Watching from above


Anyone travelling in France on vacation or long weekends has heard of Bison futé, a name inspired by American Indian culture that translates as „Cunning Buffalo.”

Bison futé is the national gendarmerie-run service that provides real-time information on traffic conditions, road safety and driving restrictions in France.

Last week, the Bison futé command centre for the southeast quarter of French territory, located in Marseille, was busy with a very special mission: monitoring the ITER test convoy as it slowing progressed along the ITER Itinerary.

Every night, as the convoy was readied for yet another leg of the journey to the ITER site, a group of five to six people representing the French authorities (Préfecture), the gendarmerie forces and Agence Iter France prepared for another sleepless night.

As they sat in front of an array of computer screens and radio equipment, the members of this small „ITER cell” had a unique and privileged view on the ongoing operation, some 60 kilometres away.

„Actually, we are the only ones who have a global vision,” says Colonel Geneau of the gendarmerie. „We are connected by radio and telephone with all parties involved. Geolocalization devices on the convoy vehicles provide us with real-time information on convoy progression and we even have infrared images from a helicopter hovering high above the convoy…”

Watching the video stream from the helicopter is particularly impressive: it’s like viewing the negative of a black-and-white movie, where people appear as greyish silhouettes and the hot engines of the trailer as intense white. (The helicopter’s usual routine is to track offenders or missing persons).

In case of an incident, the ITER cell’s „global view” would enable Colonel Geneau to activate the proper response. „We, too, are testing our organization in advance of the actual transport of ITER components,” he says.

Successful test of the ITER Itinerary


The ITER Itinerary test convoy, featuring an 800-metric-ton trailer replicating the weight and dimensions of ITER’s most exceptional loads, has successfully completed its four-night journey, arriving at the ITER construction site at 4:45 a.m. on Friday 20 September.

The 46-metre-long trailer, with its dummy load of 360 concrete blocks, was escorted by a large squadron of police officers and followed by support vehicles and technical personnel. It had completed the journey from Berre L’Etang near the Mediterranean Sea to the ITER site over four nights.

Large-scale public works were carried out by France as Host to the ITER Project along the 104 kilometres of the ITER Itinerary between 2008 and 2011 to widen roads, replace or reinforce bridges and modify intersections in preparation for the exceptional size and weight of some of the ITER components.

The test campaign was conceived to monitor key points along the Itinerary. Measurements collected as the convoy passed over bridges and negotiated its way through towns and intersections will be carefully analyzed in the weeks to come. But already, the Itinerary has demonstrated its conformity with the rigorous technical specifications of ITER’s most exceptional loads.

Organized by Agence Iter France in close collaboration with French authorities; implemented by ITER’s global logistics service provider DAHER; and financed by the European Domestic Agency for ITER, Fusion for Energy, the test mockup simultaneously replicates the largest and the heaviest of the actual loads that will be transported for ITER: 600 metric tons (plus the 185-metric-ton trailer), 33 metres long, 9 metres wide and 10 metres tall.

For the ITER Organization—responsible for the construction and operation of ITER—the successful arrival of the Itinerary test convoy is a major milestone.

Read the full Press Release in English and in French.

Adressing concerns, providing clarifications



The complexity of ITER—not only of its science and technology but also of its governance and legal framework—leaves room for many a misunderstanding.

This was amply demonstrated last Wednesday 3 July during the public meeting that the Local Commission for Information (CLI) had organized in the neighbouring village of Vinon-sur-Verdon.

The CLI is the official citizens' watchdog group that acts as an interface between the ITER Organization and the local population. Anything that the public feels it should know falls under the CLI’s jurisdiction. And there are many things that, quite legitimately, the public wants to know about ITER.

Since it was established two and half years ago, the CLI has focused on nuclear safety issues, which has led to a fruitful dialogue between the 42 CLI members and ITER’s Department of Safety, Quality & Security.

Lately, the focus has shifted from nuclear safety to the economic and social impact of the ITER project. And at last Wednesday’s public meeting in Vinon, questions about the planned arrival of some 3,000 workers on the ITER worksite dominated the (heated) debate.

Where will the workers come from? What accommodations have been prepared for them? How will they commute to the ITER worksite?

Certain groups have long voiced concern over the legal status of the ITER  workers. Recently, too, in blogs and articles published in France, the worry has been expressed that they will be underpaid and deprived of social protection.

As was made clear by the presentations given by the ITER Organization, Agence Iter France, Vinci (which leads the consortium that will build the Tokamak Complex) and representatives of the French authorities, these worries and concerns are totally unfounded.

All workers on the ITER site, whatever their nationality or that of the company employing them, will be subjected by law to French labour regulations and to the collective agreements (convention collective) that govern specific branches. This is the case now on the ITER site, as it will be the case when the number of workers doubles, triples and quadruples.

Addressing another point of concern—that ITER will be built by mainly foreign workers—figures were provided that showed that of the 3,000 workers expected, the majority will be recruited in France. Ten to twenty percent only will originate from the rest of Europe. (Statistics from another large construction project in France—the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) in Flamanville—confirm these projections.)

During the meeting, misunderstanding was also prevalent over worker transport and accommodation. Considering the difficulty of finding decent housing at a reasonable price in Provence and the already heavy traffic on the roads around ITER, the local population is legitimately preoccupied by the peak in construction activities on the construction site.

Not all of the 3,000 workers will be looking for accommodation, however, as a significant proportion of workers will be hired locally through companies that subcontract to the main consortiums.

Estimations range from 1,500 to 2,000 workers needing accommodation—still a high number but, as Vinon mayor Claude Cheilan noted, „this is not an unbearable load considering that the population pool around ITER numbers 200,000.”

Working closely with mayors all around ITER, Agence Iter France has conducted a survey of available housing and identified 19 locations where accommodation solutions could be developed within 30 minutes of ITER. Transportation to and from work will be organized, and rationalized, by the companies operating on the ITER site, who have a contractual obligation to provide it to the workers.

The steady rise in the construction workforce expected at ITER clearly presents organizational challenges that must be addressed and explained to the public. That’s one of the lessons from last Wednesday’s public meeting.

Region will easily absorb peak workforce

Beginning in the first quarter of 2013, the number of construction workers on the ITER site will rise sharply, passing the 1,000 mark in less than six months to stabilise at about 2,600-2,800 in 2015 before finally declining in 2016.

By late 2014, construction personnel will be joined by specialists in charge of assembling the machine. They will be 1,000 by mid-2016 and close to 1,600 throughout late 2018.

From late 2015 to late 2016, these two combined workforces will lead to a peak of more than 3,500 workers on the ITER site, not counting the present ITER staff and contractors which amounts to approximately 1,000 and will remain stable throughout the coming years.

Projections from both Agence Iter France and the French regional authorities indicate that accommodation for some 1,500 to 2,000 workers arriving in the region will have to be found during this peak period.

These figures were announced last Friday 19 October at a meeting organized by the Commission Locale d’Information (CLI) in Vinon-sur-Verdon.

The CLI acts as an official interface between ITER Organization (nuclear operator of the ITER facility) and the local population, which means that anything the public feels it should know falls under its jurisdiction. Housing 1,500 to 2,000 workers close enough to ITER so that commuting does not exceed 30 minutes either way is definitely an issue that concerns the local population and authorities — the housing market in the defined area is rather tense, with an estimated rental stock that does not exceed 300 to 500 units.

This is no new preoccupation for the French authorities and local mayors: the first meetings on the subject were organized some 17 years ago, when Cadarache was already preparing its bid to host ITER. More recently, Agence Iter France drew up an inventory of „potential solutions” in close collaboration with the local mayors, the government authorities and the companies likely to bid for construction or assembly contracts.

The problem, however, is that „the picture is still unclear” as pointed out by the General Secretary for Regional Affairs, Gilles Barsacq. As in any projects this size, the work organization on the ITER site will be characterized by „a cascade of subcontractors”; some will be local, some not and each will have its own policy in terms of employee housing.

Other large projects have been facing the same issues and Agence Iter France has closely studied how they were taken into consideration, e.g. at the EPR worksite in Flamanville (Normandy) and at the Millau viaduct in south central France.

In short, companies operating on the ITER site must be given a number of options from which they can choose the one that suits them best.

Working with the local mayors and specialized relocation agencies, Agence Iter France has retained 20 projects located along the Durance River, most of them within a 30-minute drive from the ITER site.

Slightly beyond this limit, the largest of these projects is located in Château-Arnoux (pop. 5,300) where accommodation in mobile homes for 700 can be organized at the local campground. In Manosque, the youth hostel can provide 40 places; the village of Corbières has offered to turn a soccer field into a campground and  in Montmeyan 200 beds are available at a summer camp. „What we must avoid at all cost,” explained Agence Iter France Director Jérôme Pamela, „is uncontrolled or illegal situations such has having trailers parked here and there.”

Most of these projects require investments: companies with ITER contracts could finance the renovation of, say, a workers' or youth hostel. They could therefore house their employees for the duration of the contract and return it to its owner (generally the municipality) once the job has been finished. The municipality would then put the building to a different use in line with its own development projects.

It was clear from the figures presented at the Vinon-sur-Verdon meeting and from the ensuing discussions, that the area considered — with an overall population of 250,000 stretching between Château-Arnoux in the north to Aix-en-Provence in the south and growing some 1 percent every  year — is capable of absorbing 1,500 to 2,000 workers without any major problems. Representatives from the Ministry of Education and the Regional Health Agency assured that the workers' presence would have no impact on the local school and health infrastructures.

The local population, especially those living in villages near the ITER site, have long voiced their preoccupation with the transportation issue. Daily traffic through Vinon-sur-Verdon (pop. 4,000), for instance, clocks up an average of 13,500 vehicles per day, while access roads to the worksite are narrow and often saturated by traffic due to both ITER and the CEA-Cadarache Centre.

As companies will organize their own bus services, parking lots on the ITER construction site will be deliberately „undersized” to discourage the use of individual vehicles. There is also an ongoing reflection on using the railroad that runs along the Durance River on the side opposite to ITER.

However, one of the most efficient measures (already decided) will involve implementing offset working hours for worksite personnel so as to reduce clogging on access roads to ITER.

„Accommodating 1,500 to 2,000 workers should not be seen as a constraint”, concluded the General Secretary for Regional Affairs, „but as an opportunity.”



One more step towards the final green light

On 29 July, a new milestone was reached in the licensing process of ITER. A little more than one month after being notified that our proposals on the Tokamak’s operational conditions and design fulfilled the French safety requirements, we have now received from the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN)  the draft of the Décret d’Autorisation de Création — the final green light from the French Authorities to create our installation.
We are currently analyzing this draft and we will soon send back our comments to ASN. Then, a discussion will be organized with a college of ASN experts and at long last the final decree will be published — hopefully before the end of the year.

This is a lengthy, complex, demanding — sometimes frustrating… — process. But I must say it is also a very good process. ITER is the first fusion installation that will receive a full nuclear licence. And this is very important, not only for us here at ITER but for the whole worldwide fusion community.

We have always claimed that fusion is safe and in the past two years, we went through an exceptionally strict and challenging process to demonstrate that it is indeed. Now an independent body of experts, with a deserved reputation for being among the „toughest” in the world, is in the process of validating our claim. And again, this is a first: no fusion installation, not even JET or TFTR which, at one point implemented deuterium + tritium fusion, went through this process.

Twenty-seven years have passed since President Reagan and Secretary Gorbatchev met in Geneva and laid the ground for the project of an international experimental fusion reactor „for the benefit of all mankind”.

We all feel a deep satisfaction in seeing these 27 years of hard work and dedication now converging into a decision that, in many ways, is historical.


Japanese Minister of Science and Education (MEXT) visits ITER site

On Saturday 28 July 2012, the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Hirofumi Hirano, visited ITER on his way back from London where he had participated in the inauguration of the Olympic Games.

The Minister was welcomed by the ITER Organization’s Director-General, Osamu Motojima, and met with Japanese staff working at the Organization. The Delegation visited the PF Coil Building, the foundations of the Tokamak and the new Headquarters building which is in its final stages of completion.

Minister Hirano highlighted the „importance of the ITER project in the context of energy research” and stressed the fact that „this concern is shared by all countries in the world, not just by Japanese people”.

In an interview with the local newspaper La Provence, the Minister was quoted as saying that in the global quest for energy security fusion certainly was „one of the major aims to pursue”. It is of utmost importance, he added, „that every ITER Member share  a common commitment to the project. This strong determination will allow ITER to keep its schedule and produce First Plasma in 2020.”

Minister Hirano extended his thanks and appreciation to the French authorities and to CEA for activally contributing to the implementation of the ITER project and, also, for their support „at the time of the events in Fukushima.”

Addressing the Minister, CEA-Cadarache Director Maurice Mazière pointed out „the excellent relations that existed between Japan and France in the area of energy research, and particularly that of fusion.” M. Mazière added that France was „very glad to see the personal interest taken by Minister Hirano in the ITER project.”

„This was a very important opportunity for the ITER project to welcome the Minister of MEXT,” said DG Motojima. „The visit allowed the Minister to really see the progress being made on the construction of ITER and to express his strong interest in, inter alia, the safety of fusion technology, including anti-seismic structures. It was also very encouraging for us to directly experience Japan’s support to the project.”
More pictures and a video of the Minister’s visit.
Click here for a Japanese translation of the article published in La Provence.


Bringing ITER components to Cadarache

Planning has begun for the complex logistics task of bringing ITER components from factories on three continents to the ITER site in Cadarache. Following the selection of the European company DAHER as Logistics Service Provider (LSP) in February, a two-person DAHER team is now on site to pilot the initial planning phase of the LSP contract.

Laurence Prudhomme, operations manager, and Barry Paul, planning manager, are working closely with the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies to collect the many thousands of pieces of information that will allow the DAHER „control room” to plan for—and closely follow—the delivery of ITER components according to the ITER project overall schedule.

„The first phase of our mission is fact finding,” explains Laurence. „We need to gather detailed information on manufacturing schedules and on the specificities of each load to be transported. We need to look into ship availability, pairing the needs of each load (i.e., heavy lift) with the capacity of each vessel.”

Working backwards from the dates the components need to be on site, DAHER will plan all the steps in the transport process—from arranging the specific point of contact where it will take over responsibility for each load, to final delivery. As LSP provider, DAHER is in charge of insurance, customs clearance, interim storage before delivery, handling and unloading on site. During the eighteen months of the planning phase, DAHER will be initiating import customs procedures with the French authorities, and—via its agencies and local partners—export procedures at each manufacturing location.

DAHER IT engineers are currently adapting the company’s logistics and industrial flow management tool, DAgeSCOPE_SUPERSCRIPT_TM_/SUPERSCRIPT_ to fit the specificities of the ITER contract. Progressively „filled in” during the planning phase and the future implementation phase, this centralized database will be a powerful tool for optimizing shipments and for orchestrating deliveries according to the progress of ITER assembly.

„Once we have a more detailed schedule of all loads to transport, we’ll focus on consolidating shipments wherever possible,” says Laurence. „Imagine that we have two loads ready for shipment in Korea and two others nearly ready in Japan. We’ll try to organize the shipment of all four loads in the same vessel by coordinating with the different parties.”

As part of the initial fact-finding mission, Planning Manager Barry Paul is making a visit to all ITER Domestic Agencies to initiate discussions and conclude individual agreements within the framework of the LSP contract.

The team has one year to prepare for an important deliverable, according to Laurence: „By mid-2013, we will have all the elements we need to provide a comprehensive Transport and Logistics Global Plan (TLGP) to the ITER Organization, containing all the organizational and scheduling details for bringing each ITER component to Cadarache at the requested date.” 



Bringing ITER components to Cadarache

Planning has begun for the complex logistics task of bringing ITER components from factories on three continents to the ITER site in Cadarache. Following the selection of the European company DAHER as Logistics Service Provider (LSP) in February, a two-person DAHER team is now on site to pilot the initial planning phase of the LSP contract.

Laurence Prudhomme, operations manager, and Barry Paul, planning manager, are working closely with the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies to collect the many thousands of pieces of information that will allow the DAHER „control room” to plan for—and closely follow—the delivery of ITER components according to the ITER project overall schedule.

„The first phase of our mission is fact finding,” explains Laurence. „We need to gather detailed information on manufacturing schedules and on the specificities of each load to be transported. We need to look into ship availability, pairing the needs of each load (i.e., heavy lift) with the capacity of each vessel.”

Working backwards from the dates the components need to be on site, DAHER will plan all the steps in the transport process—from arranging the specific point of contact where it will take over responsibility for each load, to final delivery. As LSP provider, DAHER is in charge of insurance, customs clearance, interim storage before delivery, handling and unloading on site. During the eighteen months of the planning phase, DAHER will be initiating import customs procedures with the French authorities, and—via its agencies and local partners—export procedures at each manufacturing location.

DAHER IT engineers are currently adapting the company’s logistics and industrial flow management tool, DAgeSCOPE_SUPERSCRIPT_TM_/SUPERSCRIPT_ to fit the specificities of the ITER contract. Progressively „filled in” during the planning phase and the future implementation phase, this centralized database will be a powerful tool for optimizing shipments and for orchestrating deliveries according to the progress of ITER assembly.

„Once we have a more detailed schedule of all loads to transport, we’ll focus on consolidating shipments wherever possible,” says Laurence. „Imagine that we have two loads ready for shipment in Korea and two others nearly ready in Japan. We’ll try to organize the shipment of all four loads in the same vessel by coordinating with the different parties.”

As part of the initial fact-finding mission, Planning Manager Barry Paul is making a visit to all ITER Domestic Agencies to initiate discussions and conclude individual agreements within the framework of the LSP contract.

The team has one year to prepare for an important deliverable, according to Laurence: „By mid-2013, we will have all the elements we need to provide a comprehensive Transport and Logistics Global Plan (TLGP) to the ITER Organization, containing all the organizational and scheduling details for bringing each ITER component to Cadarache at the requested date.”