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Conferences


"The advantages of fusion energy are considerable." Director-General Osamu Motojima takes the ITER Project back to Geneva—the place where it all began.
Twenty-seven years after the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, met on the Swiss shore of Lake Geneva to agree on an international effort to develop fusion energy "as an inexhaustible source of energy for the benefit of mankind," the ITER Project—born that day—entered the stage again.

The International Congress on Energy Security in Geneva last week attracted the representatives of many organizations and institutions that either analyze energy demand or are very directly involved in its supply. The stakes are high—a point stressed by every speaker during this two-day event.

"The era of cheap and abundant energy is soon ending," said ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, who had been invited to deliver the keynote speech. "The advantages of fusion energy, although not easy to achieve, are considerable. The universal availability of the fusion fuels will contribute to easing the international tensions that energy supply and demand currently generate."

"Energy security, is, in all its aspects, a key issue for the international community," UN under-secretary-general Kassym-Jomart Tokayev added in his opening remarks. "International organizations, industry, civil society, and governments must partner to meet this challenge, so that the vast opportunities of the modern world are available to everybody. And, of course, for these opportunities to be truly available to everybody they must be approached in a sustainable fashion."

One of the major questions addressed at this energy summit was the future of nuclear energy. Where and how will nuclear energy position itself in the new world order that was shaped on 11 March 2011? "Fukushima changed it all," said Hans Püttgen, director of the Energy Center in Lausanne. "The race to get out of nuclear first is on."

Taking a look at the nuclear issue from a very French angle was Jacques Attali, President of PlaNet and special advisor to the former French President Francois Mitterand. "Nuclear here in France represents an important portion of the energy mix and a rapid pull-out would consequently mean a steep increase in the price of electricity." However, Attali added, the Fukushima disaster had shown that there was still a "certain lack of transparency" when discussing nuclear issues.

In such a context Oliver Steinmetz, one of the founding fathers of Desertec, presented one of the world's most ambitious solar initiatives, whose aim it is to generate and transmit solar power from the world's deserts. Driven by the maxim that within six hours the deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes in a year, industrial partners in Europe, the Middle East, and North African are collaborating to build solar power stations.
 
Another highlight of this Energy Security Conference was the presentation of Bertrand Piccard, son of the famous deep-sea explorer Jacques Piccard and the first man ever to circumnavigate the world in a hot-air balloon. With his Solar Impulse project, Bertrand Piccard proved that it was possible to fly night and day for more than 26 hours without fuel, powered only by solar energy. When asked about his motivation for seeing the project through against all odds, Bertrand Piccard replied: "Our best allies are those who tell us that our undertaking is impossible."

The tokamak cooling water system interfaces with 27 other systems inside the machine.
The design of ITER's cooling water system is maturing. The system, consisting of the tokamak cooling water system (TCWS), the component cooling water system (CCWS), the chilled water system (CHWS) and the heat rejection system (HRS), is responsible for removing the enormous amounts of heat generated by the tokamak and its auxiliary systems, with an anticipated peak heat load of more than 1100 MW.

Over the course of the past year, some impressive progress has been made on many pending issues enabling the teams to take the design of these crucial components from their conceptual design to the next level. The formal preliminary design review for the tokamak cooling water system was completed last month on 20-22 March in Cadarache with more than 20 participants from the US Domestic Agency and its contractor AREVA Federal Services LLC. The following week, the expert group for the heat rejection system, another essential part of ITER's cooling system that is supplied by the Indian Domestic Agency, moved in.

The TCWS preliminary design improved the operation and safety of the primary thermal management system. Pathways for the discharge of radioactively contaminated water to the environment were eliminated. Four separate cooling systems for the first wall/blanket and divertor were combined into a single system to improve operational flexibility and system availability. Significant progress was reported on the design of supporting systems such as the chemical and volume control, drying, and draining. "In fact, the TCWS design is now 65 percent complete and is documented in 116 reports and drawings, a comprehensive 3D Design Model with 56 work packages, and 44 interface sheets," states Jan Berry, US team leader of the Tokamak Cooling Water System.

At this phase of TCWS design development, the expertise and advice from the power producing industry is crucial as the ITER Organization/US Domestic Agency/industry team comprised of more than 100 engineers and designers is responsible for developing the final design and ultimately the fabrication and delivery of the components.

"AREVA has designed and built many cooling water systems for reactors," Joe Stringer, vice president at AREVA Federal Services LLC replied when asked about the challenges the full-service nuclear provider faces working on the ITER fusion reactor. "However there are design features for the ITER Project which make the design solution unique. The TCWS has more interfaces with other design organizations than any other system and at the same time the project requires completion of the design and delivery of the piping and components on a very aggressive schedule. But AREVA is very proud to be part of the ITER team and we are committed to meeting the significant challenges ahead."

For the team in charge of HRS design the cyclic nature of the ITER machine presented the most distinct challenge. "The HRS must reject normal facility heat loads plus large intermittent heat loads from the pulsed operations of the tokamak while maintaining stable and predictable cooling water basin temperatures to meet the needs of the cooling water system clients," explains Steve Ployhar, responsible officer for the heat rejection system. "It would have been easy to size the cooling towers based on peak conditions, but this solution would have been unacceptable in regards to the use of resources, both in terms of capital cost and space on the site."

The challenge for the design team was therefore to meet the heat rejection needs while minimizing the cost and the footprint of the cooling towers. Part of the solution proposed by the Indian Domestic Agency involves the construction of an additional hot basin and associated pumps to absorb the hot water generated during the "burn" phase of the plasma pulse and discharge it to the cooling tower at a constant rate throughout the plasma pulse cycle, thus making more efficient use of the cooling towers. This solution will guarantee the reliability of the system and will keep the additional footprint to 50 percent of what would have been required otherwise.
 
"The cooling water systems interface with virtually all ITER systems and facilities and their successful design involves coordination as well as technical challenges. The outcome of the preliminary design reviews for TCWS and HRS give us confidence that these challenges are being met," concludes Giovanni Dell Orco, leader of the ITER Cooling Water System Section.

Sekhar Basu, chief executive at the Department of Atomic Energy in India and chairman of the Design Review, also expressed his confidence that the design for the ITER's heat rejection system provided enough flexibility for the varying load conditions. "We will resolve the remaining interface and environmental issues for this system judiciously in order to allow the project to move forward in a time- and cost-effective manner."

ASDEX upgrade provided the dramatic backdrop for a video of German virtuoso electric cellist, Johannes Moser. Photo courtesy: IPP
"Magnetar," a concerto for electric cello by Mexican composer Enrico Chapela, did in fact recently have its premiere in the USA, but exerpts had previously been heard at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching. Young cello virtuoso Johannes Moser had chosen the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device as backdrop for a music video.

Where the concern otherwise is to investigate how to ignite the fire of the sun in a power plant here on earth, Johannes Moser presented fascinating sound patterns with a three-hundred-year old Guarneri cello and its modern electric counterpart. But there is actually a connection: As Chapela explains, it was stars, magnetars to be more precise—neutron stars with particularly strong magnetic fields—that provided the inspiration for his composition. After the Garching intermezzo the complete work had its world premiere in Los Angeles on 20 October 2011 with Johannes Moser and the Los Angeles Philharmonics, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

Click here to watch the video.