MAM has a word to say


There is a procedure for everything…and certainly more than one when it comes to building the world’s largest fusion device. One of the procedures established within the ITER Organization is the Model Approval Meeting (MAM), in which the design descriptions for critical components pass the final check before they are turned into hardware.

The 3D-viewer room on the neighbouring premises of CEA Cadarache has become a regular meeting spot for ITER engineers over the last weeks and months. On one morning in late August, about a dozen ITER staff working on the central solenoid, the centrepiece of ITER’s magnet system, have come together to review the compatibility of the detailed 3D CAD model provided by US Domestic Agency with the rest of the Tokamak. This model, developed by US ITER at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the basis of the functional specifications provided by the ITER Organization, reflects the final design proposed by the US after feedback from industry and manufacturing trials.

The turn-to-turn spacing of the solenoid conductor had apparently been too tight to be guaranteed by the industrial manufacturer. The solution on the table, proposed by US ITER, is to extend the winding gaps by reducing the inner radius. The impact of this solution is the focus of the discussion.

Jens Reich, coordinator of Tokamak design integration and leader of the meeting, asks the 3D-room operators to overlay the original Configuration Model developed by the ITER Organization with the detailed model they have received back from the US.

A few seconds later, through their 3D-glasses, observers saw a real-size, down-to-the-detail central solenoid unfold on the screen in front of them. What impact would the changes have? And what about the margins at the perimeter—would they still allow for the assembly of this supersized magnet? The central solenoid will be lowered into the machine at the very end of the assembly process, a procedure that doesn’t leave much flexibility for manoeuvring.

The last word about the design of the central solenoid will have to wait until the Final Design Review planned for 18-20 November this year. „But this 3D-check is a very helpful tool to verify the details of a component and to identify any potential interface issues to be solved,” explains Jean-Jacques Cordier, leader of the ITER Design Integration team, before he and his colleagues put their glasses on again to look at the next client, the support structures for the poloidal field coils. 

Tore Supra components to start new life in China

Surprisingly, some twenty years of sporadic exposure to a temperature of 60 million degrees have left little trace on the C2 antenna’s „mouth” — except for a bit of superficial melting here and some black deposits there, Tore Supra’s lower hybrid antenna looks almost as new as the day it was installed.

One of the two original lower hybrid antennas of the CEA-Euratom tokamak, C2 greatly contributed to the progress of current drive analysis. It also played a key part in the success of the machine. „It is the hybrid system that allows for long pulses,” explains Roland Magne, head of the Radio Frequency Heating and Current Drive group at CEA’s Research Institute on Magnetic Fusion (IRFM).

Tore Supra entered operations in 1988 at CEA-Cadarache and still holds the world record of discharge duration with a 6-and-a-half-minute pulse achieved in 2003.

As science and technology steadily progress, vital components in a research installation like Tore Supra must be replaced or upgraded; C2’s twin C1 was replaced in the early 1990s and C2 was permanently removed from the installation in 2008 in order to make room for the Passive Active Multijunction (PAM) antenna which was installed two years later. (The PAM is equipped with an integrated cooling system that allows it to deliver more power density to the plasma over longer periods of time.)

„C2 is still in good condition and can be advantageously re-used for current drive experiments on another machine,” adds Magne. Recycling has always been part of fusion history: last week, the C2 was being prepared for a long trip to China. The antenna will soon be fitted onto the Chinese tokamak HL-2M, currently under construction at the Center for Fusion Science of China’s Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in Chengdu.

C2 will not travel alone. Tore Supra is also shipping the 8 3.7 GHz, 500 kW klystrons that used to feed the antenna. Although they also operated for more than 20 years, the C2 klystrons (electron tubes that generate and/or amplify the radio-frequency waves) are still in operating condition.

The antenna and the klystrons will set the stage for a collaborative physics experiment between IRFM and SWIP. As a first step, four of the klystrons will be coupled to an antenna that the Chinese are designing for the existing tokamak HL-2A for experiments due to begin in 2014. (HL-2A is the original ASDEX Tokamak that was transferred from IPP Garching to China in 1995, and entered operations at SWIP in 2002.) When HL-2M is operational in 2015, all eight klystrons will be connected to the C2 antenna.

„This collaboration will provide for some very important ITER-relevant physics program,” adds Magne.

On Tuesday, as the C2 antenna was about to be packed in its wooden crate, Chinese staff from CEA and ITER, all originally from SWIP, came to bid farewell. By 2015, both the antenna and the klystrons will start a new life in a brand-new tokamak on the other side of the world.

A fusion nomad


Tough luck: six months after Carlo Sborchia submitted his thesis on „Thermo-mechanical behaviour of fuel rods in case of a loss of coolant accident in Pressurized Water Reactors,” Chernobyl’s Reactor #4 went up in a cloud of radioactive smoke. As a consequence, Italy decided to halt its four operating nuclear plants and to phase out two projects already well underway.

For the young nuclear engineer, job prospects at home looked rather bleak. However, like for many other Italian nuclear engineers Chernobyl was Carlo’s luck: while fission energy was becoming a thing of the past in Italy, other ventures elsewhere could make use of his skills. For Carlo of course, this meant leaving his native Tuscany— something which, with the exception of a couple of trips to Rome, he had never done in his life.

As if to compensate for the 26 years he had spent in and near Piombino, the small town that faces the island of Elba (of Napoleonic fame), Carlo commenced a nomad’s existence in 1986, never to come back to Italy: CERN first, then one and a half years at the Sultan group in PSI Villigen, Switzerland and a first encounter with fusion through the NET project; five years at JET as a structural analyst, where he was recruited by Euratom; six and a half years with the ITER joint central team at Naka in Japan, then with EFDA in Garching, Germany; two and a half years in Greifswald as Head of the Superconducting Group of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator; a first one-year stint at ITER in Cadarache in 2007; followed by five years with Fusion for Energy in Barcelona as Head of the Magnet Group, responsible for 25 percent of the ITER magnet system procurement.

Over the course of his peregrinations—almost three decades’ worth—the young engineer who specialized originally in structural analysis graduated along the way to become an expert in magnets, accumulating experience in mockup design and manufacturing, procurement management, installation and, perhaps most important of all, learning to drive and motivate a team in times of success and in times of crisis.

Carlo’s story is a perfect illustration of what the „worldwide fusion family” is all about: the recently appointed head of the ITER Vacuum Vessel Division has worked with most of the people that are part of ITER today, people who were his neighbours, colleagues and friends in Culham, Naka, Garching or Greifswald.

How will a „magnet man” deal with the complex issues facing the ITER vacuum vessel? „A vacuum vessel is not a foreign object to me,” explains Carlo. „I’ve actually spent six months inside JET’s vacuum vessel—not many people have had that experience. Sure, I’ve been a 'magnet man’ for the best part of my career but, in reality, by taking on this responsibility at ITER I’m going back to my original calling which is nuclear engineering. A vacuum vessel is about just that: structure, welding, loads …”

Although he talks fast and at length, Carlo knows the importance of listening. „I’ve been here three days,” he said last week, „and what I basically did during that time was listen. You can’t motivate your people if you don’t listen to them, if you’re not present, if you don’t develop a personal relationship with them. And in the years to come, we’ll need a highly motivated team to tackle the technical challenges ahead.”

Ready to move in?

Rudy Ricciotti is an architect who likes to use undulating surfaces. It is the roof that undulates at the Arts of Islam department which recently opened at the Louvre museum in Paris, and it is the northwest, countryside-facing façade that undulates at the ITER Headquarters…

Together with his local colleague Laurent Bonhomme, the renowned Marseille architect designed a building that blends into its surroundings remarkably well when seen from the Vinon road. It also acts as a „visual pedestal” for the Tokamak Complex that will rise in the background on the platform-side.

The new ITER Headquarters is a five-storey building which offers 19,000 m2 of workspace divided in 242 offices and meeting rooms. Moving will begin this week and some 500 ITER staff and contractors will have settled into their new environment by the end November.

With half the ITER team at Cadarache moving into the new building and the other half settling into the twin buildings B22 (the present Headquarters) and B23, the entire staff will finally be based on the ITER site. The ITER Organization will provide a number of services, such as a canteen (beginning on 29 October) and buses for commuting to work, which are presently contracted via the CEA.

Facing northwest, the view from the Headquarters will take in the rolling hills of the Durance Valley and the first peaks of the Pre-Alps further to the north. To the east, the view facing the platform will soon be dominated by the looming structure of the 60-metre high Tokamak Complex.

Click here for a visual tour of the new ITER Headquarters building.


An ITER view from Down Under

Anisotropy… Bayesian interference… flow and chaos in fusion plasmas…, these are some of the topics that Matthew Hole, a fellow at the Plasma Research Laboratory of the Australian National University (ANU), discussed last week at a meeting with ITER physicists.

Down at ANU, 17,000 kilometres from the ITER site, the interest for fusion and for its international „flagship experiment” is strong. For years, the fusion community there has been active in trying to establish some official form of cooperation with ITER. The Australian ITER Forum, which Matthew Hole chairs, was created in 2006 to promote such an engagement.

In Australia, as in any other part of the world, a fusion physicist’s path always ends up crossing that of ITER. Individual involvements in ITER-related issues (such as Diagnostics, which is one major area of Australia’s fusion community’s expertise) are many but no formal, institutional, collaboration has yet been established.

„The fusion community there is eager to see Australia engage with ITER. But we are scientists, working in universities for the most part. What we need is an endorsement from the Australian government… and the necessary resources.”

The form this collaboration could take is open to discussion. „It is clear that Australia will not be a 'major partner’ like the present ITER Members,” says Matthew. „Australia has a rich diversity of energy options, so the national energy security driver is not perceived to be as strong.

The „frustration” Matthew acknowledges hasn’t dimmed his enthusiasm and he remains „passionate” about the whole issue. „ITER,” he says, „will define the fusion research program for at least the next generation. We want to be part of that enterprise…”

Last Wednesday in Cadarache, Matthew got his first opportunity to feel the reality of the project that has been on his mind for so many years. "The ITER site is huge," he said, "it is one thing to know the basics of the machine, but quite another to appreciate the size and scale of the entire site. What also struck me is the enthusiasm and helpfulness of the ITER staff, as well as the friendliness of the people of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille…"

The sheer size of ITER might dwarf that of the recently upgraded H-1 NF stellarator operated at ANU’s Plasma Fusion Research Facility, but if size matters, it is not all that fusion is about. Australia’s fusion device is small (major radius R=1.0 m), but the fusion community there is strong, enthusiastic and determined, and the country has a long history of breakthroughs and innovation in fusion research.


"Let’s go toward success together!"

Everything was „special” last week as the ITER Management Advisory Committee (MAC) met for two days in Cadarache in response to the request formulated by the ITER Council last June at its 10th meeting in Washington D.C.

This Special MAC Meeting, with a limited number of participants, aimed at monitoring the implementation of the ITER schedule recovery plans and at reviewing the actions already implemented (or to be implemented in the near future) by the ITER Organization.

Also special was the fact that the Heads of the seven Domestic Agencies, or their representatives, instead of being seated amongst the MAC members as they usually are at MAC meetings, were seated amongst the ITER Organization management. This small change in seating arrangements conveyed a strong meaning: DA Heads and IO management now form what DG Motojima terms the „Unique ITER Team„, an integrated body pursuing a common goal and resolutely pulling in the same direction.

Considering the importance of the issues discussed, the IO management also decided to convene an All-Staff meeting in the afternoon following the conclusion of the MAC special session, and asked both MAC Chair Ranjay Sharan (India) and ITER Council Vice Chair Edmund Synakowski (US) to address the assembled ITER personnel.

Speaking to a packed audience, Ranjay Sharan, whom DG Motojima introduced as „one of the first MAC members” and one who had seen „all the ups and downs of the project since 2007”, said that the present moment was definitely more „up” than „down”. „MAC”, he said „is very pleased to see that recovery actions are now in place […] The issues, constraints and restraints are now identified and I have no doubt you will solve them […] In the past three months, you have achieved one more milestone than the target — this is a very good signal!”

A long-standing „member of the family of fusion” and the present Associate Director (Office of Science) for Fusion Energy Sciences at the US Department of Energy, Edmund Synakowski gave a very moving speech, telling the assembled staff that they were „at the ground floor of something truly historic” and confessing that he was „both impressed and envious” at the challenge being raised here at Cadarache. „We all recognize,” he said, „the excellence presently executed in the ITER project.”

Kijung Jung, the  Head of ITER Korea, conveyed on behalf of all the DAs, the common „appreciation for the great efforts that are being accomplished” and assured that „all DAs will do their best for the ITER project — Let’s go toward success together!”, he cheered.

Spirits were high when DG Motojima took the floor to present the details of the recovery plans and correction actions being implemented. „Cost is contained; slippage is being recovered,” he said. „The ITER train is back on track;  now we need to accelerate”. He stressed that the progress gained and noted by this MAC are due to contributions of the staff; and”, he insisted, „that is each and everyone of you”.

Schedule Control; a Simplified Integration Scheme; more integration between IO and DAs — „all the way to the Technical Responsible Officers” —;and  the acceptance  „that the buildings’ design should be frozen as soon as possible” are some of the actions and attitudes that will contribute to the acceleration.

Director of the Department for ITER Project Rem Haange then provided further details on the status of the „critical and super critical items” such as buildings construction; vacuum vessel; TF, PF and CS Coils, and cryostat. „We have introduced methods to understand the slippages and to stop them,” he explained.

In his address, DG Motojima had evoked the figure of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus who regretted that, in his time five centuries B.C., „each physician was the physician of one disease and of no more” and that physicians who could treat the whole body were impossible to find.

Replace „physicians” by „engineer and physicists” the DG suggested and, at a distance of 25 centuries, you could draw a parallel with the present situation: „We all need to have a broader view. We all need to understand the person who is near us,” said DG Motojima. This is the only way to treat the whole body and to build the whole machine.
 
Pictures of Special MAC Meeting can be viewed here.




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.


Designing an antenna the size of a bus

The Ion Cyclotron Resonance Heating (ICRH) system, one out of three heating systems installed in ITER, will deliver 20 MW of radio frequency power to the plasma for up to one hour. The power will be injected at radio frequencies through what we call „antennas,” however, ITER antennas have very little in common with the one attached to the standard radio in our kitchen. These components will measure 1.8 x 3.5 x 2.5 metres and weigh 45 tons (dry weight). And—who would have guessed—there is some very sophisticated technology hidden inside the beast.

It is Europe’s responsibility to deliver two of these high-tech components to ITER. In 2010, the ITER Organization signed a Task Agreement with the European Domestic Agency (F4E) which, in turn, signed a contract for the „build-to-print” design of these impressive antennas with the CYCLE consortium, made up of several European fusion associations with ICRH expertise: CCFE, UK;  CEA, France; ERM, Belgium; IPP, Germany; and ENEA-Torino, Italy.

On 22-24 May, more than 50 people—including experts on ion cyclotron radio frequency design, engineering, and physics; representatives from the European, Indian, and US Domestic Agencies; technical representatives from interfacing ITER systems; and, of course, members of the CYCLE design team—met in Cadarache to review the preliminary design. The review panel was chaired by Jean Jacquinot, former director of JET and one of the pioneers of the ICRH technology.

The design of ITER’s ICRH antennas will be the quintessence of technologies developed for machines like Alcator C-mod, JET, Asdex-Upgrade, TEXTOR and Tore Supra. „The challenge in designing such an apparatus for ITER is not only the power increase to 10 MW for each antenna and the associated large electric fields,” explains Jacquinot, „but the fact that this is a plasma-facing component that has to withstand neutron bombardment and high heat fluxes from the plasma. In addition, these components will require permanent water cooling and they will have to squeeze into an equatorial port plug, allowing only very tight tolerances.”

„We try to make use of available technology as much as we can,” ITER’s Ion Cyclotron Section Leader Bertrand Beaumont comments. „But of course some new developments are necessary, such as the Faraday screen—a sandwich-like structure made of beryllium, hardened copper alloy, and stainless steel that covers the front face of the antenna."

„One of the open questions that call for further study is the behaviour of the ceramic vacuum windows in a nuclear environment,” adds Philippe Lamalle, technical responsible officer for the antennas.
 
 „The design review was an excellent and in-depth review of the antenna system, showing us that we are on the right track,” said Dharmendra Rathi, technical officer for the system, at the end of the meeting. With no showstoppers identified, the ICRH team will now prepare for the next mileston: the final design review scheduled for 2015.


Designing an antenna the size of a bus

The Ion Cyclotron Resonance Heating (ICRH) system, one out of three heating systems installed in ITER, will deliver 20 MW of radio frequency power to the plasma for up to one hour. The power will be injected at radio frequencies through what we call „antennas,” however, ITER antennas have very little in common with the one attached to the standard radio in our kitchen. These components will measure 1.8 x 3.5 x 2.5 metres and weigh 45 tons (dry weight). And—who would have guessed—there is some very sophisticated technology hidden inside the beast.

It is Europe’s responsibility to deliver two of these high-tech components to ITER. In 2010, the ITER Organization signed a Task Agreement with the European Domestic Agency (F4E) which, in turn, signed a contract for the „build-to-print” design of these impressive antennas with the CYCLE consortium, made up of several European fusion associations with ICRH expertise: CCFE, UK;  CEA, France; ERM, Belgium; IPP, Germany; and ENEA-Torino, Italy.

On 22-24 May, more than 50 people—including experts on ion cyclotron radio frequency design, engineering, and physics; representatives from the European, Indian, and US Domestic Agencies; technical representatives from interfacing ITER systems; and, of course, members of the CYCLE design team—met in Cadarache to review the preliminary design. The review panel was chaired by Jean Jacquinot, former director of JET and one of the pioneers of the ICRH technology.

The design of ITER’s ICRH antennas will be the quintessence of technologies developed for machines like Alcator C-mod, JET, Asdex-Upgrade, TEXTOR and Tore Supra. „The challenge in designing such an apparatus for ITER is not only the power increase to 10 MW for each antenna and the associated large electric fields,” explains Jacquinot, „but the fact that this is a plasma-facing component that has to withstand neutron bombardment and high heat fluxes from the plasma. In addition, these components will require permanent water cooling and they will have to squeeze into an equatorial port plug, allowing only very tight tolerances.”

„We try to make use of available technology as much as we can,” ITER’s Ion Cyclotron Section Leader Bertrand Beaumont comments. „But of course some new developments are necessary, such as the Faraday screen—a sandwich-like structure made of beryllium, hardened copper alloy, and stainless steel that covers the front face of the antenna."

„One of the open questions that call for further study is the behaviour of the ceramic vacuum windows in a nuclear environment,” adds Philippe Lamalle, technical responsible officer for the antennas.
 
 „The design review was an excellent and in-depth review of the antenna system, showing us that we are on the right track,” said Dharmendra Rathi, technical officer for the system, at the end of the meeting. With no showstoppers identified, the ICRH team will now prepare for the next mileston: the final design review scheduled for 2015.