On 14 and 15 June 2011, the ITER Council, the governing body of the ITER Organization, convened for the eighth time in its history.
The two-day meeting in Aomori, Japan brought together representatives from the seven ITER Members: China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.
Maintaining the ITER project's schedule within approved funding, including mitigating the effects of the Japanese earthquake on the manufacturing of critical components, were among the important issues discussed at this eighth meeting.
A strategic plan for schedule performance recovery will be developed by early October 2011. During the meeting, Osamu Motojima, the Director-General of the ITER Organization stressed "We will take all necessary measures to minimize the delay."
The Council expressed its satisfaction with the progress of building construction onsite in Cadarache and the fabrication of major components around the world. It also noted the measures taken by the ITER Organization to improve project management and acknowledged joint efforts made by the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies for cost reduction and containment.
A strange coincidence: a magnitude 5 earthquake struck Aomori Prefecture and its vicinity on the night of 15 June, only a few hours after the 8th ITER Council addressed the consequences of the natural disaster that hit Japan on the 11 March 2011.
On 28 April, the Japanese Deputy Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Yasutaka Moriguchi, had indeed informed the ITER Organization and the Heads of Delegations to the ITER Council that the disaster had affected some installations involved in the ITER project: "The JAEA Naka Fusion Institute has suffered [...] damages," he wrote. "In particular, the buildings for superconducting magnet test equipment and Neutral Beam test equipment were seriously damaged and access to these buildings is restricted to avoid further harm from frequent aftershocks." According to the Deputy Minister, a delay of at least one year is likely to be incurred.
Maintaining the ITER project schedule was thus one of the important issues discussed at Council this week. It was agreed that every Member will assess its own situation and that a Council-level meeting will be held not later that the beginning of October to put together a collaborative strategic plan for schedule performance recovery. In particular, the possibility of switching or swapping the manufacturing of certain components and systems will be examined.
The meeting went smoothly through the other agenda items. Building and manufacturing progress was evoked, and the Council endorsed a set of guidelines on how to distribute the costs for the Additional Direct Investment items that had materialized following a comprehensive review of the ITER design in 2008.
After the formal meeting, participants visited the International Fusion Energy Research Center that is hosting Broader Approach activities in Rokkasho-mura, including a supercomputer centre which will be provided by Europe, a DEMO R&D building and a prototype accelerator for the IFMIF materials test facility for future fusion reactors. A European and Japanese collaboration in the field of fusion energy, the Broader Approach agreement was concluded for 10 years and represents about EUR 340 million of European investment. It aims to complement the ITER project and to accelerate the realization of fusion energy by carrying out R&D and developing advanced technologies for the future fusion power reactor DEMO.
The element tritium can be put to many uses. Combined with deuterium, it makes an excellent fusion fuel. In association with phosphorous material, it can provide a glow-in-the-dark function to wristwatches, key chains, exit signs or weapon sights.
As for the word "tritium," it seems to have acquired a strong marketing value over the past recent years. In 2009, for instance, French automaker Citroën created a light greenish beige colour for its C1 model which it named "jaune tritium" (tritium yellow).
"We were looking for both a colour and a name that would convey an impression of brightness and lightness," explains Marc Chatrieux, of Citroën's design team. "One of our colourists was using glow-in-the-dark tape in her daughter's room—she came up with the word "tritium" and it sounded nice enough, especially since the colours we are using on our C1 model are obtained with a three-layer paint."
The fact that the element tritium is slightly radioactive did not bother Citroën's design team. "Radioactivity," says Chatrieux, "is an integral part of life..." Nor did it trouble Paolo Bisol, a naval architect in Cannes on the French Riviera who designed the Tritium 720, a "fast, exciting trimaran, able to satisfy the multihull speed freaks but also suitable for family outings and coastal cruising."
Tritium is also the name chosen by a real-estate developer for an office building in one of Aix-en-Provence's business parks. Le Tritium is home to the regional headquarters of a major international bank, a large recruitment agency and several professionals.
Another instance of the use of tritium outside the field of fusion can be found in Trezzo, near Milan, Italy, where La Tritium Calcio, a soccer team established in 1908, was promoted this year to the Professional League's First Division.
The explanation, here, is historical—in Roman times, the city of Trezzo was named ... Tritium.
Strategy, corporate accountability and better coordination among the different stakeholders are some of the main characteristics of the new modus operandi of F4E, the organization responsible for Europe's contribution to ITER.
The Governing Board of the European Domestic Agency for ITER (F4E) recently adopted a package of measures to improve the organization's corporate governance and accountability in response to the conclusions of the July 2010 Council of the European Union.
The Governing Board also decided to revise the financial rules of F4E and involve the European Commission's Internal Audit Service. A new team of chairs and vice-chairs for F4E's Governing Board and its subsidiary committees was also appointed.
One of the main aims of the new measures is to allow the F4E Governing Board to focus more on supervising the organization's overall strategy and reinforcing corporate accountability. At the same time, the role of the F4E Executive Committee has been strengthened to offer early advice on procurement strategies.
The creation of the Administration and Finance Committee, as well as the involvement of the European Commission's Internal Audit Service, are measures intended to guarantee a better execution of tasks. A new committee, known as the "Bureau", will be set up to enhance coordination between the Governing Board and its subsidiary committees.
Finally, following the request of the Council of the European Union, the publication of a call for an annual independent assessment of F4E has already been launched.
The meeting also marked the departure of three chairs who reached the end of their four-year mandates and whose contribution has been instrumental in setting up F4E: Carlos Varandas, Chair of the Governing Board; Quang Tran, Chair of the Technical Advisory Panel; and Karl Tichmann, Chair of the Executive Committee.
The newly appointed chairs are: Stuart Ward, Chair of the Governing Board; Cor Katerberg, Chair of the Administration and Finance Committee and Vice-Chair of the Governing Board; Joaquin Sanchez, Chair of the TAP and Vice-Chair of the Governing Board; Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph, Chair of the Audit Committee; and Lisbeth Grønberg, Chair of the Executive Committee.
The next meeting of the Governing Board will take place on 24-25 November.
In the larger-than-life ITER Tokamak, everything will be big ... from the toroidal field coils each weighing as much as a loaded Boeing 747 airplane ... to the volume of the ITER plasma, nearly ten times that of the largest currently operating tokamak.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the ITER Cryoplant will also be impressive in size. With an installed cooling power of 65 kW at 4.5 K and up to 1300 kW at 80 K, it will be the largest concentrated cryogenic system in the world (see related article in Newsline 168
Cryogenic technology will be extensively used at ITER to create and maintain low-temperature conditions for magnets, thermal shields, cryopumps and some diagnostics systems. The ITER Cryoplant
—composed of helium and nitrogen refrigerators, an 80 K helium loop and all the necessary auxiliary systems for efficient and uninterruped operation—will produce the required cooling power to be distributed through a complex system of cryolines and cold boxes that make up the cryodistribution system.
This week, another step towards the procurement of the ITER cryogenic system was taken with the signature of the Procurement Arrangement for the Liquid Nitrogen (LN₂) Plant and Auxiliary Systems with the European Domestic Agency.
The LN₂ Plant will provide liquid nitrogen cooling for the Liquid Helium Plant and the 80 K helium loop, as well as storage for the LN₂ inventory. The plant is made up of two nitrogen refrigerators, two 80 K Helium loop refrigerators, helium and nitrogen storage, helium recovering and purification, and heaters.
"The ITER cryogenics system is a closed loop system," explains Emmanuel Monneret, Technical Responsible Officer for the Procurement Arrangement and member of ITER's cryogenics team. "We need the capacity to store the entire inventory of gases during maintenance periods, when the ITER magnets are returned to room temperature. The inventory (25 tons of helium and 160 tons of liquid nitrogen) is recovered and stored in warm (300 K) and cold (4 K and 80 K) tanks until needed again for operation." (The tanks are shown in blue in the above diagram.)
In addition, two giant 80 K quench tanks are reserved for the recovery of helium in case of a magnet quench—a situation where superconductivity is lost due to a local temperature rise in the magnets.
The European Domestic Agency (EU-DA) is responsible for the detailled design, manufacturing, installation and testing of the LN2 Plant and Auxiliary Systems. "Two aspects of this procurement are 'out of the ordinary,'" says Emmanuel. "First, the storage designed for quench recovery will be the largest of its kind. And second, the plant will use a helium gas compression technique—centrifugal compression—that has never been used before on this scale. Standard Helium oil screwed compressor can't be used in this case because of the compression ratio and flow volume required by the ITER machine."
"This has certainly been a challenging PA to prepare," says Plant Engineering Division Head Luigi Serio. "The team worked very hard to establish the conceptual design and finalize the requirements for an efficient and reliable plant. We're satisfied with the result and with the collaborative spirit established with our colleagues at EU-DA, to whom we now hand over procurement responsibility
"Unfortunately ... there is no time to celebrate!" he adds. "We have to issue the call for tender for the direct procurement of the Helium refrigerators before August."
Approximately three years will be necessary for the design and manufacturing of the LN₂ plant and Auxiliary Systems. The first component deliveries are expected at the end of 2014 for installation and testing activities to begin.
The PIG is dead, long live the PIN. Babe the pig is stretched out flat in a large steel casserole, soaking in gravy and vegetables. A flag with three initials is sticking out of its roasted shoulder indicating a new dawn for the assembled 27 communication officers from the fusion labs within Europe, formerly known as the EFDA Public Information Group (PIG).
Finding a less omnivorous name for the group, now called the Public Information Network, was something of a personal matter for Petra Nieckchen, the new head of communication within EFDA
. EFDA is the umbrella organization that unites all the fusion labs in Europe, including those that host the largest existing tokamak, JET, and the latest newcomer to the international stellarator family, Wendelstein W7-X, which is currently being assembled at the Max Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics in Greifswald, in the far north of Germany. It was here in the old Hanse town that the PIN members convened last week for their annual gathering to discuss the means and strategies for promoting potential uses of fusion energy.
The meeting was opened by EFDA Leader Francesco Romanelli, speaking from the JET Headquarters in Culham, England via webcam. "EFDA," he said, "should act as a catalyst between the different fusion associations in Europe and define the path forward." This path, Romanelli explained further, will lead to the design of a Demonstration Reactor (DEMO). First design activities recently started at the EFDA worksite in Garching, Germany (click here
for more info).
Besides exchanging the latest news from their institutions and the ITER project, as well as discussing a future communication strategy in a Europe that has, at least partly, changed its perception of nuclear energy, the PIN invited two guest speakers for inspiration. James Gillies, head of communication at CERN
, reported on the months that preceded and followed the start of the LHC, and the subsequent quench of one of its magnets. "Now," Gillies said, quoting Bertold Brecht, "the troubles of the mountains lie behind us. Before us lie the troubles of the planes." The next challenge after the media hype will be to keep the interest in the project.
The second invited guest speaker to the PIN meeting was Claus Madsen, former communication head at the European Southern Observatory (ESO
) and now senior advisor to EFDA. He chose a slightly modified Hamlet quote, "To Communicate or Not to Be," as the title for his talk about the new world of technology-driven communication. Modern communication tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have dramatically changed the media and its pace. "Which doesn't mean that it is now easier to get your message across," Madsen stressed. "Everybody shouts, but who listens?"
The ITER Local Commission for Information (CLI) convened for its fifth General Assembly this Friday in the Council Room at the Château de Cadarache.
The ITER CLI acts as an interface between the installation's operator and the local population. An independent body, it is composed of representatives from local government, environmental groups, trade unions, businesses, health professionals and nuclear experts.
Alain Mailliat, one of the CLI's nuclear experts, presented the conclusions of the special Work Group that was established to analyse the 3,200 pages of the DAC files, the official request for authorization to build the ITER installation.
The Work Group formulated several remarks and asked for additional study of some specific environmental and safety issues. All in all, however, Alain Mailliat acknowledged the "quality and pertinence" of the documents produced by the ITER Organization and the "patience" of the ITER experts in explaining them to the lay public.
"Only through total transparency can we achieve a trusting relationship with you," said ITER Deputy-Director Carlos Alejaldre to the CLI members.