A peep into the future

Last week, 16-20 September, the fusion community convened in Barcelona, Spain for the International Symposium on Fusion Nuclear Technology (ISFNT). More than 750 participants gathered at the Palau de Congressos to be brought up to date on developments in the field of fusion technology and materials and on the construction of ITER—the „symbol and example of global cooperation to tackle a global energy problem,” according to Pere Torres, Secretary of Enterprise and Competitiveness of the Generalitat de Catalunya, as he opened the symposium.

The ISFNT is recognized as one of the main international gatherings on fusion energy with a clear focus on reactor-relevant technology. In its 11th edition last week, the symposium took a close look not only on the current state-of-the-art technology related to ITER, but also dared to look forward to the possible design, requirements and safety aspects of future DEMO reactors and power plants.

The road forward, it seems, is not yet clearly delineated. Different concepts were presented; some countries, like China, seem to even have more than one iron in the fire. Complementing these discussions, a special fusion Roadmap Panel—moderated by prominent fusion representatives—tried to narrow down the key issues on the way to a fusion reactor.

Dedicated workshops addressed future reactor-relevant technologies such as ceramic breeder blankets or the treatment of beryllium; a half-day industrial workshop was set up to provide companies with updated information on the current procurement status of ITER and forthcoming opportunities; no less than 161 posters gave lots of opportunity to exchange and connect. And this is what the ISFNT is all about. In the words of Pere Torres, „This event contributes to the collaboration amongst researchers and allows for the sharing of knowledge.” 

The conference closed with a presentation by South Korea as host to the next ISFNT from 14-18 September 2015 on the island of Jeju.

The Spanish contribution to ITER

Spain’s relationship with ITER is especially close as the city of Barcelona hosts the European agency Fusion for Energy, which manages the European contribution to the Project.

Spanish research centres—led by CIEMAT and in cooperation with other European partners—play a crucial role in ITER by contributing to the development of diagnostic systems, plasma heating components, test blanket modules, and control and data acquisition systems.

The Centre for the Industrial and Technological Development (CDTI) promotes the participation of Spanish industry and acts as a focal point between companies and ITER. For Spanish industry, ITER is a unique opportunity to develop cutting-edge technologies, but also an occasion to foster commercial products in industrial areas outside fusion energy. This cross-fertilization will contribute to the scientific and technological progress in the coming decades.

Since 2008, Spanish companies have earned an increasing number of contracts for ITER, with a peak in 2012. According to the latest estimates, Spanish industry has won over EUR 400 million in contracts in a highly competitive market, with many opportunities for participation ongoing. Spanish industrial capabilities cover a wide range of technological areas, making it possible to participate in the fabrication of many ITER components such as the vacuum vessel, magnets, buildings, test blankets modules, plant systems, in-vessel components, remote handling, safety, instrumentation and control and CODAC, to name but a few.

Spanish companies have also won important contracts in other fusion facilities such as the European tokamak JET, TJ-II (CIEMAT) and W7X (Germany) and have taken on significant challenges in the supply of components for the Spanish in-kind contributions to the Broader Approach projects IFMIF-EVEDA and JT-60.

Many of the developments for ITER and fusion projects have been made in collaboration with other European industries either through consortia or through the supplier chain, showing that the effort for fusion is really framed inside a wide European dimension.

Ministerial representatives reaffirm the importance of ITER

Convening on 6 September for a meeting at ministerial level in Saint Paul-lez-Durance, France, high-level representatives of the seven ITER Members acknowledged the progress achieved in the construction of one of the most complex scientific and engineering projects in the world today, the ITER international collaboration for fusion.

Ministerial representatives reaffirmed the importance of fusion for the world’s energy future and stressed the importance of the ITER experimental device as an indispensable step on the path to the development of fusion energy—a virtually limitless and environmentally benign energy source. The participants also emphasized the role played by the ITER international partnership in defining a new model of worldwide scientific collaboration.

Read the full press release in English and in French.
See the first photos from the meeting here.

A call to arms for making fusion happen

To the members of the wider fusion community, the name Dan Clery most likely rings a bell. News editor for the magazine Science since 1993, Dan has closely followed the excitement and frustrations of the quest for fusion energy and, of course, the „making of” ITER. Over the years he has gathered more than enough information to fill regular magazine pages and so he decided to, temporarily, swap the fast beat of a news reporter for the reclusiveness of a book author.

A Piece of the Sun draws the bow from the Big Bang, to Prometheus, to the first scientists working out the details of the fusion reaction, the first machines and experiments, and finally to modern times. None of this is new and may have appeared before in print, but don’t be mistaken! Dan is not only an eloquent writer, but also a skilled journalist with a mission. In his hands, the book is far more than a technical narration of the good old days: it is a political statement … a rousing call to arms for making fusion happen.

„The world energy industry is worth trillions of dollars—divert only a tiny fraction of that into researching fusion and we will soon know if it is workable,” Dan passionately argues. „Some technological dreams just take time to come to fruition,” he writes, drawing the parallel with the Wright brothers and Virgin Galactic’s spacefaring pleasure aircraft. „The cost and time it will take to make fusion work has to be balanced against the enormous benefits it will bring. It won’t damage the climate, won’t pollute and it won’t run out. How can we not try?”

Read an interview of Dan Cleary on the PPPL website.

Pair of safe hands to handle up to 1,500 tons

Fusion for Energy (F4E), the Domestic Agency managing Europe’s in-kind contribution to ITER, has signed a contract with the NKMNOELL-REEL consortium formed by NKMNoell Special Cranes GmbH, Germany and REEL S.A.S., France (part of Groupe REEL) for the design, certification, manufacturing, testing, installation and commissioning of the four cranes that will be used to assemble the Tokamak, as well as the Tokamak cargo lift that will move the casks containing components. The budget of the contract is in the range of EUR 31 million and it is expected to run for five years.

The cranes will be located within the Tokamak Building and the Assembly Building and will operate like a pair of safe hands to move the heavy components between the two areas and position them during assembly with extreme precision. The consortium will deliver two 750-ton cranes that, in tandem, will lift up to 1,500 tons during assembly, two 50-ton auxiliary cranes, and the Tokamak cargo lift.

Sophisticated engineering combined with advanced safety lifting and remote handling technologies are some of the elements that describe the nature of the work undertaken by the two companies.

How will the cranes work?

The four electric overhead travelling cranes will move between the Assembly Building and the Tokamak Building, which is divided in two areas housing the Tokamak and a crane hall above the machine.

The major heavy lifting requirements shall be met by the two 750-ton cranes. Each will be equipped with two trolleys carrying a single 375-ton hoist each. In total, the four 375-ton hoists will provide a maximum lifting capacity of 1,500 tons—the weight of 187 London double-decker buses. The cranes shall be capable of working in tandem to provide a fully synchronized lift and precise positioning. Two auxiliary cranes of 50-ton capacity will be used for other lifting activities, working independently of one another.

Which components?

The principal purpose of the Tokamak crane system is to lift and receive heavy components, support assembly operations, move the cryostat components, and transport the assembled vacuum vessel sectors and other major components. When the Tokamak machine becomes operational there will be no further planned use for the cranes. The 750-ton cranes will remain parked and electrically isolated while the 50-ton cranes will continue to be used in the Assembly Building.

How will the Tokamak cargo lift work?

The Tokamak cargo lift shaft will be located in the Tokamak Building with connecting doors to the Hot Cell. The lift will carry the casks that contain machine components. The cask is 3.7 metres high by 2.7 metres wide and 8.5 metres long—the approximate size of a London double-decker bus, weighing 60 tons when empty. Automated transfer systems and high tech remote handling systems will be deployed to transfer the casks between the various levels of the Tokamak Building and the Hot Cell by remote control. All components involved in the transfer need to be integrated in a seamless manner.

Registration now open for MIIFED 2013 in Monaco

Whether you are an engineer full of ideas, an industry player looking for global business opportunities, or a fusion researcher wanting to keep up-to-date on the latest ITER achievements and developments, the 2013 Monaco ITER International Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED) offer an excellent opportunity for exchanging views and experiences, while forming valuable international business relationships.

MIIFED will be held on 2-4 December 2013 in the Principality of Monaco, under the high patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II.
This international conference will present the latest progress of the ITER project and also the major scientific and technological developments in the field of fusion and energy worldwide. The aim is to encourage synergies between energy-related research and technology developments.

Together with the exhibition, the different conference sessions will facilitate learning, networking and partnering with other research actors.

The following high level speakers have already accepted to contribute to MIIFED 2013:
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II
Yukiya Amano, Director-General, IAEA
Bernard Bigot, Chairman, CEA
Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director-General, European Space Agency
Charles Elachi, Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Masako Inoue, Director, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan
Madhukar Kotwal, Member of the Board, Larson & Toubro, India
Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, former Director-General, CERN
Umberto Minopoli, President, Ansaldo Nucleare, Italy
Osamu Motojima, Director-General, ITER Organization
John Parmentola, Senior Vice-President, General Atomics, USA
Hideyuki Takatsu, Chair of the ITER Council
Maria Van der Hoeven, Executive Director, International Energy Agency

Click here to register online.

1,129 pages on "the greatest challenge of this century"

„Humans do not live by bread alone.” With these words begins Fusion Physics, published in 2012 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the first chapter the book makes the case for the development of fusion as an energy source. „How is humankind going to produce the vast amount of energy it needs?” asks authors Predhiman Kaw and Indranil Bandyopadhyay from the Indian Institute of Plasma Research in Gandhinagar—two names that are also closely associated with the ITER project. Kaw and Bandyopadhyay lead a long list of prominent authors that, together, have compiled the latest on the fusion art. At over 1,100 pages, this publication provides an unparalleled resource for fusion physicists and engineers.

The idea for the book was born during preparations for the 2008 IAEA Fusion Energy Conference in Geneva. „I was considering how to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 2nd Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy,” writes Minh Quang Tran who, alongside Karl Lackner and Mitsuru Kikuchi, edits this fusion encyclopedia. „The intention was to be tutorial at Master’s degree level to cover fusion physics and technology.”

_To_55_Tx_Dedicated chapters focus on the physics of confinement, the equilibrium and stability of tokamaks, diagnostics, heating and current drive by neutral beam and radiofrequency waves, and plasma-wall interactions. While the tokamak is the leading concept for the realization of fusion, helical confinement fusion and in a broader sense other magnetic and inertial configurations are also addressed in the book. Available in printed form is the first volume on fusion physics; a second volume focusing on the technological challenges is in progress.

Further reading: Newsline issues 131 and 230 
To order or download (34.15 MB) the book, please click here.

Robert Aymar receives top superconductivity award

Robert Aymar, former director of the ITER project (1993-2003) and director-general of CERN (2004-2008), has been selected to receive the IEEE Max Swerdlow Award for Sustained Service to the Applied Superconductivity Community (2012) for his technical and managerial leadership at CERN and ITER and for the use of superconducting magnet technology in high energy physics and fusion energy projects.

The award will be presented on 15 July 2013 during the opening session of the 23rd International Conference on Magnet Technology (MT-23), which will be held this year in Boston, USA. The award consists of an engraved plaque, an honorarium of USD 5,000 and an inscribed medallion made of niobium—the metal most commonly used in superconductor applications.

The award citation recognizes Aymar for sustained service to the applied superconductivity community that has had a lasting influence on the advancement of the technology and for leadership in the development of many large-scale superconducting magnet systems such as Tore Supra, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and ITER. The award also recognizes his role in directing research for the next-generation devices beyond the LHC and ITER, in chairing numerous committees for the promotion of academic research, and in organizing workshops related to applied superconductivity and large-scale superconducting magnets.

Following his studies at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, Aymar joined the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission CEA in 1959. Early in his career he focused on fundamental research in plasma physics and applications for controlled thermonuclear fusion.

In 1977, he was appointed director of the Tore Supra project in Cadarache (France) dedicated to research on the magnetic confinement of hot plasmas towards steady-state operation. He oversaw the project from conceptual design, through construction, and up to its operational kick-off in 1988 when he became head of the CEA’s Department of Fusion Research.
In 1990, he was appointed director of the Division of Fundamental Research in Natural Sciences at CEA, running a wide range of basic research programs including astrophysics, particle and nuclear physics, condensed matter and climatology, as well as thermonuclear fusion.

Aymar took charge of the international research program to prepare for ITER construction in 1994. He then spent five years as the Director-General of CERN, from 1994 on, overseeing the construction and launch of the LHC.

Since January 2009, Aymar has served as a Senior Scientific Advisor to the Chairman of the CEA.

The IEEE Max Swerdlow Award for Sustained Service to the Applied Superconductivity Community has been presented to a total of 11 individuals in the past 12 years by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Council on Superconductivity. Within the applied superconductivity community worldwide, this award is considered the premier distinction for the recognition of technical service in the field.

Additional information is available at www.ieee.org

Commr. Busquin was key in Europe’s bid for ITER

ITER owes a lot to a few individuals who, at decisive moments in the project’s history, made decisions that changed the course of events.

Philippe Busquin is one of them. In 2001, as European Commissioner for Energy (1999-2004), he played a key role in pressing the Commission to commit itself to actually realizing ITER.

„I took the responsibility to launch ITER,” he recalls. „At the time, the European effort to develop fusion was quite diluted amongst several associations. ITER was still a paper project and I felt it was high time to get on to the experimental phase.”

2001 was a defining year for ITER. A new design for the Fusion Energy Advanced Reactor („ITER-FEAT”) had been approved by the ITER Council; Canada had proposed to host the installation; local governments in Provence were mobilizing to promote the Cadarache site… For Busquin, the time was ripe to take action.

„As a nuclear physicist, I could measure what was at stake with fusion; as a politician, I knew Europe had to be daring. And I was optimistic…”

Two years later, in 2003, Europe had two sites to offer to ITER—one in Vandellòs, Spain; one in Cadarache, France. Busquin considered at the time that this „double offer” was proof of Europe’s determination to host the project.

As he stood above the Tokamak Seismic Pit, one decade later, the former European Commissioner felt profound satisfaction and a sense of pride.

„I was standing close to where we are now, with French Research Minister Claudie Haigneré and all the people who worked so hard to make ITER happen here—of course the landscape was quite different but I can still recognize the place.”

Philippe Busquin, now retired from public affairs (but still active in promoting collaboration between industry and the academic world) took some time from a vacation with his wife and son to meet ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima and visit the ITER site last week.

As for the future of ITER, he is as optimistic in 2013 as he was in 2001. „With ITER we are working at the limits of about every available technology,” he says. „We cannot begin to imagine the benefits of such a venture. But the project is also a first in terms of international governance and management. In this respect also, what we are learning will have huge consequences for the future.”

53 mayors who are also "partners"

There are more municipalities in France than in all of Europe combined.

Every village, however sparsely populated, is a municipality in its own right and every municipality follows the same procedure to elect its municipal council every six years: at its first meeting, the new municipal council elects the mayor, or „First Magistrate.”

Whatever the size of the constituency, madame or monsieur le maire is a major figure in the administrative organization of French society.

ITER was honoured, on Monday 11 March, to welcome no fewer than 53 mayors from neighbouring municipalities—from the smallest (Valavoire, pop. 32) to the largest (Sisteron, pop. 7,500).

Led by Daniel Spagnou, mayor of Sisteron and president of the Association of Mayors of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département, the 53 mayors were given a presentation on ITER by Director-General Osamu Motojima and a quick round-up by Agence Iter France director Jerôme Paméla.

„You are our partners in this scientific venture,” DG Motojima told the mayors. „Once ITER has demonstrated the technical and scientific feasibility of fusion energy it will be your responsibility, as representatives of the people, to decide on the next steps that will be taken.”

Monday 11 March was the second anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and resulting nuclear accident at Fukushima—Director-General Motojima insisted during his talk on the fundamental differences between fusion and fission in terms of safety. „A Fukushima-like accident cannot happen in a fusion installation,” he stressed.

In 2003, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département (pop. 160,000) pledged EUR 10 million to the ITER project. It turned out to be a sound investment: to date, companies based in the département have benefitted from contracts amounting to EUR 29 million.

Fusion, with a touch of science fiction

An imposing object stands at the heart of the Tom Hunt Energy Hall in the recently opened Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas.

The four-metre-high structure is a mock-up of the ITER Tokamak—or, rather, a designer’s „interpretation” of the science of fusion and of the flagship device of fusion research.

Those familiar with the arrangement of components that make up an actual tokamak—central solenoid, vacuum vessel, toroidal and poloidal field coils, divertor, piping and feeders—will be a bit lost when gazing upon the towering mockup.

This is intentional. „Our goal was to create a sense of wonder in our visitors that might inspire them to learn more about the subject,” explains Paul Bernhard, whose team designed and installed the 700-square-metre Tom Hunt Energy Hall. „We see our tokamak as based in science, but coloured by a future vision influenced by science fiction—a somewhat cinematic element that you might imagine seeing in a new Star Trek film…”

The result is indeed spectacular. Although Bernhard’s tokamak looks a bit like a thermonuclear mushroom cloud—a „purely coincidental” similarity due to the geometry of the large rounded shape containing the brightly glowing "plasma" suspended over the narrower central core—it is a truly astonishing work of science art.

The moment of awe passed, visitors can experiment with a neon/argon plasma, manipulating it with a magnet; have a hands-on experience with actual toroidal field coil and central solenoid conductor sections provided by the US Domestic Agency; or watch video clips.

Impressed by the „amazing potential of fusion energy,” Bernhard and his team sought to „pass along [their] sense of inspiration.” In stimulating curiosity and enthusiasm for the sciences, a bit of artistic license can’t do any harm.

Progress on ELM physics and ELM control

Fusion energy production in ITER requires the achievement of high pressure plasmas in high energy confinement mode (H-mode). This confinement mode is characterized by the formation of very steep plasma pressure profiles at the edge of the plasma that lead to periodic bursts of energy being expelled by the plasma (typically a small percentage of the total plasma energy) called ELMs (Edge Localized Modes).

Although ELMs have no impact for the vacuum vessel, due  to the large plasma energy of ITER plasmas the energy bursts caused by ELMs can lead to an accelerated erosion of the divertor and first wall components in contact with the plasma.

 This could lead to a more frequent replacement than foreseen in ITER. In addition, the eroded atoms can penetrate and contaminate the plasma thus decreasing the energy production.

ELM control is required for the achievement of fusion energy in ITER. Two schemes are foreseen to minimize the impact of ELMs—pellet injection and in-vessel ELM control coils.

Understanding the magnitude and structure of the ELM energy bursts and quantifying the effectiveness of ELM control schemes is an active field of research where significant progress has taken place recently. Simulations of ELMs in ITER with the non-linear code JOREK have shown that there are two mechanisms for the flow of energy from the plasma to the components in contact with the plasma during ELMs (see image above): one is the loss of energy by the plasma in the strongly perturbed edge magnetic field during the ELM (conductive losses); the other is the expulsion of plasma filaments (analogous to solar flares) which move radially away from the plasma towards the wall.

JOREK simulations show that for small ELM energy losses the dominant mechanism is the expulsion of filaments and that this energy is deposited over a large area of the divertor and wall. This allows more room for ELM control in ITER than originally anticipated.

Progress on ELM characterization and ELM control has also come from the experimental side. ELM avoidance using 3-D field magnetic field perturbations, which will be provided in ITER by a set of 27 in-vessel coils, has now been achieved in a large number of experimental devices. Results span the range of densities and collisionalities expected at the ITER plasma edge, although ITER values cannot be achieved for both parameters simultaneously (these can only be achieved in ITER itself). While understanding of the detailed physics processes that lead to the avoidance of ELMs with 3-D magnetic field perturbations remains elusive, ELM avoidance using this scheme has now been observed in numerous experimental devices. This increases our confidence in the viability of this ELM control scheme for ITER.

Recently, there have also been major advances on the second ELM control scheme foreseen for ITER, which utilizes the controlled triggering of the ELM bursts by the injection of small frozen deuterium pellets. Experiments in the DIII-D tokamak in which very small pellets were injected have demonstrated for the first time that this technique can be used to increase the frequency of the ELM bursts, and to decrease the magnitude of the fluxes that they deposit, by more than a factor of ten (a factor of 30 may be required in ITER). In these experiments, detrimental effects on the plasma energy confinement were modest. This is a major advance from previous results in JET, ASDEX-Upgrade and DIII-D, where factors of only 2-5 were achieved in ELM frequency, but, in some cases, with noticeable detrimental effects on plasma energy confinement.

The DIII-D experimental results have been reproduced with the JOREK code, which has subsequently been applied to evaluate the pellet characteristics (size and velocity of injection) required in ITER to achieve controlled triggering of ELMs (see image at left). The JOREK results show that these requirements are met with the specifications foreseen for the ITER pellet injection system and pellet injection geometry. The associated fuel reprocessing requirements are also consistent with the specifications of the ITER tritium reprocessing plant.

Although uncertainties remain regarding ELMs and the application of the ELM control schemes to ITER, recent progress in this area has substantially increased our confidence that ITER is equipped with the appropriate tools to achieve the ELM control level required for the achievement of significant fusion energy production.

AAAS: the beauty of Science

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society and one of the oldest (founded 1848), held its annual meeting on 14-18 February in Boston.

The meeting, which a US newspaper described as „the largest aggregation of pointed heads anywhere,” is quite unique in its breadth and scope. The topics range from biology to cosmology and from elementary particle physics to science communication, covering the whole range of science research and knowledge. This year the meeting also addressed science policy issues, with panel discussions on the „Role of Science in the American Democracy: Roots, Tensions, and Paths Forward” and „European Science Policy Issues on the Move.”

„The clear goal of the various symposiums and panel discussions is to illustrate to scientists who are working in other fields, as well as to members of the press, the progress and the beautiful work that has been done. Some of these talks were just wonderful,” says ITER Deputy Director-General Rich Hawryluk who participated in the symposium on „Worldwide Progress Toward Fusion Energy” and gave a talk on "ITER: A Magnetically Confined Burning Plasma,” completing his presentation with examples of fusion power production and alpha-particle physics studies at JET and TFTR, and stressing how ITER will dramatically extend these results.

ITER was also prominently featured in „Advances in Burning Plasma-Related Physics and Technology in Magnetic Fusion” by MIT’s Amanda Hubbard. A Fellow of the American Physical Society presently working on the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, Hubbard stated that ITER is a priority for the international fusion program, which has focused attention on the critical issues for fusion-scale plasmas. She described progress in simulations of core turbulence and transport, validated by detailed measurements, predictions of the edge transport barrier, and the development of means to control or avoid large edge instabilities.

The final two talks in the symposium were focused on steps beyond ITER.  Hutch Neilson from PPPL gave a talk entitled "Issues and Paths to Magnetic Confinement Fusion Energy,” stressing that a new phase of magnetic fusion R&D has now begun. While the success of ITER is the first imperative, nations are already planning roadmaps to DEMO, moving ahead on DEMO R&D, and planning integrated fusion nuclear facilities. There are multiple approaches to fusion development but broad agreement exists on the goals, critical tasks, and the value of international collaboration.

The symposium also addressed the progress accomplished in inertial fusion, with presentations on the National Ignition Facility and the path to laser inertial fusion energy, and on alternate approaches for laser inertial confinement fusion. Mike Dunne, from LLNL updated the audience on the design study of the next-step inertial fusion device LIFE.

Although the AAAS meeting addresses a science-educated public, „most, if not all speakers in other areas of science that I am less familiar with made efforts to be accessible, and they did a very good job,” says Rich. „I learned a great deal from the other talks about the importance and impact of clearly communicating the importance and beauty of the work.”

The ITER circles of support

In terms of the number of individuals devoting their time and energy to the realization of ITER, there are of course the employees and contractors of the ITER Organization, currently estimated at 900 people. But this nucleus is surrounded by concentric circles of support without which the project couldn’t succeed: the ITER Members; the ITER Council and its advisory bodies; the Domestic Agency teams and their manufacturing partners; and finally fusion associations all over the world.

A representative of this last category visited ITER last week as a guest lecturer for the Inside ITER seminar series. Dr. Rudolf Neu from the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) is known as „Mr. Tungsten” in the fusion world. Closely involved with the ASDEX wall upgrade and the JET ITER-like wall, Mr. Neu is currently in charge of EFDA’s ITER Physics Department where he coordinates the research program in preparation for ITER’s experimentation phase.

„EFDA activities are strongly aligned with ITER needs,” said Dr. Neu. „Our fusion associations pool resources and share results … results which are then extrapolated for ITER.” Thirty fusion associations are part of the EFDA family, with responsibility for 14 fusion experiments that are currently operating or under construction. 

Among the exciting projects going on in Europe is JET’s ITER-like wall experiment: „This is an experiment that uses the ITER material mix for the first time in a tokamak. We have already had manifold unexpected results from this experiment that we hope will give us new physics insights. This is truly an important experiment for ITER.”

Dr. Neu also updated the audience on the Fusion Roadmap which draws out the step-by-step aims of Europe’s fusion program, with the final goal of fusion electricity by 2050. „The European Fusion Roadmap sees ITER as the key facility for the development of fusion energy.”

The benefit is mutual, according to lTER Director-General Osamu Motojima: „The European Union’s high-level domestic program in fusion is very important for the ITER project. Having such support is very encouraging for us all.”

Bringing it all together for DEMO

Experts at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) have carried out the first-ever integrated assessment of the life expectancy of materials in a full-scale fusion power plant design.

The study focused on the effects caused by the build-up of helium in fusion materials. When neutrons from fusion reactions hit the materials in reactor components, they trigger nuclear reactions that cause transmutation (the changing of elements to form new ones). Helium is one of the gases produced by such reactions. The accumulation of helium causes swelling and embrittlement of materials—leading to fracture—and is one of the factors expected to limit the lifetime of components in a fusion power plant.

Materials modellers Mark Gilbert and Sergei Dudarev, working with CCFE specialists in nuclear data and neutron transport (Lee Packer, Jean-Christophe Sublet, and Shanliang Zheng) have conducted a pioneering study in which a fusion power plant design was explored and assessed using an integrated computational model that gives a detailed prediction of the lifetime of components under helium embrittlement.

The results will help guide the choice of materials for the design of DEMO, the prototype power plant that will follow the ITER experiment.
„We found wide variations between the behaviour of different materials,” said Mark Gilbert. „The good news is that tungsten (the likely material for the 'divertor' plasma exhaust system in DEMO as well as ITER) shows low susceptibility to helium accumulation and embrittlement. However, in the iron of steels, for example, there is higher helium production in components bearing the brunt of neutrons from fusion reactions. The study highlights the need to develop materials with special microstructure, such as oxide dispersion strengthened steels that can resist the effects of helium accumulation without becoming brittle."

„We think the integrated approach we have adopted has worked well, and it will now help advance the EFDA materials program as a result.”

The results of the work are published in Nuclear Fusion 52 (2012) 083019.

MIIFED 2013: First Announcement

From 2-4 December 2013 the Principality of Monaco will – for the second time – host the Monaco ITER International Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED 2013). This 3-day conference, held under the High Patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, will showcase the progress of the ITER project, including the status of construction and manufacturing. The event will also discuss the global socio-economic context of fusion energy, while looking at the future prospects for fusion energy.
For further details on the MIIFED 2013 and to download the leaflet click here.

Articles summarizing the first edition of the MIIFED held in 2010 can be found here.

F4E appoints Henrik Bindslev as new Director

Henrik Bindslev was appointed last Friday 25 October as the new Director of the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (Fusion for Energy). He is currently the Vice Dean for Research at Aarhus University, Faculty of Science and Technology.

Stuart Ward, Chair of the Fusion for Energy Governing Board, took the opportunity to congratulate Henrik Bindslev on his new position and thanked all members of the Board for their collaboration taking together this important decision.

"I am honoured to have been appointed Director of Fusion for Energy at a time that Europe’s contribution to ITER enters a decisive stage and rapid progress will be made on all fronts. It is the moment to engage actively with Europe’s industry and fusion community to honour our commitment to this prestigious international project" said Bindslev.

Henrik Bindslev has been engaged in energy research for more than 20 years and has considerable experience in research management, both in Denmark and internationally. He is currently Vice Dean for research at Aarhus University, Faculty of Science and Technology and past Chair of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA). He is a delegate to the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and Chairman of ESFRI’s Energy Strategy Working Group.

Previously, he was the Director of Risø DTU, the Danish National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, managing 700 members of staff.
He was educated at Denmark’s Technical University and completed a DPhil in Plasma Physics at the University of Oxford. He worked as a fusion researcher at different facilities including ten years at the Joint European Torus (JET), Europe’s biggest fusion research device, and has published more than 150 papers.

The Director is appointed by Fusion for Energy’s Governing Board for a period of five years, once renewable up to five years. The appointment is made on the basis of a list of candidates proposed by the European Commission after an open competition, following a publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

DEMO: time for real proposals

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.