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.
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.
In mid-January 2009, communication between the „old” ITER Headquarters (presently building B 82) and the ITER offices located inside the CEA enclosure was made considerably easier by the opening of a Rotogate in the CEA fence—from that moment on, a driving distance of some two kilometres was transformed into a bucolic walk of a couple of hundred metres.
Last Friday 16 November, as the last offices on the CEAwere being vacated by ITER employees who had been assigned new offices within the ITER site, the Rotogate rotated for the last time.
For ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, the event was significant. „This last passage through the Rotogate is a great opportunity to affirm the ITER Organization’s independent responsibility as a nuclear operator.” It was also the occasion to express ITER’s gratitude toward CEA Chairman Bernard Bigot, CEA-Cadarache Director Maurice Mazière, and Agence Iter France Director Jérôme Pamela, whose „great friendship, contribution and support” will not be forgotten.
As the Rotogate turned behind the last ITER staff member (CODAC network administrator Nicolas Pons), a new chapter opened in the history of the project. For the first time since the Joint Work Site opened in Cadarache in December 2005, the whole ITER family was „home at last.”
Last Wednesday, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima called for an all-hands meeting in the Headquarters' brand-new amphitheatre in order to brief the ITER Organization staff on the outcome of the recent meetings of the projects scientific and managerial advisory committees. To this memorable event, Director-General Motojima had invited both the present and former chairmen of the Management Advisory Committee, Ranjay Sharan and Bob Iotti.
At the outset, the Director-General presented the conclusions of the 14th meeting of the project’s Management Advisory Committee (MAC) that had taken place on 29-31 October. The MAC had acknowledged the intensive work done by the ITER Organization in collaboration with the seven Domestic Agencies since the special MAC meeting held in August. Required schedule recovery actions have been taken and the collaboration between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies has been intensified through the establishment of the Unique ITER Team.
„However, the MAC recognized that further and intensive efforts are necessary,” MAC Chair Ranjay Sharan explained. „The variances will have to be minimized by parallel working approaches and innovative methods. The MAC will closely monitor these approaches.”
„Yes, there are issues,” Iotti admitted, „but we are working closely together to resolve them.” Of great concern: the delays related to six super-critical items—the buildings, the vacuum vessel, the poloidal field coils, the toroidal field coils, the central solenoid conductor and the cryostat.
Two other essential issues were the focus of this 14th MAC meeting: the rules for further distribution of credits amongst the ITER Members as proposed in the „MAC-10 Guidelines,” and the proposal for a simplified assembly plan with the intention to recover some of the time slippages. „Based on the different feedback we received to this plan, the MAC suggests that the project remain focused on the normal step-by-step assembly strategy, but that it evaluate options to reduce risks and the time required for the assembly and the transport of components in order to provide more confidence in the dates for First Plasma and Deuterium-Tritium operation,” Sharan said.
As for the technical assessment, the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) commended the ITER Organization and the ITER Domestic Agencies on significant progress made, especially in the manufacturing of ITER magnets. More than 350 tons (73,000 km) of niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) strand for the toroidal field conductor have been produced so far, corresponding to approximately 75 percent of total amount needed. Also, approximately 65 tons of poloidal field conductor strand (25 percent of supply) have been produced.
The STAC noted that—with the exception of the poloidal field coils—there are currently no new major delays in the critical path due to magnets. The STAC further complimented the ITER Organization’s comprehensive report on remote handling and the good progress that has been made in developing a strategy for the installation, maintenance and potential repair of the first wall and the divertor.
„Take pride in what you have accomplished so far,” and, „Work in cooperation with others as team,” were the final comments from Bob Iotti and Ranjay Sharan respectively.
Upon his arrival at ITER, on Thursday 11 October, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima was greeted by the assembled staff at the entrance of the new Headquarters Building.
DG Motojima, who was accompanied by his wife Kaoru, had been attending the 24th Fusion Energy Conference in San Diego (USA) and this was his first official contact with the new building.
Having missed the thrill of the move on Monday, the ITER Director-General was eager to discover his new office and the spectacular worksite view it commands. Rather than the bucolic view of the rolling hills of Haute-Provence, he had chosen the „platform side” in order to follow the daily progress of construction.
One could have stayed a long time just enjoying the view and imagining the huge Tokamak Complex rising 55 metres high, but the ITER machine was rolling and a Project Board Meeting (PBM) — the first to be held in the new building — was scheduled to begin.
Addressing the PBM participants and the personnel who had briefly joined them for the occasion, DG Motojima stressed the symbolic importance of the moment. „What we are witnessing today,” he said, „is the beginning of a new era. ITER is now 'at home' in this new building and I wish to express my appreciation to all who have made this moment possible: France and Europe, who have contributed this building to the ITER project, and also our colleagues in Building and Site Infrastructure (BSI) and in IT, who have successfully managed the moving operations and will continue to do so in the weeks to come.”
ITER Deputy Director-General Rem Haange and Head of the Directorate for General Administration Jiu Jin, also addressed the audience, conveying the same message: as staff and machine will soon stand face to face, moving into the new Headquarters building is indeed a turning point in the long history of the ITER project.
On Monday, 24 September, the 27th „Symposium on Fusion Technology” opened its doors in Liège, in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Philippe of Belgium.
The „SOFT” conference is an important gauge for measuring the progress being made in the development of fusion energy. In its last edition in 2010, it attracted more than 1,200 participants, beating its own record — thus showing the increasing interest in the field.
As he visited the ITER stand, Prince Philippe expressed a strong interest in the project which was presented to him by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima and Director of the Energy Directorate at the European Commission Hervé Pero.
ITER, as the spearhead approach to fusion energy, will be once more in the centre of the discussion in Liège. the ITER Director-General will be amongst the key-note speakers summarizing the status of the project, followed by representatives from various departments reporting on the latest developments in key design issues.
In two special satellite meetings the ITER Vacuum Team will present the ITER approach to vacuum quality and standards.
And, last but not least…don’t miss a visit to us at the ITER stand to watch the latest videos showing the manufacturing progress around the world and of course— to get your free tokamak doughnut!
Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT)
24 — 28 September 2012
Palais des Congrès
Esplanade de l’Europe 2
The ITER Organization and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the People’s Republic of China have signed a Memorandum of Understanding aiming to promote the scientific and technological cooperation between the world-spanning network of laboratories and institutes engaged in fusion research.
On 13 August, during his recent visit to Beijing, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima and Vice-Minister CAO Jianlin signed the Memorandum. China is one of the seven founding Members of the ITER Organization and MOST is steering the country’s national scientific and technological development.
The agreement comprises „the exchange of and training of scientists, engineers, specialists, administrators and project managers with regard to mega science projects for agreed periods of time; the organization of seminars and workshops; and the exchange of information and data on scientific and technical activities taking into account the Intellectual Property rules of the ITER project.”
In the pre-2001 design, when ITER was to be nearly the size of Saint-Peter’s Basilica in Rome, 16 cryopumps were to be accommodated at the divertor level of the vacuum vessel.
Cryopumps have the essential function of removing impurities and helium ash from the plasma, enabling the plasma to continue to burn and produce fusion power.
The requirements for vacuum pumping are linked to the plasma fuelling rates—even in the „smaller” ITER these had to be maintained. Design developments in cryo-pumping allowed the machine to be optimized with ten cryopumps in 2001 and eight in 2003.
Eight cryopumps has been the Baseline design figure until recently, when the ITER Director-General proposed to simplify the divertor ports of the machine and remove all „T-shaped” branch ducts. This left only five or six positions where cryopumps could be placed.
This bold proposal was quite a challenge for the ITER Vacuum team. „Let’s say our creativity was strongly stimulated…” recounts ITER Vacuum Section Head, Robert Pearce. „A five-pump solution was proposed, but this was considered rather risky for the goals of achieving ITER’s fusion power mission.”
Following discussions at the Science and Technology Advisory Council in November 2011 and at the Ninth ITER Council later that month, a much improved solution was found: there would be six divertor cryopumps in ITER doing the job that was originally assigned to sixteen.
„Basically, improvements in the cryopumping system design over many years have allowed the cryopumps to sit in bigger housings, enabling them to pump longer and store more gas and impurities,” says Robert. The new housings are „simpler” and have a volume of greater than 14 m3, as compared to 8 m3 in 2003. As the pumping configuration at the bottom of the machine (divertor level) was changed, it became possible to make improvements that resulted in the easier integration of other systems.
„We think that the overall six-pump solution is better in the end: we now have six identical systems. Operations are made simpler and the performance of the system is as good previously,not affected,” conclude Robert and his Vacuum team.
Considering that each branch duct and cryopump is a multimillion-euro component, the savings for the ITER project are considerable.