Some 20 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) came to the ITER site in Cadarache last week to take a closer look at the project's material and budgetary developments. During their three-day visit the MEPs had intensive discussions with representatives of the ITER management, the European Domestic Agency, and local authorities.
The principal motivation for the delegates' trip from Brussels to southern France was the issue of EUR 1.3 billion in extra funding that will be necessary to cover the European contribution to ITER for the years 2012 and 2013. In December, a plan to secure European financing of ITER was rejected by the European Parliament.
"Our objective in coming here to ITER was not to discuss the principle of our support to the project," the French Christian Democrat Damien Abad said, who, at 31, is the youngest member of the European Parliament. "We acknowledge the efforts made by the ITER Organization to enforce stricter and more efficient management rules." "But," adds Ingeborg Grässle, a Christian Democrat from Germany, "we need to know how reliable the new cost estimates are."
The highlight of the three-day discussion marathon taking place in a hotel in Aix-en-Provence was an extensive tour around the ITER construction site, which left even the Green delegate Bart Staes from Belgium, co-chair of the delegation, impressed: "I must say that for us, until yesterday, ITER was a paper project. Visiting the site has changed this perception—we now feel it is reality."
Pleased to show that "France supports the ITER project as much as possible by complying with its commitments on time and to specification," Bernard Bigot, Administrateur général du CEA (Chairman, French Atomic Energy Agency) used the microphone in one of the two buses to give a running commentary on the site visit. "The European Parliament plays a very important role in the implementation of the European involvement in the ITER project," he said afterwards. "I see it as highly positive that a delegation of MEPs decides to come to the site here in Cadarache to get first-hand information on ITER, as they will have to make an important decision about the extra funding for the years 2012-2013. ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima and the Director of Fusion for Energy, Frank Briscoe—as well as their teams—have done an excellent job in showing precisely the state of advancement of construction works and their capability to manage the project in a very professional way."
At the press conference that concluded the MEP visit, the Social Democrat Anne Jensen from Denmark summarized the outcome as "fruitful." "We had good discussions with the people involved in the management of the ITER project," she said, underlining once more that the purpose of the visit was not to discuss the project as such. "The European Parliament is in favour of ITER," she stressed. "However we needed an assessment of cost, cost increase, and cost-related risk. We wanted to make sure that the management structure is such that the risks can be managed. The European Parliament will provide the EUR 6.6 billion the project needs," she concluded. "We now have to carefully assess if it is enough."
In addition to what he said during the press conference, Damien Abad distributed a pamphlet entitled MEPs support ITER. "The vast majority of MEPs support the ITER project," the document reads. "The present mission has allowed us to see more clearly into a number of issues, and worries, regarding the governance of the project and the increase in the cost. What we are asking for is a more stringent budget policy that will enable the finalization of the project. Nothing would be costlier than stopping the project. The question is not about being pro- or anti-nuclear. It is about creating the conditions of the energetic independence of Europe."
The matter of how to finance ITER will now be reviewed again by the European Parliament in October. "We, Europe, are in the driver seat," Rudolf Strohmeier, Deputy Director-General of the Research and Innovation Directorate within the European Commission, stressed. "It has now become an urgent matter to find a solution." Any delay would not be "for free"; with contracts signed for more than EUR 1 billion, abandoning the project "is not a real option," Strohmeier stressed. "ITER is and will remain an integral part of the European research policy."
Maintaining the ITER project's schedule within the approved funding and mitigating the impact of the Japanese earthquake on the manufacturing of critical components were among the issues discussed at the eleventh meeting of the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) that took place in Cadarache last week.
"This is a very important meeting as we proceed with the construction of ITER," Director-General Osamu Motojima stated to the delegates from the seven ITER Members. In his opening address, the Director-General presented a set of strategic approaches to correct schedule variances and to realize further cost-saving measures. Special attention was given to progress made in the allocation of costs for the Additional Direct Investments
that had materialized following a comprehensive review of the ITER design in 2008.
In January, MAC had recommended a set of guidelines on how to distribute these additional costs among the Members. The issue at this week's meeting was how to implement the execution of these guidelines. MAC Chairman, Gyung-Su Lee, explained. "This is a painful, but inevitable process that we have to go through in order to put the ITER project back on course."
Another important issue on the MAC's agenda was the assessment of the impact on the ITER project schedule of the earthquake that hit the east coast of Japan in March. A fact-finding team led by Deputy Director-General Remmelt Haange travelled to Japan earlier this month to investigate the damage. His report, together with the images of partially destroyed manufacturing and testing facilities shown by the Head of the Japanese Domestic Agency, Hiromasa Ninomiya, made it clear that it will take some time to recover from the disaster. However how long this recovery will take is not yet clear. "We are still trying to get our arms around it," Deputy Director-General Rich Hawryluk stated. A special working group has now been established to pursue investigations and to come back with a recovery action plan within the next six months.
When building a house, you will, at one stage, have to decide where to place the kitchen and the bathroom in order to allow the architect to make provision for the required installations such as pipes and electrical cables.
The same holds for an installation like ITER. The only difference between your house and the largest fusion research facility ever built is the fact that if you change your plans, this might have a more or less severe impact on your construction budget—and on the formerly good relationship you had with your architect—but change will be possible. In ITER it will not!
"We have made provision for about 1,600 penetrations in the walls of the Tokamak Building," explains Ken Blackler, Head of the Assembly and Operations Division. "And that is it. Drilling additional holes through two-metre-thick reinforced concrete walls at a later stage will not be an option." A Building Integration Task Force was created in April this year in order to make sure that all the systems to be installed in the Tokamak Building, and in the adjacent Diagnostic and Tritium Buildings, are correctly defined in the overall master plan. This includes all the necessary pipes, ducts, structures, cable trays, penetrations and embedded plates.
Thirty-five people have been diverted from their usual jobs to form this Task Force, which demonstrates the seriousness of the exercise. "We have to freeze the design now in order to proceed with the construction with confidence,"explains Ken. "But before we do so, we are going through the buildings one final time, floor by floor, to see if everything has been included ... if nothing has been left out."
On Monday this week, the Task Force passed its first Design Integration Review for the lowest basement level of the buildings. At this meeting Responsible Officers presented the design status of each system in order to allow the review panel to assess the level of design and its integration into the building. All outstanding actions will now be completed before the data is transferred to the Architect Engineer at the end of this month in order to begin construction design in June.
This Design Integration Review process will now be repeated, one floor each month, and hopefully by December we will have reached the top floor.
A new magazine reports about the progress made in European fusion research: With the launch of Fusion in Europe
, EFDA combines its former publications Fusion News
. It intends to present European fusion research as the lively and productive community that it has been for decades now.
The quarterly newsletter addresses stakeholders such as politicians, partners in the European Commission and other organizations, as well as journalists and interested persons in general. A special section is directed to the European fusion community and the members of the various fusion-related committees. With a circulation exceeding 5,000, Fusion in Europe gives research news from all EFDA Associates high visibility within and beyond the fusion community.
Three main sections serve the various interests of the readers:
Moving forward provides organizational and research news from EFDA and Associates. JETInsight reports about JET—the machine, the research and the people. Community intends to keep all members of the widely scattered fusion community in the loop: It contains news about people, meetings, organizational changes or outreach and educational activities.
Christine Rüth and Petra Nieckchen are the editors of Fusion in Europe
. If you would like to provide input, please contact Christine Rüth at email@example.com
On 11—12 May, ITER representatives visited the cable manufacture and jacketing facilities in Italy that are under contract with the European Domestic Agency to provide part of the completed conductors for ITER's toroidal and poloidal field magnet systems.
The European contribution to the conductors of the ITER magnet systems represents approximately 20 percent of the entire amount of the Toroidal Field (TF) conductor lengths and 12 percent of the Poloidal Field (PF) lengths.
"It is important to develop a good working relationship with suppliers and the Domestic Agencies through regular visits, especially during the critical early stages of set-up and qualification," states Neil Mitchell, Head of the ITER Magnet Division. "This is the best way to ensure that ITER quality needs are met and it also allows informal discussions on flexibility—especially for cost saving and schedule optimization purposes—that are much more effective than formal meetings."
Following an international call for tender, the Italian Consortium for Applied Superconductivity (ICAS) was chosen by the European Domestic Agency (EU-DA) in 2010 for the cabling and jacketing of approximately 20 km of ITER TF conductor and the jacketing of about 22 km of ITER PF conductor. In addition to cabling and jacketing, ICAS is also charged with the procurement of the stainless steel tubes, wraps and central spirals required for the conductors. The ICAS consortium is composed of ENEA (Frascati, Italy) in charge of general project management, scheduling, administration and quality assurance; Tratos Cavi S.p.A. (Pieve Santo Stefano, Italy) for cable manufacture; and Criotec Impianti S.r.l. (Chivasso, Italy) for jacketing and the completion of the unit conductor lengths.
The EU-DA will supply TF copper and niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) strands to the consortium for cabling and jacketing. The PF cable lengths will be supplied by the Russian Domestic Agency (RF-DA) according to a Procurement Implementation Agreement signed between Europe and Russia that stipulates that the RF-DA will manufacture the niobium-titanium (NbTi) superconducting strand and cables for both the Russian and European PF conductor lengths, while the EU-DA will jacket both the Russian and European PF cables.
Overall, the EU-DA has the responsibility for the jacketing of more than 30 percent of the total amount of PF conductor lengths needed for the ITER project.
Since the contract signature, ICAS has begun very intense activity to design and build the machines and the tooling necessary for the contract and to launch the procurement of stainless steel jacket sections and other components. In particular, the jacketing line, an 800-metre-long line where the jacket is assembled and the cable inserted into the jacket, has been very recently completed at Criotec. In addition, a new cabling machine for the cabling of the PF jacket round-in-square tubes has been developed and built and is currently under qualification. For the cabling at Tratos, the three cabling machines needed for the five-stage cabling process are already operational and the first cabling trials have begun. The cabling of the ITER TF copper dummy cable length is foreseen to start in June.
The ITER Organization and the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA) last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will enable collaborative research actions to prepare for ITER, including the use of CEA's fusion facility Tore Supra.
The scope and type of technical activities comprised within this cooperation include the study of plasma-wall interactions, requirement and feasibility studies of ITER's diagnostic and heating and current drive systems, and tokamak operations. The cooperation further encompasses the organization of joint seminars, workshops, training activities and a PhD scheme. "The ITER Organization and CEA/IRFM have already established a fruitful relationship," says Gabriel Marbach, Head of the Institute of Magnetic Fusion Research (IRFM), the fusion branch within CEA that operates Tore Supra. "The Memorandum will allow us to further enhance our technical and scientific collaborations, taking advantage of our proximity and complementarities."
The memorandum was signed last Tuesday by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima and by Bernard Bigot, Administrateur général du CEA (Chairman, French Atomic Energy Agency), who stated after the handshake: "To secure the expected success of ITER and to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy for the sake the world's future, the ITER project requires the cooperation of all the involved parties. CEA is pleased if it may contribute further within the scope of this memorandum, which marks a new step in the successful cooperation with the ITER Organization that we have had since 2006."
On 17 May, the European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy hosted an Information Day to present engineering opportunities for the Test Blanket Module
(TBM) Systems for ITER. The aim of this one-day event was to provide interested companies with basic administrative and technical information related to the forthcoming call for tender F4E-OMF-331 "Framework contract(s) for the supply of engineering support in the area of TBM systems design and technological demonstration," in particular in areas such as TBM and ancillary systems design, nuclear maintenance, and safety analyses.
Approximately 45 companies with relevant TBM expertise attended and benefitted from the event as they were able to clarify questions and gain further understanding.
To access the presentations from the event, click here