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It has now been ten weeks since one of the four most severe earthquakes registered in the Earth's history hit the east coast of Japan. Our hearts are with the people who lost their homes and their belongings or—worse—their relatives and friends. While the country is getting back on its feet and dealing as best as possible with the devastation, at the ITER Organization we are trying to grasp the impact that the earthquake will have on the project's schedule.

Early May, Deputy Director-General Remmelt Haange led a fact-finding delegation to Japan to better understand and validate the damages done to the facilities that conduct important tests for ITER and also to visit a company that is likely to manufacture ITER components on behalf of the Japanese Domestic Agency. At the Domestic Agency located in Naka, the shockwave was registered with a force of 950 gal (cm/s2). Some of the buildings' structures were damaged—in certain cases severely. Access of personnel to the superconductor research facility and the neutral beam test building, for example, has been prohibited in order to avoid further disaster resulting from frequent aftershocks. For this reason, the status of the test facilities inside the buildings could not be verified.

These facts—together with the report given to us by our Japanese colleagues during the recent meeting of the Management Advisory Committee (MAC)—stipulate some urgent and drastic decision-making in order to avoid unacceptable delays to the project's schedule. I have therefore proposed to MAC to set up a Special Task Group made up of representatives from the ITER Organization and the seven Domestic Agencies, under my leadership, to develop a strategic plan for a new resource-loaded schedule which we plan to deliver in time for the ITER Council meeting in November this year. This proposal shall minimize schedule delays originating from the natural disaster in Japan, while respecting the capped construction costs of ITER. This may mean that we have to address selective deferral, where appropriate, and perhaps even de-scoping. But it is yet too early to speculate ... we will have to wait for the facts and findings to be elaborated by the Special Task Group.

A new feature on the ITER web, introduced this week, highlights Frequently Asked Questions about the ITER Project, fusion and the energy debate.

Short, understandable answers are provided to such diverse concerns as "Is ITER safe?", "Will "commercial fusion be ready when we need it?", and "What is the protection of ITER against external hazards?" The FAQ section, which will be updated regularly, answers the questions that are most commonly asked by visitors to the ITER site, the ITER website, and our Facebook page.

ITER is a project of unprecedented scale, involving worldwide cooperation, billions of euros of expenditure, and cutting-edge science. We're pleased to introduce this new section, where you may find just the answer you were looking for.

Have a look! We're sure you have a question...

You can also follow a wide variety of questions and answers about ITER on Facebook.

"We learned some very useful things that we will implement in our daily practice," says Guoqing Dai (third from right), the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Financial Support and Facilities at MOST.
As China becomes more and more involved in international scientific collaborations, government officials in Beijing are eager to examine the management policies such projects require.

"We want to make comparisons," explains Guoqing Dai, the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Financial Support and Facilities at the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (MOST).

"We are very interested in how a project such as ITER is managed and, more specifically, what financial risk policies are being implemented."

Mr. Dai and the six-member delegation he was heading found some of the answers they were seeking last Wednesday as they met with ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, Deputy Director-General (DDG) and Director of the ITER Administration Department  Rich Hawryluk, DDG Shaoqi Wang, and Head of the ITER Project Office Peter Swenson.

"We learned some very useful things that we will implement in our daily practice," adds Guoqing Dai. "We were impressed by ITER's comprehensive and systematic financial procedures and also by how closely Management and Finance collaborate."

The delegation from MOST and the Chinese Ministry of Finances also had an obvious interest in the utilization of China's contribution to the project. "This is taxpayers' money and we are responsible for it," says Guoqing Dai. "We came with a 'learning heart' and feel very good about what we learned."

The Chinese Government is serious about promoting fusion research: In this photo you see the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, in short EAST, that went into operation in 2006.
China is planning to train 2,000 skilled experts to carry out research and development into a promising form of nuclear fusion that could become a major new source of power. The scientists and technicians will lead the nation's exploration of magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) and be trained during the next 10 years, said the Ministry of Science and Technology.

"China is trying to dispatch more qualified scientists to work on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France," said Cao Jianlin, vice-minister of science and technology.

The ITER reactor under construction in Europe is being financially supported by many countries and experts hope it will help them learn how to effectively produce power through nuclear fusion. China contributes 10 percent of the funding for the multi-billion-dollar project but is only supplying 5 percent of the scientists working on the initiative.

Source: China Daily

Click here to read the press release issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) - in Chinese.

A state-of-the-art virtual reality training centre has been established in an 18th century attic. Photo: FOM
In the attic of an 18th century mansion in Rijnhuizen, central Netherlands, state-of-the-art virtual reality is being used to simulate remote maintenance procedures as they will take place in the ITER Hot Cell Facility.

In the Remote Handling Study Centre (RHSC), a team of physicists, control engineers and remote handling experts are developing remote handling maintenance procedures for ITER components. RHSC—part of the Dutch Institute for Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen—was commissioned in March 2011.

The ITER Tokamak has a unique and modular architecture for the replacement and maintenance of diagnostics, heating systems and first wall elements. For safe and effective remote handling, all maintainable ITER components will need to comply with a complex set of requirements and standards.

The RHSC at Rijnhuizen was created to study remote handling maintenance processes at various levels of complexity, from relatively simple procedure checks using snapshots in the CAD system ... to time studies using virtual reality animations and sophisticated operational sequence validation with multiple operators in real-time. The multi-operator facility mimics a remote handling work cell of the type that is presently foreseen for the ITER remote handling control room, where four operators will work together on a single maintenance scenario. In total, ITER plans to have up to twelve 4-station work cells.

All of the individual operators' computers are linked into their own operator-specific views within a single, shared virtual environment. The operators use 3D interface devices to manipulate objects in the virtual world. A smooth arc drawn with a desktop stylus, for example, is immediately translated into motion by the "slaved" robotic arm. The virtual environment comes with a sophisticated physics engine to make its simulation as life-like as possible: accidentally brush a free-standing object and it will teeter and even fall over and roll away. Other work stations focus on different aspects of the same maintenance task such as controlling the crane motion, adjusting camera views, or tracking and signing off the maintenance procedures for successful completion.

Novel virtual reality technology creates a realistic setting in which the remote handling operators can interact with virtual ITER environments. A physics engine is used to emulate contact interaction in real-time and provide realistic haptic feedback. In RHSC, complex interactions between the operators and the control room software can be tested, task performance quantified, and operational resource usage estimated.

The goal of the Dutch facility is to support ITER developers in evaluating the remote handling compatibility of component design. Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen is also a partner in the EFDA GOT program that aims to train the next generation of remote handling developers and operators. RHSC manager Jarich Koning explains: "After two successful assessment campaigns for an upper plug and an equatorial port plug, the team is eager to broaden its horizon and put the virtual robots to work on maintenance scenarios for other ITER components and maintenance activities."

Careful planning of maintenance sequences can save enormous amounts of time and, during virtual test runs, any rough patches in the scenarios can be made apparent.

Lucio Rossi, Deputy Department Head (Technology) shows DG Motojima the junction of two conductors whose braze (a metal alloy welded joint) failed in the September 2008 experiment. © CERN
Robert Aymar, who headed the ITER Project from 1994 to 2004 and was Director-General of CERN from 2004 to 2008, turned 75 last March. As is traditional at CERN, a celebration was organized in his honour.

Several speakers, CEA Chairman Bernard Bigot, former Director of JET Jean Jacquinot and among them, were invited to retrace the career of the prominent physicist.

Aymar's birthday celebration was also the occasion for CERN to invite ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima to visit the installation for the first time.

CERN and ITER have a lot in common. Both are international collaborations with staff from more than 30 countries; both have faced significant cost increases and have had to implement stringent cost-containment policies; and both are pioneering challenging new technologies, for example in the field of cryogenics.

"There is a feeling of great excitement here," says Jacquinot who accompanied Director-General Motojima in his visit. "A sense of imminent discovery permeates the atmosphere; you can see it in people's eyes."

CERN is presently engaged in the quest of the "Higgs boson," a fundamental particle inferred from theory but that has yet to be observed.

Collaboration between the European institution and the world of fusion goes back a long way: CERN cryogenics owes a lot to developments in Tore Supra, and ITER is benefitting from numerous feedbacks from CERN experience in large superconducting coils.

CERN Council President Michel Spiro confided to the ITER visitors that CERN is contemplating fitting the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) with ITER-like niobium-tin superconducting coils. "Collaboration up to now," he said, "has been vital for both our institutions. It will be even more essential in the years to come."

"The idea," says Hervé Graulier, the head of the Welcome Office for International Companies (WOIC), "was to open a one-stop shop to facilitate the installation of companies attracted to the region."
A company that wishes to do business with ITER or, more generally, with energy projects being developed in the Provence-Alpes Côte d'Azur (PACA) region, first needs a door to knock on.

"That's precisely what we are," says Hervé Graulier, the head of the Welcome Office for International Companies (WOIC), a one-office agency based in an annex of the Château de Cadarache. "We are the entrance door that leads to the various public institutions and agencies providing information and support to companies that consider settling in the vicinity of ITER..."

WOIC was established in June 2009 as an offspring of some ten local and regional development agencies operating in the PACA region.

"The idea," says Graulier, "was to open a one-stop shop to facilitate the installation of companies attracted to the region."
Development agencies routinely send missions abroad to promote the region's assets and identify companies interested in doing business here. Graulier's job begins when they return home with a list of contacts and requests.

"Companies may want to know what the cost of labor in southern France is, how much an apartment rents for in Aix or Manosque, what kind of industrial buildings are available close to the ITER Itinerary, and, of course, what kind of public help they can apply for..."

Companies that intend to bid for ITER or European Domestic Agency contracts need this kind of information in order to prepare their offer. "They always have options," says Graulier. "We have to give them good reasons to choose our region."

WOIC's support is free of charge and remains available even after the company has settled in the ITER vicinity - a vicinity that extends all the way to Gap (130 kilometres to the north) and as far as Nice to the east. "We can help with staff mobility or finding the appropriate manpower resource. First and foremost, we are facilitators."

Since it was established two years ago WOIC has pursued some 45 projects - two-thirds connected in one way or another with the ITER project. Several were successful: a subsidiary of EADS, the mother company of Airbus Industries, opened a bureau in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance's business park; another engineering firm that had worked for Laser Mégajoule settled in Pertuis in order to be close to ITER, CEA-Cadarache and the other CEA research centre in Marcoule, etc.

In the field of renewable energies, a dozen foreign companies ended up creating 273 jobs in the PACA region in 2010. "These companies are not directly connected to ITER, of course, but the dynamics that ITER has initiated clearly had a part in their decision."

The ITER Project, says Graulier, "acts as a powerful lighthouse - at WOIC, we try to capitalize on this power to shed light on the rest of the regional landscape." The powerhouse has just turned its beam on. "We place great hopes on the coming machine assembly phase. In terms of human resource and welcoming capacity, the region here has all it takes to answer companies' needs."

WOIC considers that it is "part of the team": "Succeeding in helping companies to settle in this area," says Graulier, "is certainly contributing to the success of the ITER Project."

The new book on fusion describing the progress made in the past two decades.
Al Gore's book and video An Inconvenient Truth raised the public consciousness about the dangers of global warming and climate change. Another book has now been published that intends to convey the message that there is a solution. "A solution not only to global warming caused by anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, but also to the depletion of fossil fuels and to the wars in the Middle East related to our dependence on their supply of oil," says Francis F. Chen, the author of An Indispensable Truth.

In 1954, Francis "Frank" Chen was among Lyman Spitzer's first 15 employees at Princeton's Project Matterhorn, now known as PPPL. There, he instituted experiments on linear machines that led to the discovery of resistive drift waves, whose mechanism he worked out while on sabbatical at Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, in 1962-63. Two other young physicists were there at the same time: Paul Rebut and Robert Aymar, who later were instrumental in designing ITER. At UCLA since 1969, Frank opened up research on laser fusion, laser accelerators, and low-temperature plasmas.  He never lost interest in magnetic fusion, however, and decided that the greatest need was to explain fusion to the public. This book is his first attempt. 

"Most legislators and journalists have regarded fusion as a pipe dream with very little chance of success," Chen writes in his introduction. "They are misinformed, because times have changed. Achieving fusion energy is difficult, but the progress made in the past two decades has been remarkable. The physics issues are now understood well enough that serious engineering can begin." In his book, he gives in-depth and detailed information on why he believes this to be so.

Written "for a variety of readers, from green enthusiasts with no science background to Scientific American magazine subscribers," Chen's book gives a comprehensive summary of the stakes of climate change and energy supply—and how controlled fusion fits into the picture. "I tried to give a concise, impartial picture of the facts," Chen writes, admitting that he himself is not an expert on climate topics. "Here I am out of depth. I get my information from the same newspapers, magazines and websites that you do. But I think it is important to put fusion in the proper context within the general scheme of the world's future."

An Indispensable Truth is both an entertaining and an informative book that manages to explain the complexity of plasma physics without using formulas. "This is an important book for anyone who wishes to understand the greatest challenge we face," writes Steven Cowley, Director and CEO of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, UK and one of the book's reviewers. "Frank Chen makes the science of fusion and energy clear, compelling, and hugely enjoyable."

To read the book online, click here.