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ITER NEWSLINE 205
13 Jan, 2012
Every little boy dreams of becoming a fire fighter. Now imagine the dreams of a little boy whose father and grandfather are actually fire fighters! "I couldn't wait to reach the legal age of 16 to join the volunteer fire brigade," says Christophe Ramu, ITER's recently appointed section leader for Security Coordination.
Christophe joined his native Vinon-sur-Verdon fire brigade in 1988. He didn't have to wait long to receive his "baptism by fire": the summers of 1989 and 1990 in Provence were among the worst in the history of forest fires. The Sainte-Victoire, the "holy mountain" of Aix-en-Provence, was ravaged by flames, as were tens of thousands of hectares throughout the region.
The intense experience of those years confirmed his calling. Not only would Christophe continue to volunteer for the local fire brigade; he would also study to make firefighting his profession.
Firefighting in France is a civilian business, mostly conducted by volunteers (200,000 volunteers out of a total force of 240,000). There are, however, two prestigious exceptions: the Paris Fire Brigade, which is a French Army unit, and Marseille's Marine Fire Battalion (marins pompiers), which is a branch of the French Navy.
After graduating with a degree in health and security and passing the competitive examination to become an officer with honours, Christophe was offered the opportunity to do his French national service requirement in the Marseille Fire Battalion. "I was a 21-year-old junior lieutenant and on some evenings I would be the only officer on call in the whole city..."
The experience was intense and thrilling. Christophe liked the clear-cut workings of the military, the variety of the tasks, and the close-to-the-field nature of every operation. "Dealing with fires makes up only 10 percent of a firefighter's activity. The remaining 90 percent is all about rescuing and assisting people in every imaginable situation."
When his national service had ended, Christophe decided to stay with Marseille's Marine Fire Battalion. His engagement was to last 19 years, during which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander (Capitaine de corvette); acquired an expertise in ship safety and chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological risk (CBNR); conducted several missions abroad as a European assessor; and eventually headed the 700-hundred-student Marine Fire Navy School.
Christophe's job at ITER will be something akin to the one he performed when he formulated the security organization for the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle. As the twin-reactor warship was being constructed he devised the procedures to "protect the ship's personnel as well as the local population whenever the ship would touch port."
Nuclear installations are like high-sea vessels: they form a kind of bubble where specific rules apply and where efficiency depends on the cohesion of a close-knit community. Navy people have always felt at ease in nuclear projects, and Christophe, who arrived at ITER on 3 January, already does. "Working for ITER," he says, "is completely in line with my initial calling ... In two weeks, I have already learned a lot. I had an external vision of the project—now I must acquire its culture and I realize this requires a lot of finesse..."
With a little help from the ITER website, Newsline, and other publications, Lieutenant Commander Ramu is gradually penetrating the "scientific heart" of the project. And the more he advances, the more he finds it fascinating.
The Chinese Domestic Agency (CN-DA) signed two important contracts on 21 December 2011 with domestic suppliers for the procurement of electrical systems for ITER.
The contracts respectively cover the design and internal integration for AC/DC converters and the design and integration for Reactive Power Compensation (RPC) and Harmonic Filtering (HF). The Procurement Arrangements for these electrical packages were signed between the CN-DA and the ITER Organization in April 2011.
A tender evaluation meeting for the design and internal integration of RPC & HF was held in Beijing on 8 November 2011 in the presence of a representative of the ITER Organization, Jun Tao, and experts in the field. On the basis of its design solutions, the contract was awarded to the Rongxin Power Electronic Company Limited. During a similar tender evaluation process on 11 December, the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science (ASIPP) was chosen to supply the design and internal integration of ITER's AC/DC converters. The China International Tendering Corporation was authorized by the CN-DA to carry out the tendering process for the two packages.
During the signing ceremony on 21 December, CN-DA Director Luo Delong expressed his appreciation for the quality of the tendering work performed. He also stressed his high expectations for productive cooperation with the two supplying companies.
The Director of ASIPP Li Jian'gang stated that he was pleased that his institute had the confidence of the CN-DA. "I am convinced of the capability and determination of ASIPP in fulfilling the requirements of the contract." The director of the Rongxin Power Electronic Company Limited, Zuo Qiang, stated, "As a major enterprise in the field of power electronics, we appreciate the chance to participate in the ITER project. We also look forward to cooperating with ASIPP toward achieving a common goal."
The CN-DA will procure the fourteen AC/DC converters that will provide controllable current/voltage to ITER's six poloidal field coils. It will also procure the RPC & HF system rated at 750Mvar to stabilize the power grid and to provide the quality of electrical power necessary for operation.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has received approval from the US Department of Energy to upgrade its major test facility, the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX). The three-year project, worth USD 94 million, is part of PPPL's mission to chart an attractive course for the development of nuclear fusion as a clean, safe and abundant fuel for generating electricity.
"The US fusion program places increasing emphasis on fusion materials science, and as part of that long-term vision, is presently considering moving toward a fusion nuclear science facility (FNSF)," explains Jonathan Menard, the NSTX program director. "Its objective is to develop the experimental database for all fusion reactor internals and, in parallel with ITER, provide the basis for DEMO." (For more information, see a recent presentation by Dr. Edmund Synakowski, Associate Director, Office of Science, for Fusion Energy Sciences.)
"Both standard aspect ratio and low aspect ratio 'spherical' tokamaks are being considered for an FNSF device, and NSTX in the USA and MAST in the UK are the largest spherical tokamaks in the program worldwide. The spherical tokamak (ST) has the potential to provide a smaller and more maintainable FNSF, but many physics and technical issues remain for the ST. The recently begun upgrade of NSTX (and upcoming upgrade of MAST) will help address and resolve these remaining issues for the ST."
The NSTX Upgrade will include the doubling of the reactor's
magnetic field to 1 tesla, the doubling of its plasma current to 2 million amperes, the doubling of its beam heating power from 5 MW to 10 MW, and a quintupling of the pulse-length from 1 s to 5 s. "This enhancement will provide access to reduced collisionality (higher temperature) to allow the study of the plasma transport and stability properties much closer to FSNF conditions," says Menard. "The new second neutral beam system that will provide the increased heating power is aimed more tangentially to increase the current drive efficiency and controllability, and this should enable access to fully non-inductive operation. Fully non-inductive current drive is essential for steady-state operation of a tokamak or ST-based FNSF to provide continuous operation and high neutron fluence. The same new Neutral Beam Injection (NBI)system is also predicted to be much better absorbed at low plasma current and will enable tests of non-inductive plasma current ramp-up—a critical need for ST designs that do not incorporate a central solenoid."
"The NSTX Upgrade (NSTX-U) will also explore high-flux-expansion 'snowflake' divertors, a novel magnetic divertor named for its shape, as well as liquid lithium as potential divertor power and particle control solutions for FNSF and beyond. All of the above enhanced research capabilities of the NSTX Upgrade also address key research needs for DEMO—independent of aspect ratio. Lastly, the lower collisionality plasmas and overall expanded operating capabilities of the NSTX Upgrade (NSTX-U) facility will enhance support of ITER physics studies and ITPA joint experiments as we approach ITER operation. For example, the new NBI system and higher field will enable NSTX-U to modify the fast-ion distribution function and the drive for fast-ion instabilities, improving our ability to understand fast-ion confinement for ITER burning plasmas. As another example, NSTX-U will be able to investigate rotation damping and transport changes from 3D magnetic fields at reduced collisionality to support improved understanding of ELM control using 3D fields on ITER."
Click here to read the related story on the PPPL website.
The success of the fusion endeavor will crucially depend on the development of new materials capable of withstanding the harsh conditions inside a fusion reactor. The high temperature resulting from the fusion reactions together with neutron fluences of up to 200 displacements per atom (dpa) during the estimated lifetime of a reactor could give rise to hardening, swelling and microstructural changes and could thus significantly degrade the structural components of a fusion device.
Reduced activation ferrite steels strengthened by a dispersion of oxide nanoparticles are considered viable candidates for fusion applications. However, the microstructural stability and mechanical behavior of these steels when subjected to the aggressive operating conditions for an extended period of time is so far uncertain. That is why scientists at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), Oxford University (United Kingdom) and the University of Michigan (USA) have now joined their efforts in order to better understand the steels' atomic scale evolution under high temperature and irradiation conditions. "Until recently, studies on the microstructure of these steels have been on a micrometric scale," says Vanessa de Castro from Madrid University's Physics Department. "However, the nanometric scale is more relevant in understanding the phenomena that occur under irradiation."
In a recent paper published in Materials Science and Technology the consortium reports about the first results after having added nanometric particles to the steels which seem to help improve the mechanical properties and increase the steel's resistance.
Click here to read the press release issued by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.
In order to make a personal inspection of the project's progress, members of the Policy Committee within the Korean National Assembly—in charge of following up on the budget and the progress of large research projects—visited the ITER worksite on Monday 9 January. Delegation members Yang Jong Oh, Sim Yeon Mi, Kim Beommo, Lee Jae Yoon and Gim In—Ho were accompanied by the head of the ITER Korean Domestic Agency, Kijung Jung.
After a tour around the construction site, which they qualified as "impressive," the delegates were welcomed by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima for a presentation of current status and the recently implemented management procedures that aim to ensure that the project remains within the given time and cost framework.