ITER represents a huge step towards the realization of fusion energy. But even once ITER has achieved the expected plasma performance, a lot remains to be done before we have electricity on our grid generated by fusion.
Fusion researchers around the world are starting to seriously consider the next major step after ITER, known as DEMO, which should be a DEMOnstration power plant, producing electrical power and paving the way for the commercially viable fusion power stations that will follow.
Many conceptual ideas for DEMO designs have been produced over the years, but now that ITER construction is well under way, real proposals for DEMO are being planned.
Unlike ITER, most work on DEMO has been done without much international collaboration although Europe and Japan are cooperating on DEMO design work as part of the „Broader Approach”. But to promote more international sharing of work on the path towards DEMO, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arranged a DEMO Programme Workshop that was held at the University of California, Los Angeles, on 15 — 19 October. Over 60 attendees came from fusion research institutes worldwide, including all the countries that are members of ITER.
The workshop was organized around technical topics which are seen as major issues that must be addressed before DEMO can be realized: power extraction, tritium breeding, plasma exhaust, and magnetic configurations. There were also general talks presenting the status of programmes towards DEMO in some of the countries represented.
There are striking differences between the ideas for the plant in the views from different countries. Concepts include tokamaks of various sizes and with varying degrees of advancement from the technology and physics of ITER.
But DEMO could also be a stellarator, or even a „hybrid” that combines fusion and fission in a single device. Some believe that an intermediate step, sometimes called a "Fusion Nuclear Science Facility" or "Component Test Facility", is needed between ITER and DEMO. Such installations would be used to develop and test systems such as breeding blankets, to supplement the work to be done using Test Blanket Systems in ITER. Others prefer to aim for a „near-term” DEMO that would begin by testing its own components.
In all cases, significant materials development is needed, as DEMO will certainly need more advanced structural materials than those being used in ITER. According to some opinions, the planned IFMIF facility will only partly provided the materials tests needed.
With so many diverse ideas, it is not surprising that international collaboration has been scarce. However the workshop did show that there are plenty of common areas in the R&D that needs to be performed, and IAEA will encourage collaboration over these.
Nearly 1,000 of the world’s preeminent fusion researchers from 45 countries gathered last week in San Diego to discuss the latest advances in fusion energy. The 24th International Atomic Energy Agency Fusion Energy Conference, organized by the IAEA in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and General Atomics, aims to "provide a forum for the discussion of key physics and technology issues as well as innovative concepts of direct relevance to fusion as a source of nuclear energy.”
Those in attendance in San Diego included Nobel Prize-winning physicist Burton Richter, Physicist Steven Cowley, CEO of the United Kingdom’s Atomic Energy Authority; Frances Chen, a plasma physicist and UCLA professor emeritus who wrote the book „An Indispensable Truth: How Fusion Power Can Save the Planet”, and keynote speaker William Brinkman, Director of the Office of Science in the U.S. DoE.
ITER Director-General Motojima gave the overview talk in the opening scientific session on Monday 8 October and ITER played centre stage throughout the conference, with more than 20 members of staff present providing as many scientific papers and posters (the ITER Domestic Agencies, for their part, contributed 54 papers to the conference).
While acknowledging the difficulties in the implementation of the project which the ITER Organization and Domestic Agencies are tackling, delegates to the conference welcomed the significant technical progress in ITER design and construction activities which were reported in the ITER presentations.
At a "Town Meeting" on the prospects for Burning Plasma Studies at ITER that was, arranged by the local organizers of the conference, presentations by Rich Hawryluk and David Campbell were particularly well received.
Overall, the atmosphere was highly supportive of the ITER project and a substantial fraction of the presentations made at the conference were linked in one way or another to addressing ITER’s R&D priorities.
Significant progress was reported in areas such as the use of all-metal plasma facing components and the associated plasma-wall interaction issues, disruption mitigation, ELM control, H-mode access and confinement. Plans presented for future R&D activities in the major fusion facilities continued to reflect a close link to physics areas which are key to ITER’s success.
Click here to view the conference coverage on KUSI local news channel.
The International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) will characterize the properties of the building bricks of future fusion power plants.
The project is part of the Broader Approach that Japan and the European Union formally launched in 2007 in parallel with the ITER Agreement. IFMIF is coordinated from Rokkasho in the Aomori prefecture and is led by Juan Knaster, formerly an ITER staff member in the Magnet Division.
Already in the heart of its Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (EVEDA) phase, the validation activities involve top-level European research institutions and the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which coordinates the work of various prestigious Japanese universities.
The enthusiastic IFMIF/EVEDA project community is full of energy, which can be felt through the 40 papers presented at the recent SOFT 2012 conference held in Liège (Belgium).
IFMIF will generate a neutron flux capable of providing 50 displacements-per-atom/per-year (dpa/y) in 100 cm3 and 20 dpa/y in 500 cm3 in its High Flux Testing Modules (HFTM). These modules will house 960 different specimens to provide a complete mechanical characterization of the chosen material. Using small specimens is a well-known technique that has been around for decades in the field of fission reactor vessels. It is being jointly developed by both implementing agencies for future fusion applications.
The 14 MeV neutron flux will be generated by bombarding a beam of deuterons at 40 MeV onto a liquid Li screen flowing at a speed of 15 m/s and a temperature of 250ºC through a series of (d, Li) stripping reactions. Both facilities involved will be validated thanks to an accelerator prototype, LIPAc, presently under construction in Rokkasho and by the EVEDA/IFMIF Li test loop in Oarai in the Ibaraki prefecture.
The Li loop built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Mechatronics Systems, Ltd (under a contract with JAEA) was ready to operate early in 2012.
However, the terrible earthquake that hit Japan on 11 March 2011 caused severe damage. Due to the enormous interest in the global fusion programme and after a difficult year where massive efforts were made to repair the facility, the nightmare has finally been forgotten and the Li loop is back in operation. Now back on track, it has a heavy scientific agenda lined up for it over the next two years or so.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held its annual General Conference from 17 to 21 September 2012 in Vienna.
Over five days, close to 2,000 high-level governmental representatives from the IAEA’s 155 Member States gathered to consider and discuss a range of topics on the peaceful development of nuclear technologies related to the IAEA’s programs, focusing on nuclear radiation and waste safety; nuclear security; nuclear science; technology and applications; technical co-operation; and improving the efficiency of the safeguard systems.
ITER Director General Prof. Osamu Motojima attended the Conference as one of the Non-Governmental Organizations accredited by the IAEA — an opportunity to raise the profile of fusion and ITER in one of the largest energy gathering worldwide.
At the opening of the 56th IAEA General Conference, the message from the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, was very clear: „We are also aiming for progress on the critical issue of nuclear terrorism. On 28 September, I will convene a United Nations High-level Meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism, which I hope will contribute to strengthening the rule of law in this field.”
In the conference’s opening session, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano focused on major developments in the IAEA’s work. „Today, the Agency is making important contributions to tackling fundamental global problems such as poverty and hunger, energy shortages, cancer and climate change. The Agency provides effective support to enhance the safe and secure use of nuclear energy in Member States.”
According to DG Amano, nuclear energy continues to develop: „When I became Director General three years ago, the talk was of a nuclear renaissance. Then the Fukushima Daiichi accident occurred, raising fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy throughout the world. Eighteen months after the accident, it is clear that nuclear energy will remain an important option for many countries.”
However, safety is now a major issue for all countries. „The most important lesson that we have learned from Fukushima Daiichi is that we need a much more intense focus on nuclear safety. […] We have expanded the content of IAEA expert peer review services to Member States to include the first lessons learned from the accident. In December, the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, organized by the Government of Japan and the IAEA, will take place in Fukushima Prefecture. At this conference, we will present a report outlining the conclusions of the international expert meetings held so far. We will also prepare a comprehensive report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, to be finalized in 2014.”
The IAEA’s Director General stressed the fact that there are 117 States with additional safety protocols and this number is still rising. This is encouraging because the additional protocol is an essential tool for the Agency to be able to provide credible assurance that there is no undeclared nuclear material and activities in a country. Nevertheless, there are still 13 countries without safeguard agreements.
DG Amano asked for these to be brought into force as soon as possible. „The IAEA should remain first and foremost a technical organization, although our work can have important political implications,” he concluded.
The 56th IAEA General Conference also provided Prof. Osamu Motojima with an opportunity to discuss with DG Amano and to meet with several delegations present in Vienna. DG Motojima and Head of the ITER Office of the Director General Takayuki Shirao successively met with M. Bernard Bigot, High Representative for the Implementation of ITER in France; with the representative of the Holy See Monsignor Branach; with Ambassador Toshio Osawa from Japan; with the Head of the Kazakhstan Delegation Mr Chatrikin and with the Ambassador of the Principality of Monaco Claude Giordan.
|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!"
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.