Work begins to extend ITER Headquarters

In less than one year the capacity of ITER Headquarters will have increased to about 900 desks, from 550 currently, following the award of the extension construction contract signed in July with a French consortium (Vinci). Drilling to investigate the soil and rock of the land parcel near the west end of the ITER Headquarters, where the 35-metre extension will be added, began last week.

The extension will provide much-needed additional space for the ITER Project team: projections show that during the peak of construction there will be more demand for offices than can be accommodated in the current ITER Headquarters building or existing pre-fabricated structures.

Work should progress rapidly on the extension once the worksite has been secured and temporary contractor offices are in place. During the month of October, excavation and levelling operations will begin. Foundation pouring will be carried out in November and December and—beginning early in the new year—the structure of the five-storey building will rise at the rate of approximately one level every three weeks. The entire building will be standing in May 2014.

The design and plans for the 3,500 m² extension were provided by the firm of local architect Rudy Ricciotti, who was the principle in the team that conceived the original project—the 20,000-square-metre Headquarters that was handed over to the ITER Organization in October 2012. The tender offer launched in March by the ITER Organization was concluded on 26 July with the award of the contract to Travaux du Midi/Dumez Méditerranée (Vinci).

From the exterior, the extension will look like a carbon copy of the original, although important cost-saving measures were put into place to respect the strict budget. Employees with desks in the new extension will take the last elevator in the main building to arrive at their offices (there will be no elevator in the extension, although the space for an elevator shaft will be maintained on the exterior of the building in case it becomes necessary to add this feature in the future). Choices were also made on the finishing materials that resulted in important cost savings.

The priority during the tendering and negotiation phase for this contract was to respect the budget and the schedule. The EUR 7.5 million budget for the extension (which includes the design, construction and the addition of an extra parking level in the main ITER lot) will be offset by charging existing and future contractors who use office space in the ITER buildings. 

Employees will notice changes to their work environment in the weeks and months to come. The tall fence that will be erected around the extension building site will reduce the road in front of Headquarters to one lane, with alternating traffic lights for the shuttle buses that travel between office buildings. Also, the large bay windows that terminate the west-end corridors in the main Headquarters building will soon be replaced by solid walls, with soundproofing to reduce construction noise.

„Clauses were negotiated into the contract to make noise reduction a priority on this worksite,” says Erwan Duval, Facility Management Officer. „We have some latitude—for example the loudest operations can be scheduled before the arrival of employees in the morning. We are also fortunate that the heaviest works will be over by the time windows are opened again next spring.”

The completed extension is planned for delivery in July 2014.

A flying "squirrel" over the ITER worksite

Over the past few years, the ITER worksite has been photographed from a helium balloon, a glider, a small airplane, a crane…

Last Friday, the French gendarmerie helicopter that took the ITER Director-General on a flyover of the ITER Itinerary (an Ecureuil AS 350 B, or Squirrel) provided another opportunity to capture the spectacular vista of the ongoing construction works.

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."

CLI hears Nuclear Regulator’s report on inspections

Since January 2012, the French Nuclear Safety Regulator (Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN) has performed five inspections of the civil works on the ITER construction site.

Last Thursday 30 May at ITER, the results of these inspections were presented to the participants in the plenary session of the Local Commission for Information (CLI)—the citizens watchdog group that monitors ITER activities in accordance with the French 2006 Transparency and Nuclear Safety Act.

ASN considers that the organization of the ITER worksite is robust and efficient. In 2012, however, the Regulator noted that there was still room for improvement in the management of „non-conformities”—the small and inevitable deviations from blueprints that occur in construction works.

On a few occasions last year ASN observed that the „notification process” from the moment a deviation is identified by the contractor until a non-conformance report is processed by the ITER Organization needed to be optimized.

Following this remark, the ITER Organization took the necessary measures to ensure that procedures are observed throughout the chain of suppliers and contractors. In its last inspection to date (25 April 2013), ASN noted „a real improvement of the principles adopted and imposed by ITER [to its contractors] in the management of non-conformities.”

Although it is not an obligation, the ITER Organization has accepted that one or two CLI members be included as „observers” in one of the upcoming ASN inspections. Both the ASN and the CLI expressed their appreciation to ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima for this expression of the Organization’s commitment to openness and transparency.

ASN will continue to scrutinize the ITER installation throughout its lifetime and into dismantlement.

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.

In dealing with the press, openness is key

On 22 and 23 April, the ITER Organization welcomed 19 science journalists from the European Union’s Science Journalist Association (EUSJA). This was the result of an initiative taken jointly by the Russian journalist Viola Egikova, vice-president of EUSJA, and ITER Communication to present ITER and the project’s underlying fusion science and technology to a group of selected science journalists.

The two-day program included a visit of the worksite and presentations by several ITER scientists and engineers on status of the project, plasma physics, the chemistry of tritium, etc. Interviews were also organized at the requests of the journalists.

As Head of Communications, I believe it is essential to work with the press and to handle their requests as swiftly as possible, as there is still a huge information gap and major communication needs relative to ITER and fusion. In my opinion, the aim is not so much the information that you deliver but the openness and the dialogue that you establish (or make visible) … and  the respect for journalistic work.

„Indeed, I was pleased to see the openness of the ITER Communication team,” said Amanda Verdonck, a free-lance Dutch journalist who participated in the EUSJA visit. „But I was really impressed by the scale of the project and the sophisticated scientific knowledge that has gone into the machine. And I will be further impressed to see all this functioning! Like your videoconference system — quite impressive to me!”

Busy August on platform

Work kept progressing on the ITER platform during the summer recess.
Blinding concrete was poured over the rock surface of the future Assembly Hall adjacent to the Tokamak Seismic Pit. The resulting clean and flat 6,000 m2 surface will be used as a working platform to install the reinforcement steel of the building’s structural foundation.

In parallel, rock excavation for the galleries that will run in the foundations was being finalized. On this picture, an excavator is at work on an 8-by-7 meter gallery that will serve as an entry point for most of the electrical cables providing energy to the tools and devices to be used for assembly operations.

Work began on the networks of Contractor Area # 2 and continued throughout the platform as manholes connecting the large 1.6-kilometer-long concrete piping of the underground drainage network were installed.

Foundation work on the Assembly Hall worksite will extend into March 2013, and drainage network installation should be completed by November of this year.

The ten-millionth object

And the winner is … François Sagot! By uploading the „RAMI Summary Report for the ITER Cryoplant” into the ITER Collaborative Platform (ICP), the ITER technical officer officially became the platform’s ten-millionth customer.

„Ten million objects is a really impressive number,” says web application officer Carlo Capuano. „An aircraft carrier is made up of about ten million parts … and ten million is not the end of the ITER story!”

Less than three years ago, we reported on the one-millionth ICP object.

ICP is a one-stop shop for all data related to ITER, from Word documents stored on ITER’s document management system IDM, to Catia data files used by the designers. Today, the biggest portion of stored data is associated with the Engineering Database which was launched in February. However with 100,000 accesses per day, IDM accounts for the largest traffic within ICP.

The platform developed for ITER is now a precedent for other projects. ICP is currently installed at the European Domestic Agency in Barcelona, Spain; at the JT-60SA worksite in Garching, Germany; and at the Chinese Domestic Agency in Bejing.

A certain number of well-established commercial tools provide strong support for the most important activities inside the ITER Organization. Whenever those tools do not provide needed functionality, however, the ICP platform can provide solutions quickly to manage any kind of data and workflow.

In the past five years more than 50 applications have been developed and are in use with the same user interface—available at any location in the world—thanks to the strict adherence to web interfaces. Applications cover engineering problems like magnet conductor production, for example, or action tracking.