Turkey contemplates all energy options

With only 26 percent of its national demand for energy met through domestic resources, Turkey is highly dependent on fuel imports, primarily oil and gas.

Electricity production has already doubled since 2001 and will have to double again by 2020 in order to meet the needs of the fast-growing economy. Turkey aims to produce 30 percent of its electricity by way of renewables in 2023 and intends to establish 10 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2030.

In this context, fusion energy is the focus of strong interest from Turkish laboratories, government circles and utility companies.

„We need to contemplate all the options,” said Ms Deniz Erdoğan Barım, the Turkish Consul General in Marseille, who visited the ITER construction site on Wednesday 29 January. „It was very important for me to take the measure of the ITER Project, of the complexity of its organization and of the challenges of its schedule.”

The Consul General showed great enthusiasm for ITER and fusion energy as she discussed the Project at length with ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, who welcomes Turkey’s interest in ITER.

The beautiful country

Seen from the entrance of the ITER Headquarters, the Massif des Écrins, with summits between 3,000 and 4,100 meters, glimmers in the evening light. The buildings of the Vinon-sur-Verdon aeroclub are at the forefront.

Heading WEST for a new life

As the CEA-Euratom tokamak Tore Supra undergoes a major transformation to be used as a test bench for ITER, its innards are being progressively disassembled. From huge heating antennas to the intricate network of piping that used to cool the limiteur (Tore Supra’s equivalent of a divertor), most of the in-vessel components are now carefully wrapped and stored in an annex of the vast tokamak hall—a spectacular indication of how complex a machine a tokamak can be.

Four years from now, the 26-year-old tokamak will be a brand new machine. Extra magnetic coils will be added to confine the originally circular plasma into an ITER-like „D” shape and the carbon limiteur will be replaced by a tungsten divertor closely resembling that of ITER.

However, in advance of that date (as early as 2016) the machine will be ready to test the first samples of plasma-facing units—an arrangement of small tungsten blocks that, once assembled, will form the new divertor.

The WEST project (W Environment in Steady-state Tokamak), initiated in 2009, is now entering a decisive phase: as dismantling ends (1,500 components, representing 65 tons of hardware, have been handled), industry is beginning to launch pre-series fabrication and a wide international collaboration is being established.

„With this new configuration, the machine’s divertor will be exposed to the same heat flux as in ITER,” explains Jérôme Bucalossi, who heads the WEST project at CEA’s Institut de Recherche sur la Fusion Magnétique (IRFM). Like in ITER, the WEST divertor will have to withstand a 10 MW/m2 heat load, comparable to that which an improbable spaceship would face in the immediate vicinity of the Sun’s surface.

How will the tungsten plasma-facing units behave in such an extreme environment? How close to one another should they be assembled? What will be the consequences of a slight misalignment of the individual blocks? WEST should answer these questions that are of vital importance for ITER.

„WEST is more than a test bench for the ITER divertor—it’s a 'risk limiter’ as well,” says Bucalossi. „It will enable us to validate tungsten technology, acquire data on metal fatigue and explore the components’ boundary conditions, particularly in terms of adjustment.”

Although the design of the ITER divertor is close to finalization, WEST feedback can still have influence on some details. „And as we all know,” smiles Bucalossi, „this is where the Devil likes to hide…”

Chinese installation tests the juice

With a peak AC current at 415 kA and a peak DC current at 385 kA, the ITER power supply test facility at the Institute of Plasma Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) set a new record on 2 December 2013, demonstrating its capability to host the demanding short circuit test for ITER power converters.

The facility, under construction since 2008, consists of three test platforms that can support the AC short circuit test up to 350 kA, the DC multifunction test up to 400 kA and 2 kV and a steady state test up to 60kA/1.35 kV.

The three platforms can perform all the tests required for qualifying the ITER poloidal field power converters, including rated current tests, short circuit current tests, temperature rise tests and control/protection/operation verification. In addition, they are able to provide a wide range of regulated current and voltage for the different purposes of the tests.   

Moreover, the facility can host the installation of an entire poloidal field converter unit and operate it in different modes to simulate real ITER operation.
The test facility has already started accompanying the development of the ITER poloidal field converter prototype components. Several types of tests have been run, including the short-circuit (175 kA) and temperature rise (28 kA/4 hr) tests of the DC reactor; the short circuit withstand (350 kA/100 ms) and thermal stability (140 kA/2 s) tests of the enclosed AC busbar; and the short circuit withstand (350 kA/100 ms) and temperature rise (55 kA) tests of the DC disconnector. The short circuit withstand (350 kA) and the current balance tests of the converter bridge and external bypass will be performed soon.

Warm concrete in the chilly dawn

Concrete pouring operations resumed early on Wednesday 22 January in the southern corner of the Tokamak Pit.

Two large concrete pumps, one equipped with a 58-metre extensible arm (the largest available in France), were mobilized to fill a 500 square-metre area with specially formulated concrete produced in the nearby batching plant.

Operations began at 4:00 a.m. and continued for 10 hours. This was the second segment (out of 15) poured for the Tokamak Complex basemat, and one of three that will support the future ITER Diagnostics Building.

Special measures were set into place to counter the early morning cold, such as producing warm concrete in the batching plant (by heating the water and gravel) and using plastic sheeting as the work progressed to avoid too rapid cooling.

Hot air blowers were also activated once the pour was complete to regulate the drying process.

The complete Tokamak Complex basemat (1.5-metre-thick) is scheduled to be in place in July. Work will resume next week on the rebar installation in the central area of the Tokamak Pit.

Qualification conductors reach site

The large portals to the Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility were still closed on Friday afternoon when the two trucks with their precious cargo arrived at the ITER worksite 15 minutes ahead of time. On board were four crates shipped from the Institute of Plasma Physics (ASIPP) in Hefei, China, containing two types of conductor for the commissioning of the Winding Facility: 894 m of copper dummy conductor in three pieces to test tooling, and an additional 100 m of niobium-titanium (NbTi) conductor for winding and joint qualification tests.

Following a first convoy in June 2013, this was the second delivery of qualification conductors from China to the ITER worksite. According to the Procurement Arrangement signed between the Chinese Domestic Agency and the ITER Organization, China will in total 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.

Europe manufactures its first cryopump components

The European Domestic Agency for ITER, Fusion for Energy, started the new year with the completion of an important milestone linked to Europe’s contribution to ITER: the successful manufacturing of the cryopanels and thermal shields for the Pre-Production Cryopump (PPC).

The Pre-Production Cryopump will be the spare for ITER’s eight cryopumps (two in the cryostat and six in the torus). The cryopumps will be constantly operational and will play a vital role in the production of the ultra-high vacuum inside the vacuum vessel. In a nutshell, these components will help attain optimum plasma performance.

After an intense period of research, development and design, Fusion for Energy was entrusted with the responsibility of manufacturing the components. In November 2012, a series of contracts were signed with four companies based in Germany and in France, as well as with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) for the manufacturing of the Pre-Production Cryopump.

The Pre-Production Cryopump and the rest of the torus cryopumps will operate with helium at 3.5 K (-269.5ºC). They consist of the cryopanels, which perform the pumping action, and thermal shields that protect the cryopanels from excessive thermal loads. The components were put through complex dimensional controls and ultra-high vacuum leak tests.

The cryopanels have already been delivered to KIT and the thermal shields to Research Instruments, a German company that will integrate the manufacturing activities. At KIT, the cryopanels will be sprayed with charcoal, which is necessary for the pumping of helium and hydrogen isotopes from the torus. Research Instruments, together with Alsyom/Seiv will play a pivotal role in the production of the rest of the cryopump components, assembly, as well as the final cold ultra-high vacuum leak tests for the Pre-Production Cryopump.

Read the full article here.

Let’s go Lego!

The ITER Tokamak seems to be quite a source of inspiration for Lego aficionados. In June 2012, Newsline reported on Japanese artist Sachiko Akinaga who had created an 8,000-piece ITER mockup that was both realistic and naïve, using standard Lego bricks.

A new Lego venture is now creating a lot of excitement within the worldwide fusion community. Another Lego fan is working hard to convince the Lego company to bring the ITER Tokamak into the commercial production line.

Yes—a Lego set that would enable children to build a cutaway section of the ITER Tokamak.

Andrew Clark is an „Environment and Texture Artist” with Firaxis Games, a Baltimore-based game development studio that produced such blockbusters as , a Baltimore-based game development studio that has produced such blockbusters as Civilization and XCOM.

Andrew has done a lot of computer wizardry to model and to „texture” environments such as terrain or skies, but he’s retained a nostalgia for the simplicity and the almost unlimited creative potential of Lego bricks.

And recently, as he told Newsline, he „started getting back into it.”

„I came across the Lego Cuusoo website,” he explains, „which enables people to submit designs that Lego, under certain conditions, can use as a basis for an official Lego set. I started to think of ideas…”

The ITER Project had already attracted Andrew’s attention: „The idea that we can create fusion, the process that powers the stars, inspired me strongly. So I visited the ITER website and the internet to gather as much material as I could find.”

Andrew first worked with Lego Digital Designer, free software for creating original Lego designs. The next step was to go from virtual to actual, using available bricks and components to create a real Lego construction.

The operation took a whole weekend, plus some tweaking the following Monday. The result was a striking (and beautiful) rendition of the complex arrangement of the modules, piping, ports and feeders that form the central part of the ITER Tokamak.

But now comes the hardest part. While the Lego company encourages users to create original models, it will only consider making them into an „official set” (and in that case launching fabrication and commercialization) once the project has received 10,000 votes of support on the Lego website.

So we all know what we have to do now: go to the Lego Cuusoo site and press the green „Support” button. There’s still a long way to go to get to 10,000 votes … fusion in Lego appears to be as difficult as fusion in real life.

ITER’s virtual reality room is operational

The use of 3D technology for assessing design maturity and performing assembly simulations is key to large construction projects such as ITER.

After two years of relying on the technology installed at the neighbouring CEA Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research (IRFM), the ITER Organization this week celebrated the official inauguration of its own virtual reality room.

The technology was installed at the end of last year in a small annex at the back of the former Headquarters building. Once the new extension to ITER Headquarters is finalized, the equipment will be moved to its permanent location in a dedicated area for virtual reality. 

The visualization software, Techviz, enables the design engineers to literally „walk through” the ITER machine and the surrounding Tokamak Complex. The 2.5 x 4 m screen makes cooling water piping, vessel supports and any other plant system or component appear true-to-size. „This is certainly impressive to see and, admittedly, also fun,” says Jens Reich, who is managing the design integration of the Tokamak.

„A 3D tool like this is essential from the design integration point of view. It allows us to check the design of mechanical and plant systems or certain construction features. And it allows us to discuss interfaces in front of the big screen directly with the representatives of the different areas. Remote participation of our colleagues in the Domestic Agencies, during review meetings for example, is also foreseen.”

And there is another nice feature of this technology: with the help of a special set of target points it is possible to immerse people—virtually—into the corridors and utility shafts, allowing accessibility studies in certain restricted areas.

The annex building containing such sophisticated technology is connected to the Enovia design software which allows the loading of the 3D data directly from the ITER CAD database. Several members from within the Design Integration team are currently undergoing special training in order to operate the technology and to answer to the increasing frequent requests for use of this new tool.

Strenghening ties with academia

An important aspect of ITER’s scientific program revolves around the development of collaborative and training activities with academic and research organizations in the Members. A significant expansion of these activities occurred on Christmas Eve when ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tohoku University on Scientific, Academic and Educational Cooperation, the first such agreement established with a Japanese university.

Tohoku University, founded in 1907 and based in Sendai in northern Honshu, is one of Japan’s leading universities, with approximately 6,000 staff and 18,000 students.

At the signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding, held in Tokyo on the afternoon of 24 December, DG Motojima was joined by Prof Susumu Satomi, President of Tohoku University and Mr Kanji Fujiki, Deputy Minister of MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) in expressing the need to expand ties between the ITER Project and academic institutions, with their deep expertise in many areas of science and technology of importance to the success of ITER. The agreement will promote opportunities for collaboration between the university’s researchers and ITER scientists and engineers, and will also open the possibility of Tohoku students carrying out research projects at the ITER Organization as part of their training.

At the celebration which followed the signing ceremony and a series of presentations on the ITER Project’s construction, technology and science activities, several members of ITER staff had the opportunity to meet senior academics from Tohoku and discuss possibilities for future collaboration.

Evaluating the ITER magnets at SULTAN

The Centre de Recherches en Physique des Plasmas (CRPP) in Switzerland has studied fundamental plasma physics since 1961, with a particular focus on magnetic fusion since 1979. Part of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the CRPP operates the TCV tokamak and the SULTAN facility for testing and evaluating high current superconductors. We recently spoke with Pierluigi Bruzzone, head of CRPP’s Superconductivity section, about work currently underway at SULTAN for the ITER magnets. 

Since April 2012, the ITER Organization and EPFL have been linked by a service contract that guarantees the availability of the SULTAN facility for the performance testing of ITER conductors. Can you describe SULTAN’s capabilities?
The SULTAN test facility was built 30 years ago, in 1984, as a result of collaboration between Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The machine was upgraded substantially in 1990 and fully taken over by Switzerland when the collaboration dissolved. It is not a young test machine, but it was designed by my predecessor, Georg Vecsey, in such a good way that it is still rendering very valuable service to the physics community today.

SULTAN is the only facility in the world capable of producing high magnetic field (up to 11 T background field), high current (up to 100 kA) and high mass flow rate of supercritical helium for cooling. The 92 x 142 mm space available for samples can accommodate the large superconductors for present and future fusion devices. ITER has been our most frequent user since 2007.

A new test facility, EDIPO, has been erected next to SULTAN and is being commissioned. In 2014, it will complement SULTAN with a higher background field, 12.5 T, and a larger high field length, up to 900 mm.

What role has SULTAN played historically for ITER conductors?

We accompanied all the phases of ITER conductor development, including the R&D phase, supplier qualification, production qualification, and now final production. At each phase, the ITER conductor Procurement Arrangements foresee testing. We were also involved with the prototypes for the ITER model coils back in the 1990s.

Presently, the qualification phase for all conductor types for ITER is over. During this phase there was a mutual learning process. There were some question marks at first—were we conducting the right tests, was our methodology correct? We were able to resolve the doubts one after another and satisfy our client. We had an important success with the ITER central solenoid conductor.

Of the 20 people that form the SULTAN team, approximately half work full time on ITER testing; we also have some contracts related to DEMO fusion power plant projects, high temperature superconductor (HTS) R&D and testing, and smaller studies. Fusion is the core of our activity.

How do you organize the testing for ITER conductors?

We receive two kinds of ITER conductor samples. Niobium-titanium (NbTi) samples are delivered to us already assembled. Niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) samples, the more delicate technology, are delivered as raw conductor units. For the Nb3Sn conductor it takes us approximately 12 weeks to assemble a conductor sample—the main steps for a sample assembly are: preparation of the terminations, heat treatment (four weeks), and instrumentation. Each step has a rigorous sequence of quality assurance checks, with a number of protocols eventually summarized in the assembly report. The tests themselves last from one to five weeks depending on the test program, which is dictated by the phase of production. For each test we deliver to ITER a summary test report and the full set of raw data.

In our facility, it takes three days to install and cool down the sample and another three to warm up and remove it again. The 20 t magnets of the test facility have remained cold for over ten years. As sample preparation takes longer than the tests, we assemble several samples in parallel to keep SULTAN busy full time.

The conductor samples are tested under operating conditions that replicate ITER operation in terms of magnetic field, operating current, operating temperature and mass flow rate.  Beside the DC test and AC loss test, which aim to verify the acceptance criteria, we apply „cyclic loading”, mimicking the ITER lifetime (e.g., up to 10,000 load cycles for the ITER central solenoid conductors) to make sure that no significant performance degradation occurs.

The entire cycle, from the day a sample is received to the day testing is completed, takes about four months. In one year, we have up to twenty test campaigns for different conductors supplied by ITER parties.

You chaired the December 2013 final design review of central solenoid joint samples. Can you tell us more about conductor joint technology?

The ITER conductor lengths will be connected one to another in the final coil assemblies by joints. The aim of the final design review at the end of last year was to agree on the joint sample assembly procedure of a company that will do the central solenoid winding. All the ITER conductor joints will be made by industrial suppliers according to ITER Organization design. According to Procurement Arrangement specifications, each supplier has to qualify its joint assembly procedure by a joint sample tested in SULTAN.

We have already tested the European joint sample in two different campaigns. Next we’ll test the US central solenoid joint assembly, and then samples from China and Russia—probably eight samples in all.

Compared to testing the conductors, which will take three years, the joints will only require a couple months of testing if we put the campaigns back-to-back. The difficulty lies more in the work involved with checking drawings and verifying that interfaces are correct for our facility. The assembly work for joint sample must be done in industry.

With all of your experience, can you say that you have confidence in the performance of the ITER conductors?

Yes, definitely. The ITER design requirements and the target performance are both fulfilled by the conductors that we have tested. I don’t expect that conductor performance will be an issue for ITER.

Fusion magnets are very special objects. We have built up a lot of experience and know-how in working for ITER and I can only hope that there won’t be too long a gap before the DEMO-phase machines are under construction. Otherwise, we risk losing the human expertise and the industrial know-how that we are accumulating now.

Tricky joints

With the progression of ITER conductor production all over the world, the first lengths of completed conductors are being delivered to coil manufacturers. Although the lengths may extend up to nearly one kilometre, in most cases it will be necessary to connect several lengths together in order to wind the final coils.

To connect adjacent conductor lengths electrically and to connect the coil terminals to the feeder busbars, manufacturers will have to fabricate joints . While standard brazing is generally used in industry to connect regular copper conductor lengths, it has proven far more challenging to join superconducting conductor lengths. Many years of development in laboratories and industry have proved necessary to arrive at acceptable solutions.

One of the challenges presented by superconductors is keeping the joint resistance low enough to prevent excessive Joule heating and provide a current transfer, from one conductor to the next, with an as-even-as-possible current distribution among cable strands and within limited space. Another challenge is the cable-in-conduit design (stainless steel jacket around the conductor and an internal flow of supercritical helium) that is common to all ITER conductors. The jacket has to be removed to connect adjacent superconducting cables, while all the while respecting the continuity of the helium flow and tightness of the conduit.

In order to perform final qualification of the joints for ITER conductors, it has been decided to manufacture samples and to measure performance—in particular, joint resistance—in conditions as relevant as possible to tokamak operation. The tests will be performed at the SULTAN facility in Switzerland.

The design of the joints connecting the ITER correction coils with the feeder busbars relies on the use of the overlap twin-box joint concept (see Fig. 1), initially developed in the laboratories of the French CEA and then used in the Toroidal Field Model Coil (TFMC) built by Europe during the ITER Engineering Design Activities phase. In this design, each conductor end is enclosed inside a bimetallic stainless steel-copper box and adjacent box copper faces are soldered with each other. Low resistance can be achieved, in the order of a few nanoohms, but at the expense of a large consumption of space since locally two conductors are overlapping.  

Due to the specific space requirements of the central solenoid, the US Domestic Agency has developed two new types of joints, both fitting within the regular space of a single conductor: a splice joint (Fig. 4), connecting conductor lengths inside a module; and a coaxial joint (Fig. 2), connecting coil terminals to busbar extensions running along the coil outer diameter. The busbar extensions are themselves connected to the feeder busbars by classical twin-box joints.

Two final design reviews were conducted in late 2013 to review the designs of a correction coil joint sample (to be manufactured by correction coil manufacturer ASIPP, China), and the design of a central solenoid joint sample (to be manufactured by central solenoid modules manufacturer General Atomics, US). Both samples are planned to be manufactured and tested in 2014.

For both the correction coil and central solenoid joint designs, the review panel provided a positive recommendation on the presented designs and on the proposed testing programs, paving the way to the start of their manufacture early 2014.

Trilateral collaboration in the East

In December, the second technical workshop on the ITER magnets and vacuum vessel was held by the Japanese and Korean Domestic Agencies, with China in attendance. The workshop aimed to promote the sharing of technology and manufacturing experience for these critical ITER components and to tighten cooperation among three neighboring ITER Members for the successful implementation of ITER.

More than 30 technical officers were present at the two-day event, which took place on 19-20 December 2013 at the new headquarters of National Fusion Research Institute in Daejeon, Korea. Participants included the heads of Domestic Agencies Kijung Jung (Korea) and Eisuke Tada (Japan).

The discussions focused on the challenges of manufacturing the ITER magnets and vacuum vessel. Viewpoints and experience on such areas as safety requirements, codes and standards, welding deformation and qualification procedures (non-destructive examination, manufacture tolerances, the material properties of structures and jackets, and acceptance test requirements) were exchanged. The issues of quality, schedule and cost were also addressed during the workshop.

Participants reaffirmed the importance of having the Unique ITER team spirit flow down to the technical level for improved Project efficiency. Much can be learned from one another through close collaboration and exchange of lessons learned.

It’s not rocket science!

When Jamy explains, children in France listen … fascinated. For the past 20 years his program C’est pas sorcier („It’s not rocket science”) on French public television Channel 3 has opened their minds to the many wonders of the world.

From his makeshift „laboratory,” Jamy and co-stars Sabine and Fred have explained the Earth and the Universe, the human body, mankind’s greatest technological accomplishments, the origins of man, electricity and magnetism … 550 programs in all watched by two generations of young people in France (and by their parents!). C’est pas sorcier demonstrated the educational role that TV can play and how science can be fun and exciting.

One thing Jamy had never had the opportunity to explain is fusion and ITER. Ever curious he decided to come and see for himself, paying a visit to the construction site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance in early January.

Jamy’s presence offered the ITER Communication team a great opportunity to compare notes on how to best disseminate science and promote large projects such as ITER. After hours of conversation, it all boiled down to a few simple principles: use a language understandable by a teenager, never explain something that you do not fully understand and, most important of all perhaps, always speak and act as if you were yourself the listener.
Watch an example of Jamy’s program (in French) — this one on electricity.