Manufacturing milestone achieved in Europe

The first step in the fabrication of the full-size, superconducting prototype of a toroidal field coil double pancake has been successfully carried out in Europe. Winding was completed at the beginning of August at the ASG premises in La Spezia, Italy.

The European Domestic Agency, Fusion for Energy, is responsible for procuring ten toroidal field coils (and Japan, nine). These D-shaped coils will be operated with an electrical current of 68,000 amps in order to produce the magnetic field that confines and holds the plasma in place. Toroidal field coils will weigh approximately 300 tons, and measure 16.5 m in height and 9.5 m in width.

Each one of ITER’s toroidal field coils will contain seven double pancakes. These double pancakes are composed of a length of superconductor, which carries the electrical current, and a stainless steel D-shaped plate called a radial plate, which holds and mechanically supports the conductor through groves machined on both sides along a spiral trajectory.

The first stage of toroidal field coil manufacturing—the winding of the double pancakes—is the most challenging. It consists of bending the conductor length along a D-shaped double spiral trajectory. As the conductor must fit precisely inside the radial plate groove, it is vital to control its trajectory in the double pancake and in the groove of the radial plate with extremely high accuracy. The trajectory of the conductor, in particular, must be controlled with an accuracy as high as 0.01 percent.

For this reason, the winding line employs a numerically controlled bending unit as well as laser-based technology to measure the position and the dimensions of the conductor. The winding takes place in an environment with a controlled temperature of 20 °C +/-1 C, at an average speed of 5 m of conductor per hour.

For the European commitments to ITER, a consortium made up of ASG (Italy), Iberdrola (Spain) and Elytt (Spain) will manufacture the full-size, superconducting prototype as well as the production toroidal field coil double pancakes in the future.

The next steps in the manufacturing process are: heat-treatment of the double pancakes at 650 °C in a specially constructed inert atmosphere oven, electrical insulation; and finally the transfer of the double pancakes into the grooves of the stainless steel radial plates. After assembly and the application of electrical insulation on the outside of the radial plate, the module is finally impregnated with special radiation-resistant epoxy resin to form the prototype double pancake module.

Work on the module is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of next year, in time to allow for the prototype to be tested at -77 K in order to assess the effect of the low temperature. The module will then be cut in sections in order to analyze the impregnation of the insulation.

Read the detailed article on the F4E website here.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

It’s that time of year again. With the last days of August upon us and a busy September just around the corner, it’s a good time to stop and take measure of the evolution of the ITER Organization. The 2012 ITER Organization Annual Report, just released, recounts one year in the life of the ITER Project—the highlights in every technical department, the organizational challenges faced (and the solutions set into motion), and milestones in construction and manufacturing.

In 2012, the ITER project entered the third year of its Construction Phase. The ground support structure and seismic isolation system for the future Tokamak Complex was completed, work began on the site of the Assembly Building, the ITER site was connected to the French electrical grid, and part of the ITER team—approximately 500 people—moved into the completed Headquarters building.

The year 2012 was also witness to the accomplishment of a major licensing milestone when, in November, ITER became the world’s first fusion device to obtain nuclear licensing.

The project made a definitive shift in 2012 from design work and process qualification to concrete manufacturing and production. To match this important evolution, the 2012 Annual Report introduces a new feature—the last pages of the report (pp. 40-48) are now reserved for reports from the Domestic Agencies. How is the procurement of ITER systems divided among the Domestic Agencies? Where are activities for ITER taking place in each Member? What percentage of work has been signed over by the ITER Organization in the form of Procurement Arrangements? And, finally: What major manufacturing milestones were accomplished in 2012?

The ITER Organization 2012 Annual Report and 2012 Financial Statements are available online at ITER’s Publication Centre.

Progress on stage and behind the scenes

The ITER site has undergone significant transformation in the past year. Following the completion of the Seismic Isolation Pit for the Tokamak Complex in April 2012, attention was turned to site infrastructure works such as the deep drainage networks, critical networks, the creation of a platform Contractors Area (from where the different construction work packages will be managed), and finally the foundation for the Assembly Building. These projects are now in their final phases.
As the focus returns to the heart of the ITER platform—the Tokamak Pit, where concrete pouring will resume this year—we asked Laurent Schmieder, project manager of the division for site, buildings and power supplies at the European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy (F4E), about the state-of-works on the platform and what we can expect to see in the months to come.

A new phase of construction is about to begin. Can you describe what has been accomplished on the ITER platform since the last major milestone of Seismic Isolation Pit completion?

A lot! In the last six months, our teams have focused on the construction of the Assembly Building foundation slab, an activity that required some excavation, much reinforcement and, since November, concreting work. The Assembly Building slab is about 95 percent complete and will be finished early June. Second, we oversaw the excavation for the deep rainfall drainage network and the installation of hundreds of metres of sizable (two-metre diameter) concrete pipes. These works caused major upheaval on the platform—currently, as we backfill and level, the mountains of dirt are slowly disappearing. Finally, we have erected Contractors Area 2 on the northwest corner of the platform. This area will host contractor workshops, a canteen to deliver 1,500 meals per day, and an infirmary for the welfare of the workers. We have had approximately 250 workers on site these past months; another 200 people in the offices are preparing construction drawings and finalizing ongoing calls for tender. In the next six months, you can expect to see the bottom slab (B2) of the Tokamak Complex take shape. We will also finalize the deep networks and continue the realization of technical galleries around the Tokamak Building.

The European Domestic Agency is responsible for the construction of 39 scientific buildings and dedicated areas on the ITER platform; before each project can start, tender offers have to be launched and contracts awarded. What is the status of contracts?

At F4E, we label our work packages by Tender Batch (TB). Last December we signed Tender Batch 03 (TB03) for the construction of the Tokamak Complex and auxiliary buildings, one of our largest contracts in the area of the civil engineering works. In 2012 we also signed TB08 for site infrastructure works—together, TB03 and TB08 represent a value of EUR 350 million. Before summer time, F4E intends to sign for over EUR 500 million in contracts with the planned signature of TB02 (handling items, such as cranes, within the Tokamak Building), TB04 (mechanical and electrical installations), TB05 (the design and construction of the magnet power conversion and reactive power control buildings), TB07 (the design and construction of the cold basin and cooling towers, pumping stations and heat exchangers), and finally TB06 (external power supply equipment and installation. What it’s important for you to know is that these contracts cover the entire „buildings scope” except for the Hot Cell Facility, radwaste building and three surrounding buildings.

As you can see, we are making tremendous, behind-the-scenes progress. Each contract signature signifies that the tender design period is over and that the baton is being transferred to the contractors. But each signature is also an important and visible signal for the ITER project of progress made in construction.

The contract for Tokamak Complex construction (and all surrounding buildings) was kicked off on 30 April 2013 in Barcelona (see related article in this issue). After an introduction by F4E Director Henrik Bindslev and ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, all of us—F4E, ITER Organization and F4E’s Architect/Engineer Engage—reminded the contractor consortium of the provisions of the contract and invited them to formally to start the works. The first phase of the contract will include the approval of quality documents, the selection of workers, and preparatory works (worksite, workshop, and welfare facilities). During the second phase of works, the consortium will deliver the detailed construction drawings. We are expecting construction works to begin early in 2014.

With all of the distinct work packages planned for building ITER, how will you manage the organization of the site in the years to come?

Most of the Tender Batches will be organized in separate areas on the platform and be managed in parallel. Where that is not the situation, as in the case of transversal packages TB06 (electrical distribution) and TB08 (roads and tunnels), each contractor will be responsible for the coordination of the work on its own area but general supervision and coordination will be closely followed by the following key actors: Apave, for health and safety coordination, and Engage, for the technical supervision.

In 2014, F4E expects to have approximately 2,000 workers on the platform, all contracts combined. And from that moment forward, the construction site will be a hive of activity for years! On top of the challenge of keeping to schedule, we will pay very particular attention to health and safety. F4E will also be implicated in the overall organization and coordination of the construction site because—despite the general impression that the ITER site is very large—in actual fact we will see that, progressively, all pieces of available land will be used by the contractors. In this context, access control and space management will be key elements to be able to optimize the schedule.

The F4E building team, with the support of Apave, Energhia* and Engage, will represent a workforce of around 200 staff dedicated to the follow-up and the monitoring of something close to EUR 1 billion of investment on the ITER platform over the next five years.

* EnergHIA, which provides support to F4E, is a consortium that includes IDOM (Spain), Halcrow (UK) and Altran (Spain/France)

First hardware afloat from China

On Thursday 25 April, the morning silence at the Institute of Plasma Physics (ASIPP) in Hefei, China, was broken by the noise of a high powered trailer. Inside the superconductor shop of ASIPP, workers were busy preparing to load the 737 metres of dummy conductor for ITER’s Poloidal Field Coil number five (PF5)—this represents the first delivery from China to the ITER construction site in France.
According to the Procurement Arrangement signed between the Chinese Domestic Agency and the ITER Organization, China will fabricate 64 conductors for ITER’s poloidal field coils, including four dummy conductors for cabling and coil manufacturing process qualification. ASIPP is responsible for all the poloidal field conductor fabrication in China. The fabrication of the PF5 dummy was completed in by ASIPP in 2011.
„This is the very first batch of ITER items to be shipped from China to the ITER site in Cadarache," said Luo Delong, Deputy Director-General of ITER China. Before, conductors for the toroidal field coils had been shipped to Japan and Europe. "This milestone is a further step for the ITER project. According to our schedule, we will now start massive production of conductors this year. Our goal is that all procurement items from China be supplied consistent with the ITER schedule and with ITER quality requirements.”

According to the shipment schedule the PF5 dummy conductors, which left Shanghai on 30 April, will arrive at the ITER site on 5 June.

Celebrating Europe and the Licensing Decree

The ITER community had two events to celebrate last Friday 23 November: first, the granting of the ITER Organization’s nuclear licensing decree, which was the subject of an all-hands meeting in the morning, and second—ITER Member Day. This third ITER Member Day of the year was the occasion to visit the culture and traditions of Europe, in the airy setting of ITER’s brand-new cafeteria with a capacity for 1,000.

„Today, we should celebrate together the milestone that has been achieved,” said Director-General Osamu Motojima in his opening presentation in the ITER amphitheatre. „ITER is now formally a nuclear operator, and the first fusion device that qualifies as a nuclear installation.”

For the crowd assembled, Deputy Director-General for Safety, Quality & Security Carlos Alejaldre had the following words: „Those of us who have been working for fusion for a long time have always said that fusion is safe, but up to now there had never been an independent evaluation of that safety. For the first time, an independent body of experts has come to the conclusion—and made the official recommendation—that 'You have the green light to go ahead, because you have shown that your project is safe.'”

On 10 November, the French government published Decree 2012-2048 authorizing the creation of the ITER nuclear facility. Coming as it did after a very long and difficult examination process, lasting for over two years, the decree represents a landmark achievement—for ITER, of course, but not only. „My personal view,” said DDG Alejaldre, „is that this licensing milestone is also an important achievement for the fusion development program. We are beginning to talk about the next step after ITER; the implications of the event that we are celebrating today will be felt long into the future.”

To put the event in perspective, he told the audience, „Imagine for one moment that the ITER project didn’t get the decree … What would have happened? Everything would have been stopped.”

The positive conclusion of ITER’s licensing process is indeed cause for celebration, marking the end of long, thorough and sometimes gruelling examination process. „The Nuclear Safety Authority in France is one of the most, if not the most, demanding in the nuclear world, and certainly one of the most prestigious,” stressed DDG Alejaldre. „To have succeeded in our endeavour is a consequence of everybody in this room, and also of people not in this room today.”

Before the crowd convened for the buffet lunch waiting just a few doors away, he reminded the ITER community that ITER’s new status comes with responsibility. „This decree is a binding contract between the French state and the ITER Organization as nuclear operator. It is a contract that we cannot break.”

Click here to view more pictures of EU Day celebration

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.

V-Day "kissing" on the winding line at ASIPP

The winding line for ITER’s correction coils  located at the Institute of Plasma Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) in Hefei, China has been busy these days with commissioning tests. Commissioning for this 44-metre-long, 15-metre-wide, 4-metre-high winding line began in July 2012.

Part of the commissioning process includes the winding of two 2×2 turn coils, one bottom-type correction coil and one side-type correction coil. On 23 August, the winding of the 2×2 turn bottom correction coil was completed and the coil was moved to the table for temporary storage.

The winding mould for ITER correction coils, assembled in three parts, was designed by ASIPP supplier JUNENG. The mould is aligned with structural adjustments built into the winding table that were made by ASIPP supplier KEYE Company.  The two side winding mould extensions are not needed to create the BCC coils.

In preparation for the next stage of commissioning—winding the larger side-type correction coil, the winding mould extensions were "kissed" together on 24 August, which is only one day later than the Chinese Valentine’s Day (7 July on the lunar calendar). Over the next few days the mould will be measured and any necessary adjustments made; it will then be ready for the  winding of a 2×2 turn side correction coil.

Both suppliers have been able to successfully coordinate with ASIPP and with one another, delivering quality work as well as expertise  to the winding line.

With the winding of the 2×2 turn bottom correction coil complete, ASIPP has achieved an important commissioning milestone. It hopes to complete the 2×2 turn side correction coil commissioning test in September, thereby laying a solid foundation for the winding qualification.

A long-expected letter

The official letter from the French Safety Authority (Agence de sûreté nucléaire – ASN) that the ITER Organization received on 20 June marks a major milestone in a lengthy, complex and demanding process that began a year and a half ago.

After months of in-depth technical examination, the ASN has judged that the ITER Organization’s proposal on the operational conditions and design of the installation fulfils the expected safety requirements at this stage of the licensing process.

In simpler words, this is the long-expected green light meaning that the French government authorizes the construction of ITER. 

Licensing a nuclear installation takes considerable time, requires the production of thousands of pages of technical documents, and mobilizes scores of experts and institutions. ITER is the first fusion facility to undergo this licensing procedure in France.

As a consequence, at decisive stages in the procedure like the one announced this week, there is a feeling of deep satisfaction among all those who were involved in the process.

In practical terms, a peer committee of ASN and ITER Safety, Quality & Security experts will now work on drafting the decree that will be submitted to the French government’s signature. This highly detailed document can be described as „the safety contract” that will bind the ITER Organization (as nuclear operator) and the French State for the whole duration of the installation’s lifetime.

The final decree that should be signed by the French President or his Prime Minister is expected to be issued in the last months of 2012.