A full agreement was found at this week's trilogue of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission on the funding of ITER for the next two years.
"I am relieved that the extra financial needs of ITER are now covered," stated EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski. "The EU could not afford to lose credibility vis-à-vis its international partners involved in the project. Furthermore, I am pleased that this budgetary deal was made possible thanks to the positive spirit shown by the representatives of both the Council and the Parliament."
The "ad referendum" agreement will now have to be formally adopted by the two institutions according to their internal procedures. The agreement foresees the following breakdown of funds:
For further reading, see related articles in the European Voice (EU reaches deal on ITER funding), Science (Europe Finds €1.3 Billion Needed for ITER Overruns), and Nature (EU deal cuts ITER €1.2 billion deficit by €840 million, while sparing research budget).
- EUR 100 million that is already included in the 2012 budget on the ITER budget line;
- EUR 360 million in commitments that will be made available in the 2013 budget procedure without resorting to increasing the Multiannual Financial Framework ceilings;
- EUR 840 million in increased commitment ceilings in Heading 1a—competitiveness for growth and employment—for 2012 (EUR 650 million) and 2013 (EUR 190 million). The increase will be compensated by decreasing commitments in Heading 2 (Natural resources) by EUR 450 million in 2011 and Heading 5 (Administration) in 2011 and 2012 by EUR 390 million all together.
The Partnership Agreement signed in 2008 between the ITER Organization and the Principality of Monaco provides for up to five Postdoctoral Fellows to be appointed every two years. The competitions for the fellowships have attracted highly talented young scientists and engineers from around the world and from research areas beyond what is commonly considered the "fusion program."
The ten Fellows appointed to date have had the opportunity to work closely with staff members of the ITER Organization, many of whom number among the world's leading researchers in fusion science and technology in areas ranging from optimization of burning plasma scenarios, plasma-wall interactions, advanced plasma diagnostics, superconductivity and control systems. Their research programs have also allowed the Fellows to collaborate with scientists and engineers working on the many research and analysis activities being conducted internationally in support of ITER and to participate in major international meetings where they have presented their research results.
The Postdoctoral Fellows have not disappointed: their high promise has been realized in the work which they have pursued at ITER and they have not only undertaken programs of original research, but contributed to the progress of the ITER project. It's our hope that the Monaco Fellowships will help equip the next generation of fusion scientists and engineers with the necessary skills and outlook to contribute to the worldwide activities driving forward the successful development of fusion energy and to play a role in the future exploitation of ITER, leading to the production of hundreds of MW of fusion power.
Link to the dedicated page on Principality of Monaco / ITER Postdoctoral Fellowships here
Some years ago, Pierre Bauer would certainly not have dreamed that one day he would stand to introduce the man who once initiated his PhD thesis.
But that is exactly the position he found himself in this week in front of assembled ITER staff as he announced the lecturer for the Inside ITER seminar "100 Years of Superconductivity: 50 Years of Superconducting Magnets."
Martin Wilson, a former member of the Rutherford Group and a guru of superconductivity, is now officially retired, but he is still "a tornado of activity, thoughts and ideas," as Pierre respectfully said. Instead of rocking in an armchair, Martin Wilson continues to tour the world to consult and educate in the field of applied superconductivity, a domain that never failed to surprise him.
This year Martin Wilson joined the long line of pilgrims to Leiden, a town in the Netherlands, where one hundred years ago the Dutch physicist Heike Kammerlingh Onnes was successful in liquefying helium - the breakthrough that led to the discovery of superconductivity.
From Leiden, Wilson had brought back plenty of images and anecdotes which he used to jovially illustrate the milestone achievements within one century of superconductivity: from the "blue collar boys" performing the first simple experiments in Onnes' backyard ... to the MIT conference in 1961 where the first applications of superconductors were presented ... and the meeting in New York 26 years later which turned into the "Woodstock of Physics
"The major breakthroughs seem to happen in quarter-century steps," Martin Wilson concluded his talk. "Down here is ITER," he said, pointing to the bottom of a list of milestones. "And with this, I hand over to you guys."
Several important things have happened since the ITER Organization and the Local Information Commission (CLI)—the independent body that acts as an interface between a nuclear operator and the local public—met for the last time in mid-June.
On the ITER side, missions were sent to Japan in order to assess the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami for the project; two new deputy-directors had been appointed; and the ninth ITER Council had convened on 17 and 18 November in Cadarache.
On the local side, the most important event was of course the ten-week-long Enquête Publique and the issuing of the final "Favourable Opinion" by the Commissioners. In this context, the ITER Organization and the CLI members had a lot to talk about.
And talk they did, at the CLI's biannual General Assembly last Monday 28 November at the Château de Cadarache. ITER Deputy Director-General Carlos Alejaldre presented the recent progress of the project, noting that, "in spite of the difficulties caused by the situation in Japan, the project schedule remains within the boundaries that were agreed upon in July 2010."
He also summarized the positive outcome of the ninth ITER Council, which had taken note of "the highly productive period of project execution" under the new, reorganized, and streamlined ITER Organization leadership.
The CLI invited André Grégoire, the president of the Enquête Publique Commission, to report on the procedure and explain the nature of the Commissioners' work. Grégoire regretted the discrepancy between the scale of the extremely complex, one-of-a-kind ITER project, and the reglementary procedures that were applied. The "lack of time,"—despite an extension to ten weeks from the original six—had been frustrating, he said.
Despite these constraints and after a painstaking analysis of the 5,000-page ITER safety documents, the Commission, Grégoire explained, agreed to issue a "Favourable Opinion". He noted with satisfaction that "everything that ITER is doing now and will be doing in the future is under the control of the French Nuclear Safety Authority."
The Public Enquiry procedure gave the local public an opportunity to voice its opinion on the ITER project. The vast majority of the 10,606 contributions however were in the form of petition-like mails or emails—only a few people actually went to meet the Commissioners in the mairies and write in the open registers.
Fusion research programs were somewhat in the doldrums when, in 1968, Russian Academician Lev Artsimovitch claimed that the Soviet Union had achieved temperatures of 10,000,000 degrees inside the T3 Tokamak based at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. The news was received "with considerable skepticism by fusion laboratories outside the Soviet Bloc," recalls Mike Forrest, who was a member of the four-person team sent by British authorities to Moscow to verify the results.
In Lasers Across the Cherry Orchards, Mike takes readers from his first days as a researcher experimenting with lasers inside of the hangars at Harwell (located next to vast cherry orchards), to the historical mission to "Laboratory Number Two" in Moscow, home to the Soviet Union's nuclear weapon program.
The book is interesting reading for all those who are keen to learn about the state-of-the-art diagnostics at the time and the problems encountered installing the tool on T3. "As soon as we went to the basement under the tokamak where our laser would be mounted, we could feel severe vibrations under our feet from the huge flywheel generators that powered the T3 machine," Mike writes. "The sand under the concrete floors had sunk leaving the floors to act like the skin of a drum."
The breakthrough finally came on 22 July 1969. The proof came from a cryptic note in Derek Robinson's notebook ("Indicates Te=1 K eV") and a polaroid photo showing "totally unambiguous evidence of Thompson scattering." The news spread around the world like a bushfire. The respected science journal Nature held the press on its Centenary Edition until the T3 scattering results had reached them. The story even made it to the UK House of Lords: when one peer inquired how on earth the researchers had managed to measure a temperature of 10 million degrees he was told, "I suppose they used a very long thermometer."
The book is also a very entertaining recollection of a bit of exceptional scientific collaboration set against the backdrop of the Cold War. "We did not think the KGB would pose any problems as long as we did nothing silly. We felt safe, enjoying the powerful patronage of Lev Artsimovitch [...] However, we were to find that the KGB activities were not a figment of the imagination, even in our privileged position. Soon after we arrived Derek and Marion Robinson pointed to at least one advantage of being 'bugged.' One breakfast time they had commented out loud that a bulb had burnt out in the kitchen and debated who to ask for a replacement. When Marion returned from her routine morning shopping tour she found the bulb had been replaced..."
To order the book or contact Mike Forrest, please click here.
The long, complex and demanding procedure leading to the Autorisation de création—the final decree necessary for proceeding with the construction of the ITER nuclear installation—did not end with the conclusion of the Public Enquiry in August and the issuance of a Favourable Opinion by the Commissioners in September.
A parallel procedure—the Instruction technique (Technical Examination) of the ITER safety files by the French safety authorities—has been underway since the summer of 2010 and is now reaching an important milestone. Initiated by the French Nuclear Safety Agency (ASN), the Technical Examination was performed by the Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), acting as the ASN's technical expert. The examination was completed in September and its conclusions were summarized in a 300-page report.
"Whereas the Enquête Publique provided the general public with an opportunity to express its opinion on the project, the Technical Examination resulted in the submission of thirty questionnaires (some 800 questions all together) to the ITER Organization by the IRSN," explains Joëlle Elbez-Uzan, the head of the ITER Licensing Cell. Of course we had to answer each of these questions in detail."
The report and its recommendations are now in the hands of a group of some 30 experts appointed by ASN, the Groupe Permanent (GP). Members of the ITER Licencing Cell will further discuss the recommendations formulated by IRSN with the Groupe Permanent in the coming month.
A first round of "intense discussion" took place in Paris on Wednesday 30 November; a second meeting is scheduled on 7 December. Both are crucial, as they will determine the content of the final ASN report that, after a last stop at the Mission de Sûreté Nucléaire et de Radioprotection (MSNR), will open the way to the final green light from the French government: the Décret d'autorisation de création.
Compliqué? Probably. But no more than the ITER project itself, a one-of-a-kind venture and the first nuclear installation to observe the stringent requirements of the 2006 French law on Nuclear Transparency and Security.
The visionary "father" of the European fusion program, Donato Palumbo, passed away on 8 February 2011; this past week a heartfelt commemoration of his life and his professional legacy was organized at JET.
Family, friends, European lab directors, and colleagues gathered in the auditorium to share memories. Umberto Finzi remembered the distinguished scientist who made very original contributions on magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equilibrium. Others evoked his career in Brussels where for 30 years he was a key director of the Euratom program.
Rather than trying to bring fusion research into the framework of existing joint research centres, Palumbo had promoted the novel scheme of associating fusion laboratories across Europe in order to provide strong incentive for collaborative research activities. This program promoted the mobility of scientists and encouraged each national lab to concentrate on the resolution of particular issues for fusion. CEA was the first institution to join, but soon all the European labs that were active in fusion signed contracts of association with Euratom. The scheme was a resounding success and is still in effect today.
Paul-Henri Rebut recollected how, after 1968, Palumbo steered the European fusion program towards toroidal devices and conceived JET, a machine that represented a huge leap forward in size and where each key parameter such as current and power was increased by more than a factor 10 over existing devices at that time. Palumbo, with his low-key attitude but his highly innovative style, created the JET Joint Undertaking. Constructed as a private enterprise, it provided 'high efficiency with minimum bureaucracy.' He personally took part in its management.
Asked by Queen Elizabeth during the JET inauguration how he could have put together such a huge enterprise so successfully, the often facetious Palumbo answered casually: "By disobeying..., your Majesty."
Romano Toschi went on to recall Palumbo's creation of NET (Next European Torus). Installed in Garching, Germany, the NET team was to prefigure a fully international follow-up to JET, leading naturally to the ITER conceptual design and engineering design phases.
Finally, Catherine Cesarsky, the French high commissioner for atomic energy who is presently the chair of the CCE-FU (the European committee for fusion energy) returned to the essential role of Palumbo's fusion associations. She stressed how he stayed very close both to the managers but also to the scientists. It reminded me of how, when I was a young researcher, Palumbo phoned to enquire about details of MHD calculations I had recently published. I learned then that (in his spare time) he was working on the same subject.
No doubt, those present felt a profound admiration for the charming man who never departed from a modest attitude but who had been tremendously successful at establishing a well-coordinated fusion program with a strict minimum of bureaucracy. Scientific competence was an essential ingredient to his success.
Let us wish that his legacy prevails for decades to come.
At the end of November the Executive Board of FUSENET—the European Fusion Education Network—met in Cadarache. The FUSENET project, launched three years ago and funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), brings together 36 European universities and Euratom associations from 18 countries.
"FUSENET was founded to coordinate and improve fusion education in Europe, to prepare the next generation of fusion engineers and scientists," says FUSENET Chairman Niek Lopes Cardozo. "Until now, we have worked with many universities and fusion labs, but it is important that industry become involved in the education process much more than before. Because—as we can see in ITER—industry is now a determining factor in the development of fusion power. FUSENET is keen on developing this interaction between fusion industry and academia for education."
aims to improve the quality and attractiveness of fusion education by providing hands-on experiments to students and supporting joined educational activities.
"But we also offer individual support to students and have established European-wide, ambitious criteria for the award of fusion science and technology Master and PhD certificates," explains Lopes Cardozo. "FUSENET enhances the attractiveness of fusion to students by offering high quality learning opportunities. But, of course, the coolest attractor is ITER itself. This experiment—its dizzying scientific and technological challenges as well as its international dimension—appeals strongly to our best students."
With a stop at the edge of the 17-metre deep Tokamak Pit, the FUSENET delegation was eyewitness to the impressive construction works. A bit of imagination ... and the shape of the Tokamak could already be recognized in the seismic isolation pads.
"It is an inspiration to see the ITER project materializing here on site. What we see is the construction of career prospects for the present generation of students! Our students can visit the ITER site today and realize that tomorrow they may sit in the control room and be the operator of this fantastic experiment."
Visit the FUSENET website here
Fifty-six design drafts, 824 pages, 1,238 images, and only one URL. The new website of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) has been launched this week, combining the existing JET and EFDA websites. For webmaster Anja Haertling and the EFDA Public Information team, it is the culmination of nine months hard work.
The initial concept was hammered out in a team retreat in February. "We did go about it in a good way—we had a good structure. I think we're a really good team, we had different ideas and they worked together really well. The best thing is the merge: it reflects our structure a lot better, it's clearer now what EFDA does."
The site has been upgraded behind the scenes too, which will allow future developments, says Anja Haertling. "The new CMS reflects the way people work, people will be able to add sections and work more collaboratively on the pages."
However, she is not planning to sit back and relax now: "Now I'm seeing all the small things that have to be improved," she says. "But it's more fun because I know now it is the real thing!"