Thirty four and counting

It was foreseen by the authors of the ITER Agreement, signed in 2006 by the seven ITER Members.

As a research organization, the ITER Organization may conclude scientific collaboration agreements with other international organizations and institutions in the interest of promoting cooperation on fusion as an energy source.

For ITER, collaboration agreements keep ITER scientists and engineers in close touch with work going on in precise domains relating to fusion science and technology; for the laboratories and institutes, they are an opportunity to collaborate with the fusion community’s most advanced experiment.

Since January 2008, the ITER Organization has signed 34 scientific collaboration agreements and another 4 are currently in the preparatory stages. A common thread amongst these agreements is the training of young researchers.

„In the coming years, I envision more and more of this type of scientific exchange for the ITER Organization,” says the Director-General of the ITER Organization, Osamu Motojima. „I would like to open ITER’s door to younger people who will in fact take on a lot of the responsibility for fusion in the future. ITER will be the foremost research laboratory for magnetic fusion. Scientific collaboration agreements enrich the experience of our scientists, and provide training for the next generation of fusion scientists. The ITER Organization is a Centre of Excellence in this area.”

Under these scientific collaboration agreements, the ITER Organization and research institutes can cooperate in academic and scientific fields of mutual interest. „Some of the ideas for collaboration come from our scientists. We have compiled a database of agreements signed by the ITER Organization so that when we’re approached, we can inform them whether we already have an agreement with the institute in question,” says Anna Tyler of Legal Affairs.

Typically, the agreements cover the following type of collaboration: joint supervision of students working on Master’s or PhD theses; joint training and exchange of young scientists, engineers, interns and experts; joint research projects (particularly in plasma physics); and joint seminars.

Collaboration agreements have been signed with laboratories and institutes in Austria , China France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Monaco, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Japan,  and the UK—the most recent to date was signed just last month with the Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering at the University of Pisa (Italy).

David Campbell, head of ITER Plasma Operation Directorate, has been able to see the practical benefits of such exchanges. „Because we are aiming to develop ITER as centre of excellence in fusion research, such agreements allow us to develop scientific and technology exchanges with leading fusion research institutions around the world, building a network of fusion research activities which not only supports the preparations for ITER operation, but also contributes to the longer-term realization of the potential of fusion energy.

One of the more exciting aspects of the collboration agreements relates to the training activities and the opportunities they provide for younger researchers to participate in the ITER Project, according to Campbell. "The transfer of knowledge between generations is a key element of the scientific enterprise and an integral component of the development of ITER as an international centre of fusion research.”

Construction kick-off for Tokamak Complex


Early on Tuesday, 30 April the usual hustle and bustle on the fifth floor of the ITER Headquarters came to a short halt as ITER management gathered in front of a video camera to participate remotely in an event taking place at the European Domestic Agency, Fusion for Energy (F4E) in Barcelona. An event marking another milestone in the project’s history book: the kick-off meeting for Tender Batch 03, which is project code for the contract covering the construction of the Tokamak Complex plus another eight support buildings.

The Tokamak Complex will be a seven-storey reinforced concrete building with a steel-frame crane hall and a total mass of around 335,000 tons. It comprises the Tokamak Building plus the adjacent Diagnostic and Tritium buildings.  All three are connected and supported by a common basemat.

In addition to the Tokamak Complex, another eight buildings will be erected within the frame of the TB03 contract over the next 66 months, as well as 60 nuclear doors that will provide containment and radiation shielding during ITER operation and maintenance and three bridges. The scope of work comprises all civil works, heavy doors supply and implementation and finishing works.

The preparation for Tender Batch 03 began with a competitive dialogue in July 2011 and concluded with the award of the contract to the VFR consortium on 20 December 2012. The VFR consortium brings together VINCI Construction Grands Projets, Razel-Bec, Dodin Campenon Bernard, Campenon Bernard Sud-Est, GTM Sud and Chantiers Modernes Sud as well as the Spanish company Ferrovial Agroman.

„The start of this contract is one of the most important ITER milestones, as building construction is the main driving force of this project,” Director-General Osamu Motojima stated in his remarks following opening words from F4E Director Henrik Binslev. „This kick-off meeting will be recorded in the history of the project and fusion research,” Motojima went on, before he welcomed the Vinci consortium as „a new and important member” of the ITER team. „We are very much looking forward to working together closely. It will be my great pleasure to witness the daily progress from my office window.” 

Read more about the kick-off meeting on the F4E website here

To do business with ITER, Toulon was the place to be



Panjawani Rajkumar, the vice president of cryogenic system specialist INOX CVA, came all the way to Toulon, France from Vadodara in the Indian state of Gujarat. His company is in the process of bidding for an ITER contract and what he was looking for last week, at the ITER Business Forum, was a partner company, or companies, to complement his tender offer.

If INOX CVA wins the contract it will need to team up with a company that will install its workshop on, or close to, the ITER platform. It will also need a partner to enforce quality control and on-site safety. „If we get the contract, we will be working under French regulation. Rather than training Indian personnel, it is more efficient to have a partnership with a French company that is familiar with national practices and regulation.”

Panjawani Rajkumar was one of 718 participants (from 386 companies, universities or research institutions) from 24 countries that attended the third ITER Business Forum held on 21-22 March in the Mediterranean port of Toulon.

As in Nice in 2007 and in Manosque two and a half years ago, the ITER Business Forum (IBF) in Toulon aimed at providing international industry with updated information on the status of ITER, the procurement process, and the calls for tender planned for the coming years.

The third edition of IBF was organized by the Industrial Liaison Officers Network of the European Domestic Agency for ITER (Fusion for Energy), the Toulon Tourist Office, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Var département, with participation and support from the ITER Organization, Fusion for Energy and Agence Iter France. Representatives of the ITER Domestic Agencies were also present.

For anyone interested in doing business with ITER, IBF was definitely the place to be. In his welcoming address, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima summarized what could be expected from the two-day meeting: „You will have opportunities, both formal and informal, to meet with representatives of the ITER Organization, Fusion for Energy and other institutions involved in ITER,” he told participants.

„These representatives will provide you with a better understanding of our project, of the machine we are building and of the procedures we are implementing. This meeting will also be an opportunity, for you, to develop collaborations, combine skills and create synergies that will benefit us all.”

Fusion for Energy Director Henrik Bindslev, who also addressed the IBF participants, stressed the importance for Europe to „increase competences and capacities […] in fusion and outside fusion. We want you to find opportunities in fusion and in ITER. That is what this Forum is about.”

And that is exactly what the IBF participants did. As Panjawani Rajkumar met with representatives of French companies, Pierre Janotton, an engineer with Belgium’s Centre Spatial de Liège—one of the world-leading institutes for space technology research and testing—was connecting with potential partners in the field of cryogenics, surface treatment and optics.

„You can draw several parallels between the conditions in space and the conditions in the ITER machine,” says Janotton. „We have a long experience in space and we made a first incursion into fusion recently by providing equipment to test the JT-60SA superconducting magnets. Of course we would like to have contracts with ITER and add our little stone to the project edifice, and this is the place to get the information and find the partners.”

Like Rajkumar and Janotton, the 718 participants in IBF left Toulon with dozens of contacts and several prospective partnerships. They brought home a better understanding of what ITER is about and a clearer perspective of the project’s economic weight. The local daily Var Matin summed it up in its Friday morning headline: „ITER: a four-billion-euro market for industry.”

From concept to concrete reality



 
The Unique ITER Team (UIT), introduced six months ago by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima following discussions with the ITER Members, started off with a symbolic seating arrangement: at last August’s Special Management Advisory Committee (MAC) meeting, the heads of the seven ITER Domestic Agencies sat with ITER Organization management and not, as had been customary, with the MAC members.

Only a small change in protocol, perhaps, but one conveying a much larger meaning: the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies share the same goal, and only an integrated team resolutely pulling in the same direction can address the common challenge of schedule recovery.

As the heads of the seven Domestic Agencies and their closest collaborators convened for five days last week at ITER, participating in more than 75 meetings and countless open and candid discussions and exchanges, it was obvious that the Unique ITER Team had evolved from „concept” into a very concrete reality, rich in content and strong in personality.

Most striking was the atmosphere of these meetings and discussions—something akin to the spirit of a sports team or the enthusiasm of a group of explorers setting out for an exciting voyage.

„In coordinating an international project as large and as complex as ITER, communication is essential,” says Ned Sauthoff, the head of the US Domestic Agency. „And true communication requires more than just exchanging through 2D video. In agreement, as in disagreement, an in-person meeting gives you a much better sense of the other person’s reaction. It improves the interpersonal relationship and enables trust.”

His European colleague, recently appointed F4E Director Henrik Bindslev, is of the same opinion. What is at stake beyond the agenda of each meeting, he says, is „creating relationships” and forming what he calls „professional friendships.”

Drawing from his experience as chairman of the European Energy Research Alliance (2010-2012), Bindslev is convinced that „if people get along at the top, it’s easier to build cohesion between their respective teams.”

Shishir Deshpande, head of ITER India, considers that the 20-odd meetings that he participated in with the ITER Organization were "very useful in identifying many critical issues which pose a risk to schedule. The outcome of the UIT week has exceeded our expectations. Both the planned meetings and those we could arrange on the spot facilitated a speedy decision-making process.”

For Anatoli Krasilnikov, head of ITER Russia, the UIT meeting was „definitely useful.” Although he spent only two days at ITER last week—”Russia has fewer interfaces than other Domestic Agencies,” he explains—he particularly appreciated having, like the other Domestic Agencies, a permanent office at his disposal in the ITER building.

„We have demonstrated that UIT works,” assures Eisuke Tada, the head of the Japanese Domestic Agency. „It was perceptible: we were happy to be together, sharing, discussing and, most important, deciding. UIT significantly improves communication, not only between the ITER Organization and the seven Domestic Agencies, but also between the Domestic Agencies themselves.”

Of course, the UIT is just getting underway. „This second UIT week was much better than the previous one in January,” says Luo Delong, head of the Chinese Domestic Agency. „We’ve taken decisions, but we need to take more.”

For Kijung Jung, head of the Korean Domestic Agency, „the UIT is a very sound investment to recover the project’s schedule. It promotes mutual trust, understanding and confidence. Spending a whole work week with your colleagues helps you understand their difficulties—and helps them understand yours. UIT is an improved management tool which translates directly into keeping the project within schedule and cost.”

 
View a selection of UIT pictures here.

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.”

A family reunion

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.”


Corrective actions in place to accelerate construction

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.



Corrective actions are now in place to accelerate ITER construction

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.



An (almost) royal visit

This Friday, a delegation of engineers from the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and the Royal Institute of Technology came to Cadarache to take a close look at the first concrete footprints of the ITER project. After an introduction to the project given by Director-General Osamu Motojima, the visitors were invited to an extensive site tour, which finally led them right into the heart of the Tokamak Pit.

After 45 minutes touring in the midday heat, the honourable academy members were glad to be back on the air conditioned bus … exhausted, but thrilled by this "fascinating project."