Lettres d'information

Choisissez ce que vous souhaitez recevoir :

Merci de renseigner votre adresse de messagerie électronique :


Actu & Médias


Of Interest

See archived articles


It is my pleasure to announce today that the ITER Council has completed the written procedure for the appointment of Richard Hawryluk as the new Deputy-Director General and Director of the ITER Administration Department. Rich Hawryluk was the Deputy-Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and has made an outstanding career in the field of fusion research. Up until now, Rich has also been a member of the ITER Management Advisory Committee (MAC). It is envisaged that Rich will take up his duties here in the ITER Headquarters in April. With this appointment, the three-department structure of the ITER Organization comprising the Department for Administration, the Department for ITER Project and the Department for Safety Quality & Security is now fully in place.

Another important new feature in the organizational structure is the fact that the Project Office will fuse with the Department for Administration, which also comprises the Directorate for Finance and Budget. This decision was made to increase the transparency between budget planning and project management. This is an important change in strategic management and both my Deputies, Richard Hawryluk and Remmelt Haange who is heading the Department for ITER Project, are fully committed to this.

And there is more news on the reorganization of our project structure: As of this week, the Bureau of International Cooperation will be operational. The creation of this new Bureau follows the endorsement of the new management structure by the ITER Council last November, and it is in line with the agreement of the most recent Project Board Meeting held this week.

The main goal of this new Bureau—in short BIC—is to facilitate the communication and to enhance the interaction between the ITER Organization and the ITER Members and their Domestic Agencies. The success of this project, one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors ever launched, will very much rely on our mutual understanding on how to implement the ITER Agreement.

The BIC will comprise six Deputy Director-Generals (DDGs) who have been appointed by the ITER Council based on nominations made by me and after consultation with the Member of their origin. Amongst the DDGs I will appoint a Head and, further to that, I may assign other staff to the BIC to support its activities.

The main function of the BIC will be to advise me and report to me concerning the overall strategies of the ITER Organization for cooperation and communication with the Members, and to enhance and facilitate this cooperation. I further expect the BIC to help me in my decision making and also in disseminating information on the project to the Members. One aspect of the new BIC's charge will also be to monitor the ITER Organization's cooperation with the Members, their Domestic Agencies and other relevant institutions and to liaise with high-level representatives of the Members on my behalf as and when necessary. I also expect the BIC to encourage applications from qualified candidates from the Members as we aim for an improved balance that corresponds to each Member's contribution to the project.

I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your patience and understanding, as this whole restructuring exercise necessarily takes time. This is certainly a challenging period for all of us, but it will soon be completed. And then we will move on towards our overall goal: building ITER and showing to the world that fusion is the way forward.

Rather acting than reciting: Annie Moisset from the Agence Iter France presenting the French fabel "Le Corbeau at le Renard."
Studying plasma behavior or assisting the ITER Central Integration & Engineering team managing the project's configuration control might be their profession... but passion speaks when it comes to poetry. Early Thursday morning, two dozen ITER employees followed an invitation to the 3rd Intercultural Breakfast organized by the Agence Iter France celebrating the "Spring of Poetry."

This unpretentious, stand-up event once more underligned the multi-national facet of the ITER enterprise, as Krystyna Marcinkiewicz recited "The Locomotive," a poem by Polish poet Julian Tuwim, followed by Sopan Pande who recited two poems from Marathi poet and playwriter Kusumagraj.

There were many more poems from Korea, Japan, Russia, China, the United States, and a fable from France to listen to. But it was the Italian contribution "Ancora sulla strada di Zenna" by Vittorio Sereni, presented by Elena Carnacina from the ITER Directorate for Tokamak, which got the standing ovation that morning.

Although it is probably safe to state that most of the audience was not familiar with the language of Dante Alighieri or Petrarch, the pure sound of a poem spoken in Italian had the power to touch the soul—no matter which nationality. Recited in Italian, forgive me, perhaps even the ITER Plant Description Document would sound like a poem ...

Large solar flares, like those observed in 2003 and expected again in the coming years, can account for 16% of the total energy that the Sun outputs every second.
What is above is like what is below; some of the phenomena that happen at the surface of the Sun are very much like those that occur, here on Earth, in fusion plasmas.

Take solar flares, for instance. These gigantic spurts of magnetized plasma periodically arch along the Sun's magnetic lines, reaching as high as hundreds of thousands of kilometres, or 10-15 times the diameter of the Earth.

Large solar flares, like those observed in 2003 and expected again in 2012, can account for a significant percentage of the total energy that the Sun outputs every second.

Solar flares are the stellar equivalent of edge localized modes (ELMs) observed in fusion plasmas. Observing what happens on the Sun's surface—and there are several satellites doing precisely this—can help understand what a June 2007 Topical Review article in Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion called one of "the most intensely studied and least understood phenomena in divertor tokamak plasmas."

Solar flares are worrisome for earthlings just as ELMs are worrisome for plasma physicists. The sudden bursts of plasma that erupt from the Sun's surface release both a magnetic wave and a flux of very energetic particles that, after travelling three days through empty space, eventually collide with (and fortunately are diverted by) the Earth's magnetic field—the "magnetosphere".

The magnetosphere that encases the Earth in a protective shield is not absolutely foolproof: satellites in Earth's orbit can suffer from the flares' incoming magnetic wave and particle flux; radio communications can be disrupted; electrical grids can experience partial outage; and airline personnel and passengers—not to mention astronauts in the Space Station—can be submitted to high levels of radiation.

ELMs are of course a zillion times less energetic than the smallest of solar flares and their effect remains confined to the vacuum vessels of fusion devices. However, in a similar manner to solar flares, ELMs deposit their considerable heat load on the components that protect the reactor vessel walls from the plasma, accelerating their erosion and releasing impurities into the plasma.

"The physics of both phenomena are very much the same," explains Wayne Houlberg, a physicist at the ITER Directorate for Plasma Operation. "It's the size and energy that differ." The energy released by the largest ELMs in today's fusion devices is on the order of one Megajoule, whereas a large solar flare is more energetic by a factor of 1 followed by 19 zeros.

In terms of percentage, however, the figures are very close. A monster flare can account for up to 16 percent of the total energy output of the Sun each second, whereas a large ELM can represent 5-10 percent of the total energy stored in a fusion plasma.

"There are two questions we have to answer regarding ELMs," explains Wayne. "Can we find out why they're happening? And can we get rid of them or reduce their size to manageable levels?"

Solar flares are triggered by magnetic events; this is about as far as the "why they're happening" can be answered today. "Most of the time," says Wayne, "solar flares originate in sun spots—the colder areas on the surface of the Sun that are the seat of intense magnetic activity. Sun spots are a bit like the "magnetic islands" we encounter in fusion plasmas."

Solar observation by satellites such as the ESA-NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) or the Japanese-led mission Hinode (the Japanese word for 'Sunrise') should complement the knowledge of solar flares in the coming years as solar activity is expected to reach an all-time high.

As to the second question, fusion physicists have yet to find a way of getting rid of ELMs reliably. However, they have developed tools and techniques that can mitigate them or eliminate them under some conditions. "We need to be able to relieve the pressure in the fusion plasma by providing 'leaks' that will enable the extra energy to be evacuated," explains Wayne, "...something that acts like a pressure-relief valve in a water heater."

In ITER, two mitigation schemes will be implemented. While very different in nature, both aim to provide controlled escape routes to the excess energy in the plasma.

In what Wayne calls the "rapid fire approach", micro pellets of frozen fuel will be injected at the plasma edge to create small areas of higher pressure through which nascent ELMs will escape. Such a technique has been experimented with some success in the ASDEX Upgrade Tokamak in Germany in the DIII-D machine in San Diego and in the European JET in the UK.

In the second approach, escape routes will be provided by local perturbations of the magnetic field that specific coils (ELM coils) will induce at the plasma's edge.

In both ELM mitigation strategies, the idea is to "open the valves" in a controlled manner, before the pressure in the plasma reaches the level where damaging ELMs will erupt.

Physicists are confident they will eventually find ways of controlling ELMs and, possibly eliminate them completely. As for solar flares, they will continue to erupt following an 11-year cycle that is still not completely understood—another plasma physics riddle waiting to be solved...

A physics student studying plasma behaviour at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. (Photo: Peter Ginter)
While challenges remain in harnessing fusion as an energy source, significant advances have been made in the last decades. Beyond moving fusion closer to the point of industrialization, there have been lesser-known spinoff benefits to the development of fusion technology, including applications in engineering, diagnostics, superconducting technologies, and medicine.

For example, early work in magnetic fusion energy led General Atomics, a San Diego-based innovation firm, to improve power systems for the US government and commercial customers. Technological advances include the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), an electromagnetic catapult that will replace steam catapults used currently on aircraft carriers.

The Milliwave Thermal Analyzer is another fusion spinoff used to monitor the properties of materials in extreme conditions, for example inside a glass melter. This new technology, adopted from diagnostics developed for fusion environments, can withstand previously inaccessible conditions.

Other examples of how technology developed for fusion has found its way into other disciplines are: a new generation of compact cyclotrons which can successfully be used in cancer therapy; and a new method of improved polymer-electrode bonding using plasma which is hoped to lead to creating superior artificial muscles to benefit people with disabilities.

These and more examples are listed in a new brochure produced by the US Fusion Communications Group Fusion Spinoffs: Making a Difference Today that can be downloaded here

Timothy Watson (2nd from left), Head of the ITER Directorate for Buildings and Site Infrastructure, explaining the main features of the ITER facilities to Rob Adams (4th from left) and the Nesca delegation.
As part of the South African state visit to France which took place this week, a delegation from the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) came to visit Cadarche this Friday. The main functions of Necsa are to undertake and promote research and development in the field of nuclear energy and radiation sciences and technology. After signing an agreement with the CEA and Areva on research collaboration, the delegation—headed by Nesca CEO Rob Adam—came to see the construction site of the ITER Project "because we were curious to see one of the biggest scientific endeavors with our own eyes," Rob Adams said.

Knowing that the delegation would fly out of Marseille to return to Paris that same evening, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima noted that if they had the choice to sit on the right hand side of the plane, they would be able to see the construction site from the air. A very useful tip for ITER tourists ...

Nuclear Fusion is acknowledged as the leading journal specializing in fusion physics. It is published monthly by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in cooperation with IOP Publishing. The journal, first published in 1960, covers all aspects of research, theoretical and experimental, relevant to controlled thermonuclear fusion.

Typically, the journal registers approximately 10,000 full text downloads a month across all its volumes.  But when Issue 6 of Volume 47 was published in June 2007—a special edition focusing on the "Progress in the ITER Physics Basis"—records were broken with over 17,000 downloads that month, of which about 10,000 were from the special issue articles. "We distributed many hundreds of copies of this issue and the number of downloads and citations has been impressive," says Sophy Le Masurier, of the IAEA's Publishing Section.

The special edition, "Progress in the ITER Physics Basis" (PIPB), assembled by many members of the seven International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA) Topical Physics Groups and the then ITER Joint Central Team (JCT), was prepared as an update to the highly successful "ITER Physics Basis" (IPB), published in 1999 and the product of the ITER Physics Expert Groups and JCT. Both volumes required very substantial coordination efforts, extending over several years, by the Chairs and Co-Chairs of the Topical Groups/ Expert Groups to encourage and cajole their group members (and additional experts in the international fusion community) into writing the many sub-sections of each chapter of the special issue volumes.

The Chairs and Co-Chairs also worked closely with the Editorial and Referee groups nominated to edit and review the final drafts of the chapters in order to bring the volumes into their final forms. The extensive efforts of the many contributors from the fusion community and the ITER team, often carried out in addition to their normal research activities, has proved a worthwhile investment, as both the original IPB and the updated PIPB have provided snapshots of the contemporary status of tokamak fusion physics research which are unequalled in their scope—and which are highly regarded across the fusion community, as evidenced by the record number of downloads for the more recent volume.

To date, there have been a total of over 30,000 downloads of articles in this issue and more than 600 citations have been made. "The work of the authors and the referees as well as the Editorial Office here in Vienna and the publishing professionals of IOP produced an issue that everyone was extremely proud of," Sophy Le Masurier recalls. "It has been a huge success and the citations contributed to the journal's highest ever impact factor of 4.2."

We thank David Campbell, Directorate for Plasma Operation, for his contribution to this article.