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The video stream from the helicopter is particularly impressive: it's like viewing the negative of a black-and-white movie, where people appear as greyish silhouettes and the hot engines of the trailer as intense white. © Courtesy Gendarmerie Nationale
Anyone travelling in France on vacation or long weekends has heard of Bison futé, a name inspired by American Indian culture that translates as "Cunning Buffalo."

Bison futé is the national gendarmerie-run service that provides real-time information on traffic conditions, road safety and driving restrictions in France.

Last week, the Bison futé command centre for the southeast quarter of French territory, located in Marseille, was busy with a very special mission: monitoring the ITER test convoy as it slowing progressed along the ITER Itinerary.

Every night, as the convoy was readied for yet another leg of the journey to the ITER site, a group of five to six people representing the French authorities (Préfecture), the gendarmerie forces and Agence Iter France prepared for another sleepless night.

As they sat in front of an array of computer screens and radio equipment, the members of this small "ITER cell" had a unique and privileged view on the ongoing operation, some 60 kilometres away.

"Actually, we are the only ones who have a global vision," says Colonel Geneau of the gendarmerie. "We are connected by radio and telephone with all parties involved. Geolocalization devices on the convoy vehicles provide us with real-time information on convoy progression and we even have infrared images from a helicopter hovering high above the convoy..."

Watching the video stream from the helicopter is particularly impressive: it's like viewing the negative of a black-and-white movie, where people appear as greyish silhouettes and the hot engines of the trailer as intense white. (The helicopter's usual routine is to track offenders or missing persons).

In case of an incident, the ITER cell's "global view" would enable Colonel Geneau to activate the proper response. "We, too, are testing our organization in advance of the actual transport of ITER components," he says.

The pellet injector installed on the DIII-D Tokamak in San Diego was developed by ORNL for fuelling and plasma edge control experiments. Photo: US ITER/ORNL
Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a continuous extruder for fusion fuel and are advancing state-of-the-art fuelling and plasma control for ITER. Reliable, high-speed continuous fuelling is essential for ITER to meet its goal of operating at 500 MW for several minutes at a time.

The latest pellet injection experiments using US ITER prototype designs were performed during the week of 22 July at the DIII-D Tokamak operated by General Atomics in San Diego, California. The conceptual design review for the ITER pellet injection system was completed earlier this year, and preparations are now underway for full-scale prototype testing.

The task of the pellet injection system is to provide plasma fuelling, while also lessening the impact of plasma instabilities due to large transient heat loads. The ITER pellet injectors must operate continuously, which is very different from most existing tokamak pellet injectors. The ITER machine also requires a higher rate of pellet fuelling throughput.

According to Dave Rasmussen, team leader for the US ITER pellet injection and disruption mitigation systems, "The ITER pellet injectors will require an increase in the deuterium-tritium mass flow and duration by a factor of 1,000 compared to present systems."

To produce the pellets, researchers developed a twin-screw extruder which shapes a continuous ice stream of deuterium-tritium fuel into specific diameters and lengths.

"There are existing extruders used on tokamaks today, but they cannot meet the requirements of ITER. On most current installations, extruders have only needed to supply a few seconds of fuel pellets at a time, but the ITER Tokamak will require almost an hour of a continuous ice stream for pellet injection. The ORNL twin-screw extruder is designed to meet the requirements of ITER," notes Mark Lyttle, a project engineer for the US ITER pellet injection and disruption mitigation systems.

Multiple pellet injectors will be installed on the ITER Tokamak, with up to two injectors at each of three locations on the machine. Some locations will be used more for fuelling while others will be deployed for lessening the impact of plasma instabilities known as edge localized modes (ELMs) by a technique called pellet ELM pacing. The pellet injector can also insert impurity pellets made of argon, neon, or nitrogen into the Tokamak for plasma impurity studies. The pellet injectors must also be able to handle tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a half-life of about 12 years, safely.

"There is a 30-year technology development history at ORNL behind the ITER pellet injection design," says Lyttle.

Under testing now is a 1:5 scale pellet twin-screw extruder. "We do plan to build a full-scale prototype and test it at the Spallation Neutron Source cryogenic facility at ORNL, where we have access to a supply of supercritical helium. Supercritical helium at only 5 degrees above absolute zero is used as the coolant to form the pellet ice and we are lucky to have one of the few facilities in the world that can supply our needs here at ORNL," says Lyttle.

Other key upcoming activities for researchers and engineers are tests of a propellant gas recirculation loop for the pellet injection system using a tritium-compatible vacuum pump. The recirculation loop supplies the pressurized propellant gas and assures that the gas used to accelerate the pellets is not injected into the vacuum chamber of the ITER Tokamak during the fuelling process.

"Initial tests on the pumping speed look promising," observes Lyttle. This pump has been tested with helium gas and soon will be tested with hydrogen gas. Ultimately, the pump and loop will undergo a multi-year "lifetime" test to assure its readiness for the ITER pellet injection system, where 99.9% availability is required.

For the original article and more news from US ITER, click here.

Opening the floor to the ISFNT Industrial Exhibition: Chairman Joaquin Sanchez (CIEMAT director); Fusion for Energy Director Henrik Bindslev; ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima; Vice-Consul of Netherlands in Barcelona Dirk Kremer; Hideyuki Takatsu, part of the ISFNT steering committee and ITER Council Chair; and Pere Torres, Secretary of Enterprise and Competitiveness for the Generalitat de Catalunya.
Spain's relationship with ITER is especially close as the city of Barcelona hosts the European agency Fusion for Energy, which manages the European contribution to the project.

Spanish research centres—led by CIEMAT and in cooperation with other European partners—play a crucial role in ITER by contributing to the development of diagnostic systems, plasma heating components, test blanket modules, and control and data acquisition systems.

The Centre for the Industrial and Technological Development (CDTI) promotes the participation of Spanish industry and acts as a focal point between companies and ITER. For Spanish industry, ITER is a unique opportunity to develop cutting-edge technologies, but also an occasion to foster commercial products in industrial areas outside fusion energy. This cross-fertilization will contribute to the scientific and technological progress in the coming decades.

Since 2008, Spanish companies have earned an increasing number of contracts for ITER, with a peak in 2012. According to the latest estimates, Spanish industry has won over EUR 400 million in contracts in a highly competitive market, with many opportunities for participation ongoing. Spanish industrial capabilities cover a wide range of technological areas, making it possible to participate in the fabrication of many ITER components such as the vacuum vessel, magnets, buildings, test blankets modules, plant systems, in-vessel components, remote handling, safety, instrumentation and control and CODAC, to name but a few.

Spanish companies have also won important contracts in other fusion facilities such as the European tokamak JET, TJ-II (CIEMAT) and W7X (Germany) and have taken on significant challenges in the supply of components for the Spanish in-kind contributions to the Broader Approach projects IFMIF-EVEDA and JT-60.

Many of the developments for ITER and fusion projects have been made in collaboration with other European industries either through consortia or through the supplier chain, showing that the effort for fusion is really framed inside a wide European dimension.

The five-storey ITER Headquarters will be extended this year by 35 metres to the west, providing an extra 350 desk spaces. © Ricciotti
In less than one year the capacity of ITER Headquarters will have increased to about 900 desks, from 550 currently, following the award of the extension construction contract signed in July with a French consortium (Vinci). Drilling to investigate the soil and rock of the land parcel near the west end of the ITER Headquarters, where the 35-metre extension will be added, began last week.

The extension will provide much-needed additional space for the ITER Project team: projections show that during the peak of construction there will be more demand for offices than can be accommodated in the current ITER Headquarters building or existing pre-fabricated structures.

Work should progress rapidly on the extension once the worksite has been secured and temporary contractor offices are in place. During the month of October, excavation and levelling operations will begin. Foundation pouring will be carried out in November and December and—beginning early in the new year—the structure of the five-storey building will rise at the rate of approximately one level every three weeks. The entire building will be standing in May 2014.

The design and plans for the 3,500 m² extension were provided by the firm of local architect Rudy Ricciotti, who was the principle in the team that conceived the original project—the 20,000-square-metre Headquarters that was handed over to the ITER Organization in October 2012. The tender offer launched in March by the ITER Organization was concluded on 26 July with the award of the contract to Travaux du Midi/Dumez Méditerranée (Vinci).

From the exterior, the extension will look like a carbon copy of the original, although important cost-saving measures were put into place to respect the strict budget. Employees with desks in the new extension will take the last elevator in the main building to arrive at their offices (there will be no elevator in the extension, although the space for an elevator shaft will be maintained on the exterior of the building in case it becomes necessary to add this feature in the future). Choices were also made on the finishing materials that resulted in important cost savings.

The priority during the tendering and negotiation phase for this contract was to respect the budget and the schedule. The EUR 7.5 million budget for the extension (which includes the design, construction and the addition of an extra parking level in the main ITER lot) will be offset by charging existing and future contractors who use office space in the ITER buildings. 

Employees will notice changes to their work environment in the weeks and months to come. The tall fence that will be erected around the extension building site will reduce the road in front of Headquarters to one lane, with alternating traffic lights for the shuttle buses that travel between office buildings. Also, the large bay windows that terminate the west-end corridors in the main Headquarters building will soon be replaced by solid walls, with soundproofing to reduce construction noise.

"Clauses were negotiated into the contract to make noise reduction a priority on this worksite," says Erwan Duval, Facility Management Officer. "We have some latitude—for example the loudest operations can be scheduled before the arrival of employees in the morning. We are also fortunate that the heaviest works will be over by the time windows are opened again next spring."

The completed extension is planned for delivery in July 2014.

ITER Director-General Motojima introduces Pere Torres, the representative of the Catalonian government, to the ITER machine.
Last week, 16-20 September, the fusion community convened in Barcelona, Spain for the International Symposium on Fusion Nuclear Technology (ISFNT). More than 750 participants gathered at the Palau de Congressos to be brought up to date on developments in the field of fusion technology and materials and on the construction of ITER—the "symbol and example of global cooperation to tackle a global energy problem," according to Pere Torres, Secretary of Enterprise and Competitiveness of the Generalitat de Catalunya, as he opened the symposium.

The ISFNT is recognized as one of the main international gatherings on fusion energy with a clear focus on reactor-relevant technology. In its 11th edition last week, the symposium took a close look not only on the current state-of-the-art technology related to ITER, but also dared to look forward to the possible design, requirements and safety aspects of future DEMO reactors and power plants.

The road forward, it seems, is not yet clearly delineated. Different concepts were presented; some countries, like China, seem to even have more than one iron in the fire. Complementing these discussions, a special fusion Roadmap Panel—moderated by prominent fusion representatives—tried to narrow down the key issues on the way to a fusion reactor.

Dedicated workshops addressed future reactor-relevant technologies such as ceramic breeder blankets or the treatment of beryllium; a half-day industrial workshop was set up to provide companies with updated information on the current procurement status of ITER and forthcoming opportunities; no less than 161 posters gave lots of opportunity to exchange and connect. And this is what the ISFNT is all about. In the words of Pere Torres, "This event contributes to the collaboration amongst researchers and allows for the sharing of knowledge." 

The conference closed with a presentation by South Korea as host to the next ISFNT from 14-18 September 2015 on the island of Jeju.