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Three pre-compression rings at the top and three at the bottom of the toroidal field magnet system will help the structures withstand the terrific electro-magnet forces during machine operation. (The manufacturing contract signed in late November includes three spares.)
Two large contracts for the manufacture of ITER components were recently concluded by the European Domestic Agency (F4E).

On 29 November, F4E signed a contract (EUR 12 million) for the supply of nine pre-compression rings for the ITER magnet system with EADS CASA Espacio in Spain. By holding tightly to the toroidal field coils at the top and bottom, these 5-metre-diameter fibreglass composite rings (in pink, at right) will reduce the fatigue on the magnet structures caused by electro-magnetic forces—consequently prolonging their operational life from ten to over twenty years.

The nine pre-compression rings will be the largest composite structures ever built for operation in a cryogenic environment.

The following week, on 5 December, F4E concluded the contract (EUR 160 million) for the supply of 70 radial plates with a consortium made up of SIMIC S.p.A. (Italy) and CNIM (France).

The radial plates are large, D-shaped stainless steel structures with grooves machined on both sides. Europe is responsible for delivering 10 of ITER's 18 toroidal field coils; as part of this in-kind procurement, 70 radial plates will be necessary to hold the conductor of the toroidal field coils. Prior to the contract signature, both companies had successfully completed radial plate prototypes.

Read the F4E press releases on the pre-compression ring contract and the radial plate contract.

A sieve for molecules: The crystals of the metal-organic compound can be seen at a magnification of more than X6000 under the scanning electron microscope. © MPI for Intelligent Systems
A metal-organic framework separates hydrogen isotopes more efficiently than previous methods

Deuterium is the heavy twin brother of hydrogen; however, it is more than 20 times rarer than identical twins. It accounts for only 0.015 percent of natural hydrogen and is twice as heavy as the light isotope.

There is no chemical difference between the two isotopes: both deuterium and ordinary hydrogen react with oxygen to form water. Its double mass allows researchers to lay a trail to elucidate chemical reactions or metabolic processes, however. They dispatch a compound containing deuterium into the processes and analyze in which conversion product it turns up. And this is only one of the tasks that deuterium fulfils in research. It may even become an inexhaustible and climate-neutral fuel in future.

This would be the case if nuclear fusion becomes so technically mature that energy is generated on Earth using the same process that also occurs in the Sun. This produces much less radioactive waste than nuclear fission.

In a cooperation established within the DFG German Research Foundation's priority program "Porous Metal-Organic Frameworks" (SPP 1362), a team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Jacobs University Bremen and the University of Augsburg have now been able to enrich deuterium contained in hydrogen more efficiently than with conventional methods.

The findings are reported in the journal Advanced Materials. The researchers discovered that a certain metal-organic framework, abbreviated MOF, absorbs deuterium more easily than common hydrogen at temperatures below minus 200 degrees Celsius.

Read more here. 

"For the first time in human history, we're now finding industrialized nations forming partnerships to design and build complex, technological assets for which no nation alone can bear the cost or the risk." (Pictured, the International Space Station.)
The new Communications Manager for the US Domestic Agency, Mark Uhran, spent some time at ITER this week getting immersed in the specificity of ITER challenges, visiting the site, and improving his understanding of the details of the ITER Project.

"My understanding is very young ... barely four months old ... however I have been following the progress of fusion plasma R&D from a distance for several decades now."

Although as a young engineer he began his career in the field of renewable energy, Mark took a lengthy detour over to the space industry. For 28 years he held positions of increasing responsibility at NASA, culminating as program director for the International Space Station (ISS) Division at NASA Headquarters.

Of nearly three decades as part of the ambitious ISS program, following the project from conception through delivery, Mark retains many lessons—lessons that he sought to share with the ITER community during an Inside ITER seminar last week.

"For the first time in human history, we're now finding industrialized nations forming partnerships to design and build complex, technological assets for which no nation alone can bear the cost or the risk. Perhaps the lessons learned from ISS will be of use to us all, as we pursue yet another grand challenge through international partnership."

Mark spoke of the challenge of maintaining public support for complex, long-term projects through the inevitable changes in government priorities, economic conditions, and the policy-making environment. "The ISS is now up and running and I'm confident that the future R&D potential of the Space Station is at least as great as the engineering achievements already in hand. But it took 25 years to get to this point ... Along the way it was important to show progress in incremental steps, to celebrate the unprecedented scientific and technical merits of the intermediate steps as well as the final goal."

He also underlined the challenge that it had been for the ISS program to integrate subsystems delivered by each Partner that, in the end, had to become interoperable. "The challenge did not end with the delivery and successful acceptance testing of each component ... that's when the challenge began," Mark stressed. "The delivering partner stayed actively engaged until the whole system was operating according to specifications. We called this 'sustaining engineering.' It was by treating all ISS Partners as perennial stakeholders that, in the end, each one took pride in their ongoing contributions to the success of the ISS team."

Mark took the audience back to the early days of the ISS program, recalling the "chaotic period" around the end of the preliminary design phase when people from around the world—speaking different languages, employing different design standards, and advocating different approaches to qualifying system performance and reliability—had gathered to build a permanently crewed, full service space station in low-Earth orbit.

"The sheer volume of requirements was almost overwhelming," says Mark. But with the rigorous management of the change request process and the successful organization of the systems engineering and integration function ("NASA's 'forte'") the program advance successfully. "That's why I'm personally so excited about human progress in Very Large-Scale International Systems Integration (VLISI). The state-of-the-art is really advancing globally."

One last word to the assembled crowd: "NASA had evolved a culture of testing in order to avoid schedule stalls along the way. This testing culture turned out to be invaluable to the ISS program, where we had systems and elements from around the world that were seeing one another for the first time in space. There was no room for error. We implemented a costly, but very effective multi-element integrated testing capability that exposed the potential 'glitches' that would have cost tens of millions had we encountered those faults for the first time during operations."

The ISS partners were successful in building the Space Station—an absolutely Herculean effort—because of teamwork and risk management, Mark concluded. Before ending with a quote from Henry Ford, the father of the modern assembly line: "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."


One of the ITER vacuum vessel forgings made out of highly refined F316L(N) IG steel.
In the early hours of Monday, 29 October 2012, the last of 633 massive stainless steel forgings for the ITER vacuum vessel left the KIND premises in rural Gummersbach, Germany. Their destination: Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea.

The forgings, made from highly refined F316L(N) IG steel, will be used for the construction of the first two sectors of the ITER vacuum vessel. The vacuum vessel is a hermetically-sealed steel container that contains the fusion plasma and acts as a first safety containment barrier. The manufacturing of the vessel is divided between Europe, which will supply seven sectors, and Korea, which will supply two sectors.

"We are very proud of being able to deliver these very special and tailor-made components for ITER on time," said Markus Kind, commercial managing director of the family-run company that is well-known for its experience in custom-made forgings (whether the 2,000 pieces manufactured for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN or the 15-tonne propeller shaft of a super yacht).

It took two full days to load the precious goods weighing 360 tonnes into 20 shipping containers.

The cargo Don Giovanni is now headed for Ulsan, South Korea, where the fabrication of the first two vacuum vessel sectors is in full swing. 

"The start of vacuum vessel sector welding is a historical moment for the ITER Project as it marks the manufacturing of the first fully licensed vacuum vessel for a fusion reactor in the word," said Alexander Alekseev, director of the ITER Tokamak Directorate during a recent visit to the Hyundai facility. "The Korean Domestic Agency and Hyundai Heavy Industries have done a great job. I know that it was not easy ... I appreciate very much the work done. This is a good start; we are quite confident that Korea will deliver all the sectors according to schedule."

Folk dancing in Ahmedabad during the 6th ITER International School.
The 6th ITER International School was held in Ahmedabad, India from 2-6 December on the topic of radio frequency heating and current drive. The ITER International School, held annually since 2007, aims to prepare young researchers to tackle the challenges of magnetic fusion devices and to spread the global knowledge required for a timely and competent exploitation of the ITER physics potential.

Contributing about 55 percent of the auxiliary power in ITER's Baseline scenario, radio frequency heating and current drive will play a critical role in achieving ITER performance goals. Initially 20 MW of ion cyclotron and 20 MW of electron cyclotron radio frequency power will be installed in ITER; this may be upgraded to double Baseline values in later phases with addition of a further lower hybrid current drive system.

The School was sponsored and hosted jointly by the Indian Domestic Agency and the Institute for Plasma Research, IPR. In addition to approximately 40 participants from India, there were 37 participants from around the world representing the ITER partners, but also Brazil, Thailand, the Ukraine and Nepal. Many PhD students and young researchers were present, and instructors from ITER partner countries delivered a total of 20 lectures during the five days of the program. Participants also presented posters on their work.

David Campbell, director of ITER's Plasma Operation Directorate, gave the inaugural presentation, stressing the important role played by the ITER International School in building up the manpower that will be crucial for the operation of ITER over several decades.