TBM) Program Committee took place on 25-26 April.

The TBM Program Committee meets twice a year to review the implementation of TBM program—including the Members’ Test Blanket Systems and the ITER Organization’s TBM integration activities—and to report to the ITER Council. The Program Committee reviews the status of the TBM-related activities within the ITER Organization, TBM design and R&D progress within the ITER Members, and the status of corresponding milestones.

The main objectives of this ninth meeting were to define the short-term steps that need to be performed in order to keep to the present Baseline schedule for the TBM Program as well as possible corrective actions which should be pursued in case of delays. Participants noted that the TBM Program schedule is closely linked to that of several ITER components (e.g., nuclear buildings); therefore, the coherence of the schedules needs to be continuously monitored.

Among the key milestones for the TBM Program are the signing of the six specific TBM Arrangements (TBMAs) that correspond to the formal implementation of each Test Blanket System in ITER. Following the endorsement of the generic TBM Arrangement by the ITER Council at its last meeting in June 2012, each ITER Member with responsibility for a TBM System (denoted a „TBM Leader”) has started the preparation of the draft of the corresponding specific TBMA and evaluated a realistic date for its signature by the Director-General and the designated ITER Member representative. These dates, ranging from January to December 2014, were reviewed and noted by the Committee.

The first component delivery associated with the TBM Program is expected as early as 2016: the Test Blanket System connection pipes will connect the components located in the TBM equatorial port cell to the components located in other rooms of the Tokamak Complex via the corresponding shaft and/or the corridor. These connection pipes belong to the six Test Blanket Systems and should therefore be procured by the relevant ITER Members. The TBM-PC agreed, in principle, to transfer responsibility for this procurement to the ITER Organization since it is advantageous to implement a common and unique procurement. The corresponding scope of the compensation, in terms of finance and human resources, was also agreed.

The TBM Program Committee also took note of the status of the activities of the Test Blanket Program Working Group (TBP-WG) on Radwaste Management. Its Chair, PK Wattal, reported on the work performed by the ITER Members to evaluate the expected volume and characteristics of the radwaste and on the corresponding classification performed by Agence ITER France, the official entity which the Host State has charged with the future management of ITER radwaste. Issues associated with the transporting of irradiated TBMs to the owner countries were also addressed.

The outcomes of this ninth meeting of the Test Blanket Module (TBM) Program Committee will reported to the ITER Council meeting in June.

Armed and ready to identify leaks

In constructing ITER, one of the key challenges is to ensure a leak-free machine. The US Domestic Agency has recently completed the bulk of delivery for the test equipment required to confirm the vacuum leak-tightness of components as they arrive on site and during the construction of the machine. At right,  vacuum team members are pictured with some of the leak detection tools-of-the-trade: helium spray guns and highly sensitive mass spectrometer-based detectors.

„This procurement is the very first US ITER procurement to be delivered to the ITER site,” rejoices Mike Hechler, the responsible officer within the US vacuum team. „Hence it should be celebrated as a real success. Being first we were like guinea pigs having to sort out how to deal with transport, VAT charges, customs, CE marking. It was not easy, but opens up the way for future US deliveries.”

„The basic method of leak detection is simple,” explains Liam Worth, member of the ITER vacuum team  and responsible for the test program. „You evacuate your vacuum vessel, surround it with helium gas, and then use the leak detector to look for helium leaking in—these instruments can detect in the minutest quantities.” However the size, complexity and number of the ITER vacuum systems make this a far from simple task. „We estimate that from acceptance to the final commissioning of the machine, no fewer than 94 man-years of vacuum testing will have to be performed.”