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ITER NEWSLINE 230
On Friday 6 July, the ITER Organization welcomed the following distinguished guests: Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Shunji Yanai, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (ITLOS), and Ichiro Komatsu, Ambassador of Japan in France.
ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima gave a general presentation in which he highlighted recent construction and licensing milestones. A large party of senior management accompanied the visitors to the ITER platform where, in 24 months, major steps toward building ITER have been made.
In a short interview with Newsline, Director General Amano reflects on the role of the IAEA, his perception of fusion and ITER, and the energy challenges that will characterize the decades to come.
Follow this link to view images of the visit.
Director General Amano, do you consider that after Fukushima the perspective on nuclear energy has changed fundamentally?
Actually no, I do not. The most important change is that global public opinion has become very sceptical about nuclear safety. Many people have lost confidence that nuclear power plants can be operated safely. Restoring this confidence represents a major challenge for governments, plant operators and nuclear regulators. I believe it can be done, but it will take time and an unshakeable commitment to putting safety first—always—and to transparency.
However, as far as the future of nuclear power is concerned, all the indications point to a growing number of nuclear power plants throughout the world in the next 20 to 30 years. There are exceptions such as Germany, which has decided to close all of its existing reactors, and Switzerland, which has decided not to build any new ones. But at the global level, the use of nuclear power is set to continue to grow, although perhaps at a slower rate than we anticipated before Fukushima Daiichi.
The latest IAEA projections suggest that at least 90 new nuclear power reactors will come online in the next 20 years, on top of the 435 in operation at the moment. That is the conservative estimate—the actual increase could be much higher. This is borne out by my discussions with government leaders when I visit our Member States. They are of course interested in exploring the potential of renewable energy, but many of them see it as an adjunct to nuclear—and other major sources of energy—not as an alternative.
What is your perception of fusion energy and ITER?
Nuclear fusion holds the promise of an inexhaustible, clean and safe source of energy—one of the dreams of humankind. If this dream can be realized, it will have dramatic implications for the future on many levels, from economic growth to climate change and fighting poverty. However, fusion is technically very difficult, and many key problems, in material science for example, are still to be solved.
The ITER Project, with Member states representing half of the world's population, is a historic milestone on the way to fusion energy. It is a huge challenge, both from an engineering and a management point of view. This challenge can only be met through concerted international efforts.
My hope is that ITER will open the door to fusion power and provide the ITER Members with the technology to design and build the first generation of fusion power stations. The challenge is huge, but I have faith in the ingenuity of human beings and the ability of our scientists and engineers to overcome even the most daunting technological hurdles.
What is the IAEA's role in facilitating fusion research?
The IAEA played the role of godparent to the ITER Project as it grew from an idea floated at the 1985 Summit in Geneva between US President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev into an international organization in 2006.
Today, the IAEA serves the worldwide fusion and plasma physics community by publishing the leading scientific journal and organizing the largest biennial conference in the field. We also directly support research through Coordinated Research Programmes and the provision of nuclear data. ITER has a special place in all of these activities and we regularly organize workshops and physics schools together.
For the more than 120 IAEA Member States that are not part of the ITER Organization, the IAEA performs an important bridging function, disseminating knowledge from ITER to the wider community and providing a platform for exchange between ITER and the rest of the world.
What is your perception of an "ideal world" as far as energy issues are concerned?
I would not presume to tell countries what is the ideal energy mix for them as their individual circumstances vary so widely.
However, I believe that access to energy is essential for all countries for their development and for the welfare of their people.
We should make the best use we can of all the sources of energy at our disposal, in a clean, efficient and sustainable way. All sources of energy have their advantages and disadvantages, and they need to be looked at from a wider perspective. Clearly, fossil fuels will play a central role for many decades to come. Equally, renewables will play an important role, and I welcome efforts to improve their effectiveness. And, as I mentioned earlier, I see the use of nuclear energy continuing to grow in the coming decades.
When it was announced in 1985 that the American "Cray-2" supercomputer had achieved a capacity of one Gigaflop per second, even some scientists had to consult the dictionary. The term Giga is derived from the Greek—meaning giant—and is the abbreviation for one billion. A Gigaflop computer can perform one billion floating-point operations (Flop) per second.
In 1985, this was one thousand fold the capacity achievable with your home computer. Today, every mobile phone contains a Gigaflop processor. And while the "big bang" hunters at CERN are dealing with Petaflops (1015 calculations per second), the new kid on the large science block, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which will be built in south Africa and Australia, will require supercomputers that can digest data on the Exa scale. That is a 1 followed by 18 zeros.
The steep increase of computer memory known as Moore's Law is comparable to the performance of magnetic fusion devices ... and to their generation of data. Since the first plasma pulse on JET in 1983, the raw data collected during each discharge has roughly doubled every two years. Today, about 10 Gigabyte of data is collected per each 40 second pulse; the data collected over 70,000 JET pulses amounts to roughly 35 Terabytes.
When ITER starts operation, the data generated will again reach new dimensions. Each plasma discharge—lasting 300 to 3000 seconds—will generate an estimated tens of Gigabytes per second, leading to a total of a few hundred Petabytes per year. And is not only the storage and archiving of the huge amount of data that poses a challenge, but also its accessibility in real-time.
In a recent workshop organized by Lana Abadie, responsible for the scientific archiving system within the CODAC team, the challenge of storing and accessing the flood of scientific data was addressed by experts from many different institutes and backgrounds.
"We need to store this data almost real-time to allow physicists to start their analysis code in order to allow calculations for the next pulses," explains Lana. "This data is what we call raw data, i.e., data coming from the ITER machine unfiltered. The main producers will be the various diagnostics systems. Then we need to store processed and simulated data. Different physics applications will use raw data and process them. This output needs to be stored too—and made accessible."
In other words, raw, processed, and simulated data will be accessed in the same way. But accessing the data in an efficient way is not an easy task. "Imagine you have a pile of 20,000,000 Ipods of 16GB—equivalent to the yearly production of all types of ITER data. Let's say you are looking for a song that was produced last February, but you don't even know the exact title. You remember that it was something like 'I follow' and that it was a remix of an earlier song by the same artist. Of course, you could spend quite a few hours finding the song. The challenge for CODAC is to provide data access within a few seconds. It is very important to understand the different archiving techniques and to stay abreast of upcoming technologies in that area."
The CODAC archiving system has to be ready for First Plasma with a well-proven scalability. The data will be stored first in the CODAC server room and will then be streamed to the IT computing centre. CODAC will develop a first prototype within the next two years. The team is currently studying a system based on HDF5, a well-known scientific data format used by many institutions such as NASA. HDF5 allows the storage of all types of data and corresponding metadata.
After driving through the night, the oversize truck pulls up in the early May dawn at the ASG facilities in La Spezia, Italy. The special delivery, a wooden square box with 5-metre dimensions, contains a large spool around which the eagerly anticipated dummy of a 760-metre-long copper conductor is wound.
The dummy is a mockup of the ITER conductors. These conductors will each be used in the toroidal field coils to carry 68,000 amps of electrical current in order to produce the magnetic field which confines and holds the plasma in place. In total, 19 superconducting conductor lengths (each measuring 760 m) and 8 conductors (each measuring 415 m) will be produced.
Although the final components will consist of superconducting materials, the dummy is made only of copper strands which have been plaited together (cabled) and inserted into a jacket in order to form a round conductor with a diameter of 44 mm. Nonetheless, the dummy package weighs an impressive 13 tonnes. Because of its large dimensions, it is only transportable during certain hours of the night after other traffic has been cleared.
The dummy was manufactured for the European Domestic Agency F4E by ICAS, an Italian consortium consisting of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), Criotec, and Tratos Cavi. The next steps of the process will be undertaken by ASG, part of the Iberdrola consortium (which includes Iberdrola and Elytt), F4E's toroidal field coil supplier and the company to which the dummy was delivered. The copper dummy length will be used for the commissioning of the toroidal field coil winding line.
In recent months, two additional toroidal field lengths made from superconducting strand were manufactured, thus completing the qualification phase during which both tooling and manufacturing procedures are verified. These conductor lengths are expected to be shipped to La Spezia by the end of the summer.
On May 15, the fabrication of the first production toroidal field conductor length was completed at Criotec: this length is the first conductor which will be inserted into the ITER machine. In the coming two years, 26 additional toroidal field lengths will be fabricated and supplied by ICAS.
The Helmholtz Association (34,000 employees, 18 research centres) is Germany's largest scientific organization with strategic programs in six core fields, among them the development of fusion energy. The Helmholtz Association's nuclear fusion program is currently pursuing two priority goals: to carry out Germany's contributions to building and operating ITER, and to finalize and operate the Wendelstein 7-X Stellarator in Greifswald.
This week, the president of the Helmholtz Association, Juergen Mlynek, assembled the heads of the German fusion research institutes and paid a visit to ITER to get first-hand information about the project's status. The group was welcomed by ITER Deputy Director-General Rem Haange who summarized the most recent progress before the bus took the group to the very heart of the matter, the Tokamak Pit.
The International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, where "ITER children" account for half of the total enrolment, owes a lot to Jean-Paul Clément. As head of this unique institution—a school that is part of the French public educational system but provides classes in ten different languages—Director Clément had to manage a project that appeared at times as complex and challenging as ITER itself.
Establishing an international school close to Cadarache was part of the French commitment to ITER. Pending the construction of the facility, the International School opened in September 2007 in temporary accommodations in a nearby lycée and eventually moved onto its own beautifully designed campus two years later.
As construction was progressing, it was the Director's responsibility to establish a curriculum compatible with both the stringent requirements of the French educational system and the demands of the Education ministries of the ITER Members. No simple task ...
Director Clément's mandate has now come to an end. On Thursday, a ceremony was organized at the International School in Manosque to bid him farewell and wish him all the success in his future endeavours.
In his address to Mr Clement, which he chose to pronounce in French, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima stressed the importance of the International School for the ITER Project. "ITER needs to gather talent from all over the world. The existence of the International School is an important factor in the acceptance decision for those with families and school-age children."
Jean-Paul Clément is leaving the International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur for a mission in Laos for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The ITER switchyard is now "live": the power has been on since Wednesday 27 June.
One year after work began on the four-hectare switchyard, the installation was connected to the 400kV "Boutre-Tavel" power lines that supply electrical current to a vast area of south-eastern France.
For the moment, ITER doesn't need the power that the double 400 kV lines can now provide. However, it was necessary to power the installation on in order to enable the French power transportation authority RTE (Réseau de Transport d'Électricité) to "close the loop" in the distribution network.
Installing and financing the ITER switchyard and power-line extension was part of France's commitment to ITER. After three years of technical studies and consultation the works were completed on time (8 months for the extension, 12 for the switchyard) and within budget (EUR 22 million).
Read the joint Agence Iter France/RTE press release in French.
The IC H&CD system is one of the major tools for achieving the plasma performances foreseen in ITER's operation scenarios. This system is designed to provide 20 MW into the plasma, at frequencies included in the band 40 MHz to 55 MHz. ITER India is in charge of the procurement of the radio frequency source subsystem and the corresponding Procurement Arrangement was signed in February 2010. A total of nine radio frequency sources will be provided: eight sources used for plasma operation, plus one spare.
For ensuring 20 MW power availability for plasma operation, 24 MW is required at the output of the transmitter at frequencies up to 65 MHz. As there is no unique amplifier chain able to meet the output power specifications, the layout consists of two parallel four-stage amplifier chains, with a combiner circuit on the output side. This kind of radio frequency source will be unique in terms of its stringent specifications and building a first of its kind is always a challenge.
Each amplifier chain is made of a wide band solid state amplifier cascaded to a three tube based tuned amplifier: a pre-driver, followed by a driver stage and a final stage. In this configuration, the final stage tubes have to achieve challenging power levels.
Only two suppliers worldwide are able to reach the target. In order to identify the best and most reliable technology for building this amplifier chain, R&D contracts were signed with both companies. Results are expected by the end of next year followed by the Preliminary Design Review.
"Inspiring," was the comment from Gieljan de Vries from the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) after last week's meeting with the communication staff from the ITER Organization, the seven Domestic Agencies and other major fusion labs. "There are nice ideas floating around to get more cooperation going."
The communication teams from the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies meet once a year in person. Monthly video conferences fill the gap and are useful for keeping up with one another, but these cannot replace face-to-face discussions on how to develop and implement new ideas and joint strategies.
Last week, 28-29 June, the international communicators for the project met at the ITER Headquarters in Cadarache to swap news and—in order to further enhance communication within the world-spanning fusion community—this time the "circle of friends" was expanded. For the second time, Petra Nieckchen, the head of communication at EFDA/JET, joined the meeting, as did Gieljan de Vries, DIFFER; Annie-Laure Pecquet and Jean-Marc Ané, Institut de la Recherche sur la Fusion Magnetique (IRFM); Isabella Milch, Max-Planck-Institute for Plasmaphysics (IPP); and Kitta McPherson, Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL).
The first day of this two-day exchange was devoted to reports on the most recent progress in each ITER Member. It soon became obvious that action is now shifting toward industry, judged by the number of facts, figures, and photographs that were presented.
Guests were also treated to a tour around the ITER construction site and a close-up look into the Tokamak Pit. While for many of the 25 participants this was not the first time on site, progress made since their last visit was tangible. For others, it was a very welcome opportunity to see the action first hand rather than looking at the (regularly updated!) construction images on the ITER website.
The second day started with a tour to the neighbouring Tore Supra Tokamak and a demonstration of how the design development and design integration is done at ITER with the help of a "virtual reality" room, a 3D-experience that left the group very impressed.
Back from this excursion it was time to meet Robert Matthews, an award-winning science journalist who worked as correspondent for The Times and The Sunday Telegraph. He is currently a science consultant for BBC Focus. He also reads physics at Oxford University, is a chartered physicist, and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
He spoke about the challenges of communicating a grand challenge project such as ITER. His presentation and the following discussion, to which a second guest-speaker, Norbert Frischauf—a high-energy physicist and communication consultant—joined in, proved highly inspiring and will certainly have an impact on how we view and understand our work in the future.