MAM has a word to say

There is a procedure for everything…and certainly more than one when it comes to building the world’s largest fusion device. One of the procedures established within the ITER Organization is the Model Approval Meeting (MAM), in which the design descriptions for critical components pass the final check before they are turned into hardware.

The 3D-viewer room on the neighbouring premises of CEA Cadarache has become a regular meeting spot for ITER engineers over the last weeks and months. On one morning in late August, about a dozen ITER staff working on the central solenoid, the centrepiece of ITER’s magnet system, have come together to review the compatibility of the detailed 3D CAD model provided by US Domestic Agency with the rest of the Tokamak. This model, developed by US ITER at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the basis of the functional specifications provided by the ITER Organization, reflects the final design proposed by the US after feedback from industry and manufacturing trials.

The turn-to-turn spacing of the solenoid conductor had apparently been too tight to be guaranteed by the industrial manufacturer. The solution on the table, proposed by US ITER, is to extend the winding gaps by reducing the inner radius. The impact of this solution is the focus of the discussion.

Jens Reich, coordinator of Tokamak design integration and leader of the meeting, asks the 3D-room operators to overlay the original Configuration Model developed by the ITER Organization with the detailed model they have received back from the US.

A few seconds later, through their 3D-glasses, observers saw a real-size, down-to-the-detail central solenoid unfold on the screen in front of them. What impact would the changes have? And what about the margins at the perimeter—would they still allow for the assembly of this supersized magnet? The central solenoid will be lowered into the machine at the very end of the assembly process, a procedure that doesn’t leave much flexibility for manoeuvring.

The last word about the design of the central solenoid will have to wait until the Final Design Review planned for 18-20 November this year. „But this 3D-check is a very helpful tool to verify the details of a component and to identify any potential interface issues to be solved,” explains Jean-Jacques Cordier, leader of the ITER Design Integration team, before he and his colleagues put their glasses on again to look at the next client, the support structures for the poloidal field coils. 

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.

US-made drain tanks expected on site in mid-2014

Drain tank fabrication for ITER’s tokamak cooling water system is progressing steadily under the leadership of US ITER, which is managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy. The drain tanks will be among the first major hardware items shipped to the ITER site in France. The US production timing will accommodate the installation sequence for the ITER fusion facility.

Joseph Oat Corporation, a sub-contractor to AREVA Federal Services based in Camden, New Jersey, has begun fabrication activities for four 10-metre-tall, 78 metric ton drain tanks and one 5-metre-tall, 46 metric ton drain tank. Another industry partner, ODOM Industries in Milford, Ohio, is fabricating the ten tank heads as a sub-contractor to the Joseph Oat Corporation.

ODOM will ship each tank head as it is fabricated, and will complete delivery to Joseph Oat Corporation by the end of 2013. Joseph Oat, which specializes in industrial fabrication of pressure vessels and heat exchange technologies, expects to stagger completion of drain tanks throughout the summer and fall of 2014.

„Because the tanks are so large, the ITER Organization will install the tanks one at a time and do so before the neighboring building is constructed,” Chris Beatty, US ITER tokamak cooling water systems engineer, said.

Beatty noted that the Hot Cell building will permanently block access to the drain tanks in the Tokamak Complex once the ITER facility is complete. The tanks, which are built to last 40 years, are expected to perform beyond the duration of the ITER project.

The tokamak cooling water system includes over 20 miles of piping in an intricate network that wraps around the ITER Tokamak. The primary cooling water system is responsible for transferring heat from Tokamak hardware to the secondary cooling system. The tokamak cooling water system also supports operations such as the baking of in-vessel components, chemical control of water provided to client systems, and draining and drying for maintenance.

„There are many ways to cool a reactor, but ITER uses water to cool the internal parts,” said Juan Ferrada, US ITER tokamak cooling water senior systems engineer and technical project officer.

When the water isn’t being used for operations, such as cooling the system through the network of pipes, it can be stored in the four large drain tanks that hold up to 63,000 gallons of water each. Two 78-ton tanks are reserved for normal maintenance and operations. During maintenance, the smaller, 46-ton tank will store coolant for the neutral beam injector that pelts high-energy atoms into the Tokamak to heat the plasma.

The other two 78-ton tanks, known as the safety drain tanks, are primarily used for storage in case water should leak into the vacuum vessel. Because fusion reactions use tritium and the plasma-facing wall is made of beryllium, the safety tanks are designed to hold water with radioactive particles such as dust, tritium and activated corrosion products.

The pressurized, stainless steel drain tanks must meet French regulations, giving these US fabricators the opportunity to gain experience implementing French regulations for nuclear pressure equipment.

„Compliance with French nuclear pressure equipment regulations is new to most manufacturers in the US,” says Glen Cowart, US ITER quality assurance specialist. „In addition, tank fabrication must meet the ITER Organization’s requirements as well as engineering and quality criteria established by AREVA Federal Services and US ITER.”

„We have to make sure our design criteria meet the French regulations so the tanks can be used for ITER nuclear operations in France,” Beatty explains.

Following approved designs, the tanks are being fabricated out of stainless steel plates. Typical plates are 2.7 metres wide and nearly 10 metres long, with each plate weighing over 8.5 tons. The design requires that each tank have two hemispherical heads—comprised of a curved top cap and a base, fabricated from six segments (called petals) that are welded together. Joseph Oat has begun bevelling and welding the plates, and rolling them into a cylindrical shape. The caps and base will then be welded to the cylindrical body to form the approximately 6-metre-diameter tanks.

Although the drain tanks are simple equipment from an engineering standpoint when compared to many parts of ITER, their sheer size and weight, in addition to being the first set of US ITER-provided equipment fabricated under the French nuclear regulatory framework, make the fabrication and delivery process extremely demanding.

„Even moving the plates is time consuming,” Beatty said. „It takes about an hour to move them from the bevelling machine to where they will be welded. Once they’re welded, the plates are even larger, so it can take half a day just to flip them over.”

Once the tanks are completed, approved for nuclear pressure safety and delivered to the ITER site in France, they will pose one more challenge: Positioning the heavy tanks inside the Tokamak Complex. To meet this challenge, plans are already in place for using specialized air pads to manoeuvre the tanks to their permanent home in the ITER facility.
See the original article on the US ITER website.

The dream of his life

ITER owes much to a few. At different moments in the history (and prehistory!) of the project, a handful of individuals made moves that were to prove decisive. Among this band of godfathers—whether scientists, politicians, diplomats or senior bureaucrats—Umberto Finzi stands prominently.

Finzi, who retired from the European Commission in 2004 but continued to advise the Director General of Research until the conclusion of the ITER negotiations in 2006, belongs to the generation who embraced fusion research in the early 1960s at a time when plasma physics was still in its infancy.

A physicist turned bureaucrat—he was called to Brussels to take care of setting up JET in 1978 and was appointed Head of the European Fusion Programme in 1996—Finzi played a key role in the negotiations that led to building ITER in Europe. An ITER godfather in his own right, he nevertheless insists on the „collective action” that, under four successive European presidencies, led to this decision.

Time has passed. The „paper project” whose roots go back to the late 1970s, years before the seminal 1985 Reagan-Gorbatchev summit  in Geneva, is now a reality, as tangible as it is spectacular. When he toured the ITER worksite on 30 July, Umberto Finzi took the full measure of the progress accomplished since his last visit in 2006, when all there was to see was a hilly, wooded landscape and a high pole marking the future location of the Tokamak.

„During most of my professional life,” he said, „ITER was a dream. You can imagine my emotion seeing these tons of steel and concrete. This reminds me of the famous message by Hergé¹ to Neil Armstrong: „By believing in his dreams, man turns them into reality.” 

„ITER is a difficult venture,” he added, „and difficult ventures requiretime and patience. The effort is not only scientific or technological. It lies also, and maybe essentially, in the planning and coordination.”

ITER, with 35 participating nations, could have been a Tower of Babel. „On the contrary,” says Finzi, „it is the exact opposite of a Tower of Babel, a beautiful demonstration of worldwide understanding. No project has ever associated so many different nations. To me, this is the most important aspect of ITER, a historical dimension that reaches beyond the project’s scientific and technological objectives.”

(1) Hergé (1907-1983) was a Belgian cartoonist, creator of the world-famous characters Tintin and Snowy. Between 1930 and 1986, Hergé published 23 albums of The Adventures of Tintin, selling a total of 200 million copies in 70 languages. Fifteen years before Neil Armstrong, Tintin, Snowy and other recurrent characters in the series walked on the Moon in the 1954 album "Explorers on the Moon."

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.

Packed for India, then China

In a nondescript warehouse some 30 kilometres from the ITER site, instrumentation components destined for the Tokamak’s magnet systems are being prepared for a long journey.

Carefully arranged in their cardboard boxes, dozens of components—cables, connectors, sensors, signal conditioners—are being taped, wrapped into thick heat/humidity insulation aluminium foil and placed into a robust wooden crate.

The crate is going to India, where an ITER Organization contractor will install about 20 different types of electronic components into three cubicles and make sure that everything is operational. Once completed and tested, the cubicles will be shipped to ITER China to be used for the tests of prototype current leads, which must be qualified before actual series production begins.

For the components shipped on this occasion, the Magnet Division has relied on the help of CODAC Division engineers who have prepared a cubicle including a sub-system responsible for the investment protection during the tests.

„This place acts like a buffer,” explains ITER Coil Instrumentation engineer Felix Rodriguez-Mateos. „This is where we store the instrumentation components that we have developed, or bought off the shelf when industry has developed a solution that we consider satisfactory. The components are verified and reconditioned before being sent to the Domestic Agency in charge of their qualification or integration into prototypes and mockups.”

Contrary to the large majority of ITER components that are procured and delivered to the ITER Organization „in-kind” by the Domestic Agencies, the totality of magnet instrumentation (for feeders, coils and structures) is provided by the ITER Organization by way of „fund procurements.”

The ITER Organization buys (or develops) the needed components, has them installed by a contractor or directly by the Domestic Agency concerned. It is then the Domestic Agencies’ responsibility to validate the assembly procedures in prototypes or mockups prior to entering actual production. (In a later phase, in a lab installed for ITER, the ITER Organization will test assembly procedures for the systems it is responsible for.)

The complex logistics involved in sending the component-packed crates around the world are handled by the DAHER Group as part of their framework contract with the ITER Organization. „We never send anything before every problem, customs-related or other, is solved,” says DAHER’s Ines Bollini, who is present every time a crate leaves the warehouse. „There can be no improvisation…”

Every other week or so, a crate leaves the warehouse for a foreign destination. Its content is as important for ITER success as the giant components being manufactured throughout the world.

The promises of "synthetic viewing"

Remote handling is never easy, but in the ITER machine it will be particularly difficult. Narrow entry ports, space constraints, poor visual contrast between the different components, limited options for camera placement … all will combine in ITER to create an exceptionally demanding environment.

„In remote handling, lighting and viewing are vital ingredients,” explains David Hamilton, the engineer in charge of the remote handling control systems at ITER. „And yet during ITER machine maintenance, camera placement will be very limited and visual obstacles will be everywhere. As for lighting, we will have to bring in our own sources, which will also be quite limiting.”

Although ITER will not be the first tokamak to rely on remote handling, the machine’s characteristics generate some unique challenges. „In JET for instance, a 300-kilo antenna is considered an exceptional load to handle. In ITER, we go up to 40 tons …”

3D models and virtual reality can help solve some of the difficulties—both are quite useful for having an overview of the environment. „But there’s always an error margin,” says David. „You can’t trust them for the last 20 or 50 millimetres because, after a certain period of operation, the machine’s components will have moved and shifted slightly from the position recorded in the model.”

A new innovative technique called „synthetic viewing,” although not completely mature, looks like a promising alternative. „Synthetic viewing is based on the combination of data from the model and of data acquired and updated in real time by sensors, like cameras. It allows you to generate your own version of the view from an optimal angle and with optimal contrast and lighting. Based on the data stored in the model, you can 'see through’ the obstacles that are blocking the camera.”

In Holland, ITER NL—a consortium of Dutch laboratories and industry established in 2007 to promote participation in ITER—had done some exploration in this direction. In August 2012, the consortium was commissioned by the ITER Organization to assess the feasibility of synthetic viewing and to develop a system prototype. In February, this prototype was successfully demonstrated at the Petten nuclear research centre (see video).

„Synthetic viewing is still a speculative technology,” warns Hamilton. „For the moment, ITER is an end-consumer with an interest in the area… However, it is important to stimulate research because we will need such a system in ten years’ time.”

The largest obstacle that stands on the way to a perfectly efficient synthetic viewing system is computer power. „The problem is data calculation. A one-tenth of a second delay between what you capture on the viewing system and what is actually happening with the remote-handling device is the maximum tolerable. For the moment, computer systems are too slow to do object recognition and accurate localization within this time delay. But I’m confident these possibilities will evolve along with the calculation algorithms…”

Synthetic viewing systems of the future could also support more radiation-tolerant and lower cost acquisition devices, such as ultrasonic sensors.

Now that a prototype and an impressive self-explanatory video have been produced, the next step for Hamilton and the remote handling specialists at ITER is to „stir up interest in synthetic viewing” amongst the ITER European and Japanese Domestic Agencies who will procure the machine’s remote-handling systems and components. „I’d like to think,” says Hamilton, „that by acting together we’ll be able to fund more research. There’s a huge market there …”

For ITER, the stakes are considerable. A swift, precise and reliable remote-handling system will reduce the length of the machine shut-down phases and largely contribute to optimizing overall operation costs.

Watch the ITER NL video on synthetic viewing here.

Progress on magnet supports in China

The Chinese Domestic Agency is building the full set of magnet supports for ITER, representing more than 350 tons of equipment. The magnet supports will support the overall tokamak gravity load of 10,000 tons as well as withstand the unprecedented large electromagnetic loads experienced by the magnets.

The gravity support system, attached to the base of the cryostat with 18-fold symmetry (see image), needs to accommodate local thermal shrinkage during operation of -32 mm for the toroidal field coil structure cooled to 4K while remaining rigid against all out-of-plane bending.
In May, representatives of the ITER Organization and the Chinese Domestic Agency were present to witness a step forward in the preparation of a gravity support mockup test frame, which is part of the qualification phase of the Magnet Supports Procurement Arrangement.

The mockup aims to verify the reliability of design and simulate some sub-scale operation loads on the ITER gravity supports. To this aim, a true-size gravity support mockup and a multi-dimensional loading test frame system was designed by the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP).

At the beginning of 2012, the loading frame system was fabricated by the Changchun Research Institute for Mechanical Science Co, Ltd. and pre-accepted by both the Chinese Domestic Agency and SWIP. It was delivered to SWIP in February for assembly.
In May 2103, the first set of Alloy 718 fasteners were released for the final gravity support mockup test installation; these had been manufactured by Guizhou Aerospace Xinli Casting & Forging Co., Ltd.

Wuhan Heavy Machinery, the main machining and welding supplier of the Chinese Domestic Agency, is currently producing prototypes of poloidal coil supports in order to optimize and qualify final manufacturing processes in the prospect of beginning series manufacturing in 2014.

Full house for 3rd ITER Open Doors Day

Spring 2013 may have been the coldest in southern France in over 25 years, but luckily Saturday 1 June, the first day of the meteorological summer, was warm and sunny and the weather conditions were perfect for the third ITER Open Doors Day.

To give the public an overview of the progress on site since the last time ITER opened its doors, visitors were first driven up to the ITER Visitors Centre which offers a panoramic view of the 42-hectare ITER platform. In addition to explanations provided by ITER guides, visitors had access to a short film explaining the background and the challenges of the project, mockups of the ITER Tokamak and the construction site, a 3D video of the inside of the machine, and a workshop on the biodiversity of the site. 

Bus tours left every 20 minutes from the Visitors Centre for the second part of the program: a guided tour of the worksite. The highlight of this year’s site tour was a stop inside the 257-metre-long Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility where five of the six ITER poloidal field coils will be manufactured. The huge 40-ton circular spreader beam overhead particularly impressed the visitors.

Thirteen hundred visitors participated in the third Open Doors Day. Feedback on the day’s events was again very positive, so rendez-vous next year at Open Doors Day #4!

Click here to view a selection of photos of ITER Open Door Day.

Let there be light!

Once the components of the ITER Tokamak are assembled and individually verified, a delicate and complex series of operations will be necessary before lighting the fire of First Plasma.

Commissioning, as this phase is called, means that all the different systems of the machine—vacuum, cryoplant, magnets—will be tested together in order to verify that the whole installation behaves as expected.

These commissioning operations all converge toward one point: the breakdown of the gas inside the vacuum vessel.

It happens in the following way: Initially, the toroidal field coils are electrically charged. Then the varying electrical current in the central solenoid and poloidal field coils generates an electric field around the torus of the tokamak causing the atoms in the gas to collide with the accelerated electrons. The gas in the vacuum vessel becomes ionized (electrons are stripped from the atoms) and reaches the state of plasma.

„At this moment,” explains Woong Chae Kim who joined ITER two months ago as Section Leader for Commissioning and Operations, „First Plasma will be achieved and the commissioning process will be over.”

ITER commissioning is expected to last more than two years and every step—from vacuum vessel leak-testing to the electrical charging of the magnets—will bring its own challenges. Woong Chae, however, is confident. „In the long history of tokamaks, start-up operations have never failed. Technically, I am not afraid. I’ve done it before …”

„Before” was five years ago, when Woong Chae was in charge of plasma commissioning at KSTAR. On 13 June 2008, following six months of commissioning operations, the large Korean tokamak (and the first to implement superconducting niobium-tin coils) achieved a First Plasma that surpassed the original target parameters.

From a technical perspective, commissioning KSTAR was close to what it will be at ITER. The difference lies in the regulatory status of the two devices—ITER is a nuclear installation, KSTAR is not—and in the inner workings of the organization.

„I participated in several design reviews for ITER components over the past four years and have had many opportunities to experience the complexity of the decision-making process within the ITER Organization. It is indeed a very complex machinery, even more than I had anticipated …”

KSTAR, which he joined in 1995 when the project was launched, taught something essential to Woong Chae: „While doing your own job on your own system or component, it is essential to have an overview of the whole device. If you don’t, coordination and interfacing becomes very, very difficult …”

Woong Chae chose to train as a fusion physicist/engineer because he felt fusion was „cool.” „It’s ideal as an energy-producing source, fascinating in terms of physics and technology and so different from the things one comes across in daily life.”

The first fusion device he encountered at graduate school in Seoul was the small tokamak SNUT-79 that Korea had developed in the late 1970s—the country’s first significant step onto the fusion stage. At the time, says Woong Chae, „the device was already a museum piece standing at the centre of the laboratory.” He then worked on the mirror machine HANBIT („Great Light”) in Daejeon, a partial reincarnation of the MIT’s 25-metre-long TARA, where he „learned how to manage big projects.”

After spending 18 years at KSTAR, Woong Chae felt that ITER was the „natural playground" for people like him—people who thrill at the challenge of „organizing men and procedures in order to make things happen.” Several ITER colleagues like Chief Engineer Joo Shik Bak or CODAC Section Leader Mikyung Park made a similar choice.

Woong Chae has moved to Aix-en-Provence with his wife, who spent a year in France as a graduate student, and their 16 year old son. They live near „Painters Ground” and have a beautiful view of Mount Sainte-Victoire. „Although I do not speak much French and am not what you would call a specialist in impressionism, I’m on familiar ground. In the early days of my marriage, we lived in Daejeon, close to restaurant named … Cézanne.”

On 25th anniversary, Tore Supra enters the museum

At age 25, Tore Supra is still far from being a museum piece. It is in a museum however that the anniversary of the CEA-Euratom tokamak was celebrated last Tuesday evening in Aix-en-Provence.

Why a museum? Why not … the old priory of the Knights of Malta, now the Musée Granet, was the perfect venue for the informal commemoration, providing a large shaded courtyard for the speeches, beautiful rooms to wander through and exceptional works of art to admire…

As he briefly retraced the history of fusion research and the part played by Tore Supra, Richard Kamendje of the International Atomic Energy Agency, drew this parallel between fusion science and art:  „Every generation,” he said, „faces similar challenges. But because you are living in a certain moment in history, you answer these challenges with the tools that belong to your time.”

One of the very first fusion machines to implement superconducting coils, Tore Supra certainly rose to meet several challenges over its 25 years of operation. Originally led by the installation’s designer Robert Aymar, Tore Supra teams explored the domain of long plasma discharges, achieving a record six-and-a-half minute „shot” in 2003 that produced one Gigajoule of energy.

Tore Supra pioneered the technology of actively-cooled plasma-facing components, real-time diagnostics, in-vacuum robotics… A quarter century after First Plasma was achieved on 1 April 1988, this accumulated expertise forms one of ITER’s major assets.

An anniversary is an occasion to reflect on the past, often with emotion, and to welcome the future, often with enthusiasm. Both Alain Bécoulet, the present Head of CEA’s Research Institute on Magnetic Fusion ( IRFM, the laboratory that operates Tore Supra), and his predecessor Michel Chatelier (2004-2008) expressed their conviction that the machine’s future will be no less brilliant and exciting than was its past.

For Tore Supra and the IRFM team, this future has a name: WEST (W Environment in Steady-state Tokamak, where "W" is the chemical symbol of tungsten). The project, which consists in installing an ITER-like full tungsten divertor, „will bring Tore Supra into the group of fusion devices that are actually preparing for ITER,” said Bécoulet. The formal decision to „go WEST” was taken by CEA on 7 March 2013; the first experiments will begin in 2015.

The „family reunion,” which was attended by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, several senior ITER staff and some STAC members present in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance for their biannual meeting, ended with a private tour of the Musée Granet, guided by curator Bruno Ely.

Conversations on tungsten, plasma confinement, magnetic geometry and actively-cooled components gave way to considerations, no less passionate, about art: Cézanne’s early works (eight of which are on loan to the museum), 15th century French painting exemplified by a wonderful Virgin in Glory by the Master of Flémalle, and what Ely considers to be the jewel of his museum—a small, dark Rembrandt: Self-Portrait with Béret.

Kurchatov: the year of the three jubilees

This year has become the Year of the Jubilee for the world-famous Kurchatov Institute, which has played a key role in ensuring national security and the development of important strategic branches of Soviet and Russian science and industry since its founding in 1943 in Moscow.

In 2013, the Kurchatov celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding, the 110th anniversary of the birth of institute founder academician Igor Kurchatov, and also the 110th anniversary of the birth of academician Anatoly Alexandrov, who became the second Kurchatov Institute director and headed it for 25 years.

The Kurchatov today possesses a unique research and technological base, performing R&D in a wide range of science and technology areas, from power engineering, convergent technologies and elementary particle physics to high technology medicine and information technologies.

The Institute’s role in the development of thermonuclear fusion research is hard to overestimate. Under the scientific guidance of Igor Golovin, the first tokamak was assembled in1955—in fact, he coined the term TOKAMAK that is now widely acknowledged by the world community.

Read more about the Kurchatov Institute here.

Discussing experiments and aligning priorities

The 10th Integrated Operation Scenarios (IOS) International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA) meeting was held in the ITER Council Chamber from 15-18 April 2013. There were 30 external participants from the ITER Members and a number of representatives from the ITER Organization. The external participants include representatives from the main magnetic fusion devices and modellers from the ITER Members.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the experiments and modelling being carried out around the world in support of the ITER design and plasma operation as well as to align the priorities for future R&D with the latest ITER priorities. The IOS Topical Group (TG) is one of seven topical groups in the ITPA whose main role is to integrate plasma operation scenarios for burning plasma experiments, particularly for ITER, including inductive, hybrid, and steady-state scenarios. The IOS-TG also recommends physics guidelines and methodologies for the operation and design of burning plasma experiments. The ITPA topical groups all meet every six months in one of the countries of the ITER Members. This was the first time the IOS-TG met at ITER, allowing the members and experts of the IOS-TG to see first-hand the progress in ITER construction. 

Experimental and modelling results were presented from Alcator C-Mod, ASDEX-Upgrade, DIII-D, JET, JT-60U, and KSTAR of ITER-relevant plasma operational scenarios. Experimental results concentrated on inductive and hybrid scenarios; modelling of steady-state scenarios was also presented. Modelling of burning plasma and energetic particle physics were presented as well as plasma rotation in ITER and their impact on operational scenarios. The predicted plasma rotation profiles in hybrid scenarios were strongly peaked with rotation up to nearly 200 km/s, corresponding to about 4 kHz rotation in ITER in the centre. The effects of the Edge Localized Mode (ELM) coil fields on fast ion losses comparing vacuum fields and the plasma response were also shown, indicating that when the plasma response is included, the fast ion losses are acceptable even at high performance with the maximum ELM coil current.

The IOS-TG also concentrates on plasma control including experiments and modelling of profile control as well as development of the preliminary design of the ITER plasma control system (PCS). A review of the PCS conceptual design was presented as well as an action plan for how the experimental and modelling programs within the ITER Members can contribute to developing the PCS preliminary design for First Plasma and early hydrogen and helium plasma operation. Modelling of control of the entry into a burning plasma regime was also presented. A proposal was made to integrate experiments and modelling of plasma control schemes for ITER in existing experiments so that these control schemes can be developed before ITER operation to reduce run time on ITER for control scheme development. A request was made for the ITPA to provide control priorities for the ITER actuators starting with a few phases of plasma operation. 

As part of the ITPA response to the question of starting ITER with an all-tungsten divertor, the IOS-TG discussed the effect of a tungsten divertor on operational scenarios. Reports from DIII-D, ASDEX Upgrade, and C-Mod compared operation with carbon walls and metal walls. Although there were some differences, it was generally believed that ITER would be able to learn how to operate with beryllium walls and an all tungsten divertor.

Modelling of ITER and JET current ramps were also presented indicating the differences between operation with carbon walls and with the ITER-like wall on JET. Since the peak in radiation for tungsten occurs around a temperature of 1 keV, the radiation from tungsten will be peaked near the edge in ITER. There is still a question about whether or not the tungsten transport into the core can be controlled to a sufficiently small value.
Modelling of steady-state fusion plasma scenarios was also presented to understand how the present heating and current drive systems should perform as well as what upgrades might be required to meet the long-pulse goals of the ITER program. The modelling includes simulation of sawtooth control, kinetic integrated modelling, and parameter scaling from existing experiments to ITER steady-state regimes. An update was also given on the latest proposed changes to the steering of the electron cyclotron heating and current drive system that was followed by extensive discussion.

In summary, the meeting provided valuable information on recent experiments and modelling of ITER plasma operation scenarios. Actions for the ITPA members and experts to help define the preliminary design of the ITER plasma control system were agreed upon. Continued experiments and modelling to demonstrate ITER operational scenarios for the inductive, hybrid, and steady-state scenarios were presented. A special report on the impact of an all-tungsten divertor on ITER operational scenarios was also discussed at length. 

Tokamaks: "An elegance that’s hard to ignore"

One can never know what will inspire an artist. Take sculptor Tim Sandys, for instance: his latest work, soon to go on on display at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, draws from … nuclear technology.

For the self-taught 38-year-old Scot, things nuclear have a beauty of their own. Many of his sculptures, like „Crossroads Baker,” were named after some of the experimental detonations of the 1940s-1970s. Don’t look for „Crossroads” on a map—it was just a 23-kiloton hydrogen bomb test on Bikini Atoll in 1946.

Sandys even did a „Portrait of Edward Teller,” a polyester resin, iron and vinyl abstraction that expresses the dark torments of the father of the H bomb.

When, in the course of his research, he encountered the tokamak, the artist knew he’d found something that he could elaborate on artistically. „The classic D-ring tokamak really resonated with me,” he recalls. „I have a kid’s appreciation of this donut structure, as if you could walk around inside the reactor. Aesthetically, the symmetrical precision of the torus has an elegance that’s hard to ignore.”

To realize his tokamak-inspired pieces, Sandys dug into the „visual goldmine” of tokamak drawings, cutaways and diagrams that are available on the Internet. „Then,” he explains, „I sat down with a calculator and tried to summon my high-school geometry to plan the work. It was often exhausting—my last tokamak sculpture consisted of over 1,400 individual pieces of wood.”

Sandys’ interpretation of the tokamak is minimal. „I try to depict a cross-section or a segment emerging from a wall and then looping back into it. If I can get across a sense of mathematical rigour or simplicity then I’m happy.”

The artist refuses to theorize his work. „I’m wary of artists who deliberately confuse or preach,” he says. „Personally, I’d far rather find some kind of common language using mathematics or physical properties—one that doesn’t need to be explained.”

Wood and petroleum-jelly tokamaks, displayed on art gallery walls, is a first step in that direction.

For more information on Tim Sandys’ work, click here.

ITER assembly: making plans today

When the starter pistol goes off for ITER assembly in the third quarter of 2014, a long and coordinated schedule of first-phase assembly activities will be set into motion—a schedule that begins with the installation of buried water pipes for the cooling water system and ends with First Plasma.

For the Tokamak alone, the schedule currently contains 40,000 lines.

The ITER Organization has the overall responsibility for all on-site assembly and installation activities, as well as testing and commissioning. „And not only for the ITER machine,” emphasizes Ken Blackler, head of the Assembly & Operation Division, „but also for the site-wide installation of plant systems in 37 buildings, such as radio frequency heating, fuel cycle, cooling water and high voltage electrical systems—this is often not realized.”

The Division’s role will be one of engineering, planning and management—the assembly work itself will be done by industry. The team is working now on the specifications for a large number of mechanical, electrical and other construction contracts. The workforce reunited through these contracts will represent between 2,000 and 3,000 people.

„The major question for us today is: What must we be doing now to prepare for assembly?” says Ken. „We are still in the 'paper phase’ this year; this is extremely critical in terms of schedule. The amount of preparation we do ahead of the game will guarantee that the real work will go well. What we do now, and how well we prepare, governs the future.”

To manage the organization behind ITER assembly, the biggest challenge according to Ken, the team has divided the site into six „chunks,” each one a separate assembly and commissioning project (the Tokamak is one project, for example; the high voltage power supply systems another…).

Line-by-line assembly procedures already exist for each critical ITER system or component—these are in the process of undergoing review by engineers from industry who are specialized in installation works: their role is to verify interfaces and ask the hard questions. Has enough space been reserved for the necessary tooling? Is there a „clear-and-free” assembly path? Can the requested tolerances be physically achieved? Will we be able to inspect, maintain, and eventually replace the components?

„Before assembly begins, our 40,000-line schedule for the Tokamak will be broken down even further by the construction contractor into a step-by-step instruction sheet—practically to the level of task-by-hour,” says Ken. „Plans at that level of detail will be needed for each one of our assembly projects.”

The assembly plan for each system or component is supported by a dedicated team comprised of Responsible Officers (ROs) from the Domestic Agencies, industry representatives and—from within ITER—ROs, contract managers, schedulers, and a cost controllers. When assembly begins, experts from the Domestic Agencies—where manufacturing has taken place—will be present on site. „If issues arise, as I’m sure they will, work stoppages could result which would cost money. So we will need to have the right experts on site with us capable of making fast decisions and solving these issues quickly.”

The Division will work closely with industry during assembly. ITER has experts in Tokamak assembly, while industry will bring construction experience. Ken already foresees early morning meetings to review daily work plans. The current assembly plan is based on two full work shifts per day, with the night shift reserved for testing operations or preparation of the next day’s activities (fetching components from storage, for example). A five-day work week during the assembly phase will be the norm according to Ken, but for some critical areas a sixth day will be necessary to adhere to the schedule.

Since arriving at ITER in 2008 to create the Assembly & Operations Division, Ken has built a strong team. „We have people who were involved in building and commissioning tokamaks like JET (EU), KSTAR (Korea) and the Indian machine SST-1, as well as CERN LHC, large telescopes and synchrotrons. But we also have engineers with nuclear, oil and chemical industrial experience that will be precious in a construction project like ITER.”

„The complexity of ITER assembly is related to the number of projects, the number of systems, and number of actors involved,” says Ken. „It is our job to reconcile all of that into a plan that will work.”

The Sun never sets on the CODAC empire

Every year in February, when almond trees begin to bloom in Provence, the ITER CODAC team releases a new version of the CODAC Core System.

The 2013 edition (CODAC Core System v 4.0) is more robust, comes with a better operator interface, offers more features, and supports plant systems that need „fast control,” for example plasma control systems that have to react within a strictly defined period of time. „Version 3.0 did it okay,” says ITER Control System Division Head Anders Wallander. „Version 4.0 does it better.”

CODAC (Control, Data Access and Communication) can be described as a software conductor that orchestrates the dialogue between the hundred-odd ITER plant systems …”the system of systems that makes one entity of everything” … the lingua franca that allows the magnets, blanket, tritium plant, cryostat and diagnostics to exchange signals and share information.

Working for the ITER project here and abroad, 55 organizations (Domestic Agencies, fusion labs, contractors) are presently using the CODAC Core System. An infrastructure has been set up to distribute the software to these and future organizations and to keep track of versions used. Training and user support is also provided.

The software package has recently demonstrated its efficiency on the Korean tokamak KSTAR and celebrated its „First Plasma,” so to speak, last June at the Frascati Tokamak Upgrade (FTU) project in Italy.  „The ITER CODAC system is truly becoming a world language,” says Anders.

CODAC is already implemented and deployed to monitor the power consumption on the ITER site, providing the „power people” with a global view and data with which to charge the different contractors operating on site. „With these pilot applications, we’re demonstrating that the system meets our expectations,” says CODAC System Engineer Franck Di Maio. „We’re demonstrating the system’s credibility.”

_To_44_Tx_CODAC users throughout the world are no different from any personal software user: switching to an upgrade is both exciting and challenging. „Although we provide support for older versions, we want to convince companies to upgrade. And the way to do it is to provide new features and make the upgrade easy.” In Franck Di Maio’s v 4.0 User Manual, the list of changes, fixed bugs, and enhancements of all kinds occupy no less than six pages …

Optimizing, upgrading and adapting ITER CODAC is „a process that will never end,” says Anders. „There will always be new requirements—this is the main difference between an experimental facility and a power plant.”

Korea awards contract for ITER thermal shields

The Korean Domestic Agency signed a contract with SFA Engineering Corp. for ITER thermal shields on 28 February. The contract covers the detailed design of manifolds/instrumentation, the manufacturing design and the fabrication of the thermal shield system. „For us, this is a big step forward for the Korean contribution to ITER,” said Myeun Kwon, president of the National Fusion Research Institute, after the signing.

SFA is a leading company in industrial automation with much experience in the procurement of advanced equipment related to fusion, accelerator, and space technology. SFA was deeply involved in the manufacturing and assembly of the Korean tokamak KSTAR.

The ITER thermal shield will be installed between the magnets and the vacuum vessel/cryostat in order to shield the magnets from radiation. The thermal shield consists of stainless steel panels with a low emissivity surface (<0.05) that are actively cooled by helium gas, which flows inside the cooling tube welded on the panel surface. The temperature of helium gas is between 80 K and 100 K during plasma operation. The total surface area of the thermal shield is approximately 4000 m2 and its assembled body (25 m tall) weighs about 900 tons.

The key challenges for thermal shield manufacturing are tight tolerances, precision welding, and the silver coating of the large structure. The thermal shield also has many interfaces with other tokamak components. „The Korean Domestic Agency is satisfied with this contract because the thermal shield is one of the most critical procurement items in the ITER project. We will do our best in collaboration with the ITER Organization to successfully procure the ITER thermal shield,” said Hyeon Gon Lee, DDG of the Korean Domestic Agency, on the occasion of the contract signature.

Tore Supra components to start new life in China

Surprisingly, some twenty years of sporadic exposure to a temperature of 60 million degrees have left little trace on the C2 antenna’s „mouth” — except for a bit of superficial melting here and some black deposits there, Tore Supra’s lower hybrid antenna looks almost as new as the day it was installed.

One of the two original lower hybrid antennas of the CEA-Euratom tokamak, C2 greatly contributed to the progress of current drive analysis. It also played a key part in the success of the machine. „It is the hybrid system that allows for long pulses,” explains Roland Magne, head of the Radio Frequency Heating and Current Drive group at CEA’s Research Institute on Magnetic Fusion (IRFM).

Tore Supra entered operations in 1988 at CEA-Cadarache and still holds the world record of discharge duration with a 6-and-a-half-minute pulse achieved in 2003.

As science and technology steadily progress, vital components in a research installation like Tore Supra must be replaced or upgraded; C2’s twin C1 was replaced in the early 1990s and C2 was permanently removed from the installation in 2008 in order to make room for the Passive Active Multijunction (PAM) antenna which was installed two years later. (The PAM is equipped with an integrated cooling system that allows it to deliver more power density to the plasma over longer periods of time.)

„C2 is still in good condition and can be advantageously re-used for current drive experiments on another machine,” adds Magne. Recycling has always been part of fusion history: last week, the C2 was being prepared for a long trip to China. The antenna will soon be fitted onto the Chinese tokamak HL-2M, currently under construction at the Center for Fusion Science of China’s Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in Chengdu.

C2 will not travel alone. Tore Supra is also shipping the 8 3.7 GHz, 500 kW klystrons that used to feed the antenna. Although they also operated for more than 20 years, the C2 klystrons (electron tubes that generate and/or amplify the radio-frequency waves) are still in operating condition.

The antenna and the klystrons will set the stage for a collaborative physics experiment between IRFM and SWIP. As a first step, four of the klystrons will be coupled to an antenna that the Chinese are designing for the existing tokamak HL-2A for experiments due to begin in 2014. (HL-2A is the original ASDEX Tokamak that was transferred from IPP Garching to China in 1995, and entered operations at SWIP in 2002.) When HL-2M is operational in 2015, all eight klystrons will be connected to the C2 antenna.

„This collaboration will provide for some very important ITER-relevant physics program,” adds Magne.

On Tuesday, as the C2 antenna was about to be packed in its wooden crate, Chinese staff from CEA and ITER, all originally from SWIP, came to bid farewell. By 2015, both the antenna and the klystrons will start a new life in a brand-new tokamak on the other side of the world.