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ITER NEWSLINE 191
The ITER Enquête Publique (Public Inquiry), which was organized by the French authorities between 15 June and 4 August, was no mere formality for our Organization. It was a demanding process during which we answered hundreds of questions from the general public, local environmental groups and the members of the appointed Commission d'Enquête (Inquiry Commission).
The procedure was crucial for the future of our project. Along with the ongoing technical evaluation by the French safety authorities, the Public Inquiry is key to pursuing the process leading to the Autorisation de Création—the final green light that will allow us to proceed with the construction of the ITER nuclear installation.
On Friday 9 September, after having analyzed all the answers we provided and having further grilled our team through many meetings, the Inquiry Commission officially issued its Advisory Opinion. I am very happy to inform you that its opinion, although accompanied by a few recommendations, is "Favourable."
I want to thank each and every one of you for the part you have played in this long, complex and very demanding process—with a special mention for the tremendous amount of work done by my team headed by Joëlle Elbez-Uzan.
The general context was difficult: the Enquête Publique was organized in the immediate aftermath of Fukushima and, before getting in the details of our project, it was necessary to stress the fundamental differences between fusion and fission. Also, the public and the members of the Commission wanted to understand all the aspects, not only of the ITER Project, but of plasmas, of fusion and of tokamaks ...
We all worked very hard and on 9 September we received our reward.
The Commission's Favourable Opinion means a lot to us, and not only from an administrative and regulatory point of view. In providing thorough and detailed answers to hundreds of questions formulated by close to 11,000 individuals, 37 environmental groups and the Commission members themselves, we demonstrated our strong commitment to openness and transparency.
The Enquête Publique was an opportunity to explain and promote our project and also to make the neighbouring community feel that ITER is also its project.
What happens now? First, we will take into consideration the recommendations of the Inquiry Commission. Few in number, they demonstrate how extensive and deep an analysis the Commission performed. The process leading to the final decree will then continue: the ITER files will follow a complex path within the French administration and the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) will issue a final set of recommendations. Eventually, the green light will shine for ITER.
Like many in the great worldwide family of fusion, this is the goal I have been pursuing throughout my whole professional career.
Click here to read the Advisory Opinion of the Public Inquiry Commission (in French)
Concrete is a delicate material. It requires the right ingredients, the right handling and the right drying temperatures (moderate!).
And so long before the Provençal sun rises over the ITER site, the giant pit at its very centre is full of activity these days. The spotlights are switched on at around 4 a.m., workers put on their hardhats, and cement mixers start their engines. From that moment, and for the next twelve hours straight, two long arms transfer their grey concrete down 17 metres into the pit below, where it slowly fills in the 1.5-metre-thick steel scaffolding that now completely covers the floor of the Tokamak Complex Seismic Pit.
Guy Weissenbacher closely watches the many hands that are helping to pour, spread and smooth the concrete. Failure is not an option when you are creating the Seismic Pit basemat for the world's largest tokamak. Project director for ENGAGE, the consortium selected as Architect Engineer in charge all the construction works on the ITER platform, Guy is usually one of the first people on site these days. He has to verify that all the preparatory works have been executed correctly, that the earthing cables are in place and all safety requirements met, and that the weather report permits the start of operations.
Every day, Metéo France delivers a special forecast for the ITER construction site. "Our main interest is to know if a thunderstorm is forecasted or not," Guy reports. "If that is the case, we have to stop the works and evacuate the site."
If the weather report permits, a surface area of 500 m² is poured in one go—a procedure that will be repeated 21 times over the next weeks and months to fill in the Seismic Pit basemat, which can be compared in size to a football stadium. Each pour represents approximately 800 m³ of concrete, produced in the two batching plants located on site.
The Seismic Pit basemat will be the first level of reinforcement for the ITER Tokamak Complex. On top of this first level, workers are currently pouring 493 concrete plinths at regular distances: these are the 1.7-metre-high pillars that will support the anti-seismic bearings. The flexible structure of these bearings, made alternately of layers of metal and rubber, will serve as "shock absorbers" in the case of seismic motion.
The basemat concrete is a special mixture that offers the durability required for nuclear installations (70 years instead of the standard 50). "We use only the smallest possible proportion of cement plus additives that reduce the chemical heating of the concrete as it dries," explains Thierry Lebault, project director for GTM, part of the French consortium Vinci that is in charge of the concrete works for ITER. "If the concrete becomes too hot and dries too quickly, you risk internal cracking."
As we said ... concrete is a delicate material.
The title of Docteur Honoris Causa is one of the most prestigious French academic distinctions.
It is awarded to foreign personalities whose contribution to science or the arts is recognized as particularly significant.
Last Tuesday, in the historic amphitheatre of the Université de Provence in Marseille, this honour was bestowed upon ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, who, in the words of university Vice-President Denis Bertin, "has taken up a challenge on which our future depends."
In accordance with tradition, Director-General Motojima had donned the purple toga of university professors, to which the "ermine sash" was attached when he officially received his diploma.
The recipient's career was retraced by Sadruddin Benkadda, the scientific director of the Marseille-based International Institute of Fusion Science (IIFS). "Director-General Motojima," he stressed, "has always remained close to the academic world [...] He played a key role in establishing a cooperation between Université de Provence and the Japanese National Institute of Fusion Science (NIFS) and also in the creation of the IIFS, which is opened to collaborations with all the universities in the world."
In his acceptance speech, Director-General Motojima recalled his early calling to science and how, by embracing research, he had "hoped to contribute to the human society directly with practical scientific output."
He also explained to the audience (which included several young fusion students of Université de Provence) some of the fundamentals of fusion, the essence of his action at the head of the ITER Organization and, quoting ancient Greek historian Herodotus and French philosopher Descartes, his own approach to science.
"ITER," he said, "will be the stepping stone into a new era, in which a safe and inexhaustible source of energy becomes available for mankind." ITER's doors, he pledged, "will be open to the young people who will take on the future responsibility to complete the research of fusion energy."
Magnetic measurements are usually the prime diagnostic for inferring the position and shape of tokamak plasmas; indeed all present devices base their position feedback control on this information.
However for the very long discharges of future ITER-class devices, problems such as drifting integrators or radiation-induced voltages could lead to a failure of the magnetic equilibrium reconstruction and hence to a loss of position control. Also, touching the wall in an uncontrolled way may lead to damage or premature discharge termination. An alternative method is needed—at least as a backup.
One such control scheme has been demonstrated successfully for the first time by the Euratom Portuguese Fusion Associate IST on the ASDEX Upgrade tokamak operated by the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP) in Garching, Germany. IST and IPP have enjoyed a fruitful collaboration in the area of microwave reflectometry diagnostics for many years. Reflecting microwaves off a plasma is usually applied as diagnostic for determining the radial distribution of the plasma density. By scanning the microwave frequency the distance to the antenna of different plasma density layers can be obtained via an Abel inversion procedure, and then converted to a density profile.
In the new approach, the IST experts tracked the position of the plasma boundary in real time using dedicated algorithms and the a priori knowledge about typical edge density profile shapes. The estimation of the boundary density was obtained from a combination of local and line integrated density measurement (the latter coming from interferometry as well as O-mode reflectometry) which does not require any information on the magnetic equilibrium.
While feasibility studies on this method had previously been conducted at ASDEX Upgrade by IST, this time the IST experts assembled a diagnostic system that could produce the desired input—namely the position of the separatrix of the plasma—in real time at a rate of 1 ms and with an accuracy of better than 1 cm.
The hardware for this task (reflectometry system, as well as real time data-acquisition and data-processing systems) was designed and assembled at IST. In a collaborative effort with IPP, the diagnostic system was then linked in real time to the ASDEX Upgrade discharge control system and the loop was closed for position control.
In the figure on the right, radial position control was switched in two time intervals (shaded) from magnetics-based to reflectometer-based measurements. In the top box, the outer plasma radius (red from reflectometer, green from magnetics) followed the prescribed, black-line value within the required accuracy of 1 cm in two different plasma regimes, namely in L-mode (first shaded area) and ELMy H-mode (second shaded area). It can also be seen that some oscillations around the desired value occur, indicating that the scheme can even be improved by fine tuning the controller.
Further collaborative work between IST and IPP will aim to optimize the algorithm. Potential upgrades include not only the controller algorithm settings but also the use of a second microwave reflectometer located opposite to the present one in order to simultaneously control the inner and outer plasma radius.
These experiments represent an important step towards establishing a position control that is not based on magnetic measurements for ITER, and, in the longer run, for future fusion power plants that will have to operate with a very limited set of diagnostics.
The initiative was funded by EFDA as one of the high priority projects highlighted by the EFDA Diagnostics Topical Group.
It was only 8:30 a.m., last Saturday 17 September, but already the Vinon-sur-Verdon sports facilities were buzzing with activity. Behind the big inflatable arch with the logos of the ITER Games sponsors, many of the participants were warming up for the cross country run or the soccer, volleyball and tennis matches, while other were queueing up to get their medical certificate.
A little after 9:00 a.m. the games began and close to 250 participants, a mix of people working on the ITER project and residents of Saint-Paul-lez-Durance or Vinon-sur-Verdon, teamed up, with colleagues or with friends, to compete in a number of friendly matches.
With the help of the Vinon Durance Sports Club, which had recruited more than 50 volunteers to coordinate the matches, every aspect of the organization went smoothly and after an intensive morning all competitors and their families, about 400 people all together, were invited to a well-deserved lunch on a shady meadow near the sports facilities.
The afternoon was dedicated to a much calmer activity, pétanque, which lent itself well to a warm afternoon under the burning southern French sun. More than 80 participants, from absolute beginners to real aces, competed in triplets under the plane trees of the Vinon village square until the winners of each activity were designated at the award ceremony which closed this first edition of the ITER Games.
The ITER Games were not about winning though, but about participating together, meeting new people and having fun and in those terms the Games were a real success, even if no records were broken.
What is the best way forward to commercial fusion energy?
This important topic reunited fusion researchers from ten countries from 7-10 September at the campus of Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. Organized by an international committee of fusion leaders and hosted by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) the workshop, entitled "Magnetic Fusion Energy: Roadmapping in the ITER Era" occurred at a pivotal moment in the history of magnetic fusion development. As the ITER project is now launched on its mission to answer outstanding questions on the control of a burning plasma, countries all over the world are planning—with renewed intensity—the research and facilities needed to harness fusion energy for commercial use.
The international workshop provided a timely forum for the exchange of technical information and strategic perspectives on how to best tackle the remaining science and technological challenges on the way to a magnetic fusion DEMO (demonstration device) and commercialization. The participation of a large number of the world's leading fusion science and engineering researchers reflected the widely felt sense of urgency to collaborate more closely on these challenges.
The workshop was organized around four topics: fusion technology; physics-technology integration and optimization; major facilities; and perspectives on DEMO and the roadmap to DEMO. Participants, including participants from all of the ITER Members, advocated a remarkably consistent timeline for the next-step facilities, despite some variation in the scale and scope of the facilities being considered. All agreed that serious planning should begin now, leading to construction in the 2020s and operation in the late-2020s to mid 2030s.
Tasks to be accomplished on the road to a fusion DEMO include materials R&D, component testing, reliability and availability growth, and electricity generation. Options presented at the workshop ranged from fusion nuclear science facilities for materials research and component development, to pilot plants or demos designed to integrate the science and technology of a fusion system and demonstrate readiness for commercialization. At the same time, it was recognized that there is much to be done in smaller, more focused programs, utilizing computation and simulated environments to expedite progress, in order to develop the fusion nuclear science and technologies for integration and testing in large nuclear facilities. It was also agreed that ITER should be exploited to the fullest extent possible to make progress on these issues.
The scale and complexity of the outstanding challenges in fusion development that were highlighted at the workshop underscore the necessity of working together internationally. A continued international commitment to the success of ITER is viewed as both essential to technical progress and to the credibility of the field. At the same time, new mechanisms are needed for experts to collaborate toward better technical understanding of the major development issues and options for resolution. The formation of international working groups was suggested to address key technical issues where currently understanding diverges, for example: the physics and technology assumptions and models used in fusion system codes; the strategy for fusion materials development; and the requirements and state-of-readiness for the various next-step facility options.
If a picture can tell a thousand words, then the ITER website's new construction photo galleries will keep you busy for some time.
The galleries retrace one year of construction activity on the ITER platform. Beginning in August 2010, the photo galleries track the impressive excavation work for the Tokamak Complex, the construction of the steel and concrete Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility—now only three months from completion—and progress on the permanent ITER Headquarters.
The pages also recount the challenges to come: What are the stages of construction for the 360,000-tonne Tokamak Complex? How will the ITER components be transported safely and securely from destinations all over the world? How will the components be handled, lifted, assembled and aligned once on site?
The ITER Tokamak—with its one million components, extensive plant systems and extreme complexity—is one of the most challenging machines ever engineered. Building ITER is a fascinating story that we hope that you'll follow regularly on the new Construction Pages of the ITER website.
Organizing the transport of the ITER components along the 104-kilometre ITER Itinerary is a bit like managing a stage of the Tour de France: one has to create a moving "bubble" that guarantees both the safety of the public and that of the main actors -- whether they are components or cyclists.
One of the differences, of course, is speed and frequency. While cyclists in the annual Tour de France reach speeds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour, most of the ITER convoys will travel at the speed of a walking man, slowly progressing along the Itinerary for up to five consecutive nights to reach Cadarache. Convoys along the Itinerary will be organized every 8 to 10 nights over a period of five to six years, beginning in 2013.
These anecdotes, and a lot more serious and precise information, were provided last Wednesday to members of the Commission Locale d'Information (CLI) as they toured portions of the ITER Itinerary with Agence Iter France directors Jérôme Pamela and Pierre-Marie Delpanque and French Gendarmerie Major Renaud Coste.
The 212 planned special convoys, representing some 445 nights of activity along the Itinerary, will be spectacular events, but also potentially disruptive for the local residents.
As Pierre-Marie Delplanque confided in a recent Newsline interview, associating the residents "and hopefully, gaining their enthusiasm" is one of the challenges of the whole operation. Information and communication, in this perspective, will be paramount.
In order to reduce the disruption during the night for residents, Delpanque and the Coordination Cell he's leading have come up with some interesting initiatives: gendarmes regulating the traffic, for instance, could trade their powerful (and noisy) BMW and Yamaha motorbikes for humming electric three-wheelers ...
Another category of residents will be the object of careful attention during the transport of ITER components along the Itinerary.
Like humans, the birds nesting in the salt farms near the Port de la Pointe, where the ITER components will be unloaded from the barges, dislike disruption during the night.
As a consequence, their territory will be the only one crossed by the ITER convoys during the day...