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A world record in heating power, in relation to the size of the device, has been achieved by the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP) in Garching: This was made possible by a sophisticated control system.

For the first time worldwide, a fast feedback control facility ensures, on the one hand, that the hot (millions of degrees), high-power plasmas needed are produced and, on the other, that the wall of the plasma vessel is not overloaded, this being an important result on the way to a fusion power plant.

[...] The hitherto unattained heating power of 14 megawatts per metre with respect to the radius of the device was achieved without overloading the divertor plates.

Read more here.

One of the many DEMO concepts presented at the IAEA workshop at the University of California, Los Angeles, on 15-19 October. This one is called SlimCS and is being studied in Japan. © Japan Atomic Energy Agency
ITER represents a huge step towards the realization of fusion energy. But even once ITER has achieved the expected plasma performance, a lot remains to be done before we have electricity on our grid generated by fusion.

Fusion researchers around the world are starting to seriously consider the next major step after ITER, known as DEMO, which should be a DEMOnstration power plant that produces electrical power and paves the way for the commercially viable fusion power stations that will follow.

Many conceptual ideas for DEMO designs have been produced over the years but now that ITER construction is well under way, real proposals for DEMO are being planned.

Unlike ITER, most work on DEMO has been done without much international collaboration although Europe and Japan are cooperating on DEMO design work as part of the "Broader Approach." But to promote more international sharing of work on the path towards DEMO, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arranged a DEMO Programme Workshop that was held at the University of California, Los Angeles, on 15-19 October. Over 60 attendees came from fusion research institutes worldwide, including all the countries that are members of ITER.

The workshop was organized around technical topics which are seen as major issues that must be addressed before DEMO can be realized:  power extraction, tritium breeding, plasma exhaust, and magnetic configurations.  There were also general talks presenting the status of programs towards DEMO in some of the countries represented.

There are striking differences between the ideas for the plant in the views from different countries. Concepts include tokamaks of various sizes and with varying degrees of advancement from the technology and physics of ITER.

But DEMO could also be a stellarator, or even a "hybrid" that combines fusion and fission in a single device. Some believe that an intermediate step, sometimes called a "Fusion Nuclear Science Facility" or "Component Test Facility," is needed between ITER and DEMO. Such installations would be used to develop and test systems such as breeding blankets, to supplement the work to be done using Test Blanket Systems in ITER. Others prefer to aim for a "near-term" DEMO that would begin by testing its own components.

In all cases, significant materials development is needed, as DEMO will certainly need more advanced structural materials than those being used in ITER. According to some opinions, the planned IFMIF facility will only partly provided the materials tests needed.

With so many diverse ideas, it is not surprising that international collaboration has been scarce. However the workshop did show that there are plenty of common areas in the R&D that needs to be performed, and IAEA will encourage collaboration over these.

On 9 October 2012, two qualified unit lengths of toroidal field conductor were shipped from Kurchatov Institute to the customs office for their subsequent transportation to Europe.
Russia is making progress, as evidenced by the well-timed procurement of the future facility's components. On 9 October 2012, two qualified unit lengths of toroidal field conductor for the ITER magnetic system were shipped from the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow to the customs office for their subsequent transportation to Europe. These were the copper dummy and the 100-metre qualification conductor, Russia's first procurement of toroidal field coil conductor.

The conductor lengths, manufactured at the Russian Scientific Research and Development Cable Institute JSC VNIIKP were delivered from the Kurchatov Institute, where they had previously undergone vacuum tests involving special equipment. The next shipment of toroidal field conductor is planned to take place in compliance with the schedule.

Click here to view a video of the operation.

KEPCO Senior Vice President (Instrumentation & Control) Sang-Kook Chung and ITER DDG Rich Hawryluk signed the contract for the detailed design of the ITER network infrastructure. Also present at the sgnature ceremony were KEPCO Senior Manager (Overseas Nuclear Business Team) Dr. In-Su YANG; ITER Head of the Directorate for General Administration Ju Jin; Head of the ITER Procurement Division, Francoise Flament; ITER CODAC Section Leader Anders Wallander; and their collaborators.
In order to operate ITER, all the buildings (and the equipment they contain) must be connected up to communication networks. These networks transport data between the distributed plant systems and the central control systems (CODAC, Central Interlock System and Central Safety System). They have different characteristics depending on the classification, reliability, bandwidth and latency requirements.

The network infrastructure comprises 75 km of mainly multi-core fibre optic cables and two central hubs connected to 24 active distribution centres, with close to 600 local network access points distributed throughout the ITER site. Over the next seven years, thousands of plant system controllers and central computers will be connected to these network access points.

An important step in implementing the ITER network infrastructure was taken on 24 October when the detailed design contract was signed with the Korean company KEPCO Engineering & Construction. This contract will deliver a build-to-print design by the end of 2013. The actual installation will start in 2014 so as to receive the first plant systems in late 2014, and will continue throughout the civil construction phase.

Henrik Bindslev was appointed last Friday 25 October as the new director of Fusion for Energy.
Henrik Bindslev was appointed last Friday 25 October as the new director of the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (Fusion for Energy). He is currently the vice dean for Research at Aarhus University, Faculty of Science and Technology.

Stuart Ward, chair of the Fusion for Energy Governing Board, took the opportunity to congratulate Henrik Bindslev on his new position and thanked all members of the Board for their collaboration taking together this important decision.

"I am honoured to have been appointed director of Fusion for Energy at a time that Europe's contribution to ITER enters a decisive stage and rapid progress will be made on all fronts. It is the moment to engage actively with Europe's industry and fusion community to honour our commitment to this prestigious international project," said Bindslev.

Henrik Bindslev has been engaged in energy research for more than 20 years and has considerable experience in research management, both in Denmark and internationally. He is currently vice dean for research at Aarhus University, Faculty of Science and Technology and past chair of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA). He is a delegate to the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and chairman of ESFRI's Energy Strategy Working Group.

Previously, he was the director of Risø DTU, the Danish National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, managing 700 staff.

He was educated at Denmark's Technical University and completed a DPhil in Plasma Physics at the University of Oxford. He worked as a fusion researcher at different facilities including ten years at the Joint European Torus (JET), Europe's biggest fusion research device, and has published more than 150 papers.

The director is appointed by Fusion for Energy's Governing Board for a period of five years, once renewable up to five years. The appointment is made on the basis of a list of candidates proposed by the European Commission after an open competition, following a publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

From 2-4 December 2013 the Principality of Monaco will, for the second time, host the Monaco ITER International Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED). This three-day conference, held under the High Patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, will showcase the progress of the ITER Project, including the status of construction and manufacturing. The event will also discuss the global socio-economic context of fusion energy, while looking at the future prospects for fusion energy.
 
For further details on MIIFED 2013 and to download the leaflet click here.

Articles summarizing the first edition of the MIIFED held in 2010 can be found here.

ITER DDG Carlos Alejaldre presented the ongoing progress on the ITER worksite and a detailed projections of manpower needs in the coming years.
Beginning in the first quarter of 2013, the number of construction workers on the ITER site will rise sharply, passing the 1,000 mark in less than six months to stabilize at about 2,600-2,800 in 2015, before finally declining in 2016.
By late 2014, construction personnel will be joined by specialists in charge of assembling the machine. They will be 1,000 by mid-2016 and close to 1,600 in late 2018.

From late 2015 to late 2016, these two combined workforces will lead to a peak of more than 3,500 workers on the ITER site, not counting the present ITER staff and contractors amounting currently to approximately 1,000 people (this will remain stable throughout the coming years).

Projections from both Agence Iter France and the French regional authorities indicate that accommodation for some 1,500 to 2,000 workers arriving in the region will have to be found during this peak period.

These figures were announced last Friday 19 October at a meeting organized by the Commission Locale d'Information (CLI) in Vinon-sur-Verdon.

The CLI acts as an official interface between ITER Organization (nuclear operator of the ITER facility) and the local population, which means that anything the public feels it should know falls under its jurisdiction. Housing 1,500 to 2,000 workers close enough to ITER so that commuting does not exceed 30 minutes either way is definitely an issue that concerns the local population and authorities—the housing market in the defined area is rather tense, with an estimated rental stock that does not exceed 300 to 500 units.

This is no new preoccupation for the French authorities and local mayors: the first meetings on the subject were organized some 17 years ago, when Cadarache was already preparing its bid to host ITER. More recently, Agence Iter France drew up an inventory of "potential solutions" in close collaboration with the local mayors, the government authorities and the companies likely to bid for construction or assembly contracts.

The problem, however, is that "the picture is still unclear," as pointed out by the General Secretary for Regional Affairs, Gilles Barsacq. As in any project this size, the work organization on the ITER site will be characterized by "a cascade of subcontractors"; some will be local, some not, and each will have its own policy in terms of employee housing.

Other large projects have been facing the same issues and Agence Iter France has closely studied how they were taken into consideration, for example at the EPR worksite in Flamanville (Normandy) and at the Millau viaduct in south central France.

In short, companies operating on the ITER site must be given a number of options from which they can choose the one that suits them best.

Working with the local mayors and specialized relocation agencies, Agence Iter France has retained 20 projects located along the Durance River, most of them within a 30-minute drive from the ITER site.

Slightly beyond this limit, the largest of these projects is located in Château-Arnoux (pop. 5,300) where accommodation in mobile homes for 700 can be organized at the local campground. In Manosque, the youth hostel can provide 40 places; the village of Corbières has offered to turn a soccer field into a campground; and in Montmeyan, 200 beds are available at a summer camp.

"What we must avoid at all cost," explained Agence Iter France Director Jérôme Pamela, "is uncontrolled or illegal situations such has having trailers parked here and there."

Most of these projects require investments: companies with ITER contracts could finance the renovation of, say, a worker or youth hostel. They could therefore house their employees for the duration of the contract and return it to its owner (generally the municipality) once the job has been finished. The municipality would then put the building to a different use in line with its own development projects.

It was clear from the figures presented at the Vinon-sur-Verdon meeting and from the ensuing discussions, that the area considered—with an overall population of 250,000 stretching between Château-Arnoux in the north to Aix-en-Provence in the south and growing some 1 percent every year—is capable of absorbing 1,500 to 2,000 workers without any major problems. Representatives from the Ministry of Education and the Regional Health Agency assured that the workers' presence would have no impact on the local school and health infrastructures.

The local population, especially those living in villages near the ITER site, have long voiced their preoccupation with the transportation issue. Daily traffic through Vinon-sur-Verdon (pop. 4,000), for instance, clocks up an average of 13,500 vehicles per day, while access roads to the worksite are narrow and often saturated by traffic due to both ITER and the CEA-Cadarache centre.

As companies will organize their own bus services, parking lots on the ITER construction site will be deliberately "undersized" to discourage the use of individual vehicles. There is also an ongoing reflection on using the railroad that runs along the Durance River on the side opposite to ITER.

However, one of the most efficient measures (already decided) will involve implementing offset working hours for worksite personnel so as to reduce clogging on access roads to ITER.

"Accommodating 1,500 to 2,000 workers should not be seen as a constraint," concluded the General Secretary for Regional Affairs, "but as an opportunity."

Tritium can be produced through the impact of fusion-generated neutrons on lithium nuclides present in the plasma-facing components. Based on this principle, six experimental Test Blanket Modules will be installed at the equatorial ports of the ITER vacuum vessel wall.
Self-sustained tritium production is essential to the future of fusion. While an experimental machine such as ITER will draw upon the tritium presently available in the market (a couple dozen kilos), future fusion plants will have to breed their own tritium supply in a continuous manner.

Tritium, which occurs only in trace quantities in nature, can be produced through the impact of fusion-generated neutrons on lithium nuclides present in the plasma-facing components. Based on this principle, six experimental Test Blanket Modules (TBM) will be installed at the equatorial ports of the ITER vacuum vessel wall. Two of them will be procured by Europe; India, China, Japan and Korea will each contribute one. The Russian Federation and the Unites States will give support on specific technical items.

Over the years, as they are impacted by the neutron flux, the ITER TBMs will progressively become activated. "However different each TBM concept may be, we can reasonably anticipate the amount of radwaste that will be produced within the Tritium Breeding Systems (TBSs) and that we will have to manage," explains Magali Benchikhoune, the ITER Hot Cells & Radwaste Section leader and chair of the Test Blanket Program Working Group on TBS RadWaste Management (TBP-WG-RWM) that has been assigned to deal with this matter.

Following three and a half months of videoconference meetings, the international players of the TBP-WG-RWM met for two days—and for the first time in person—last week at ITER.

The group comprised the ITER Members' Test Blanket Module representatives; ITER Organization representatives for the TBM Program, radwaste management and safety; legal experts from all the contributing Members; and representatives from Agence Iter France (as the interface between ITER and the Host country, France).

Once the breeding experiments are completed, the activated TBMs will go back for further analysis to the ITER Member who procured them. The rest (and the largest part) of each system will go into interim storage and, eventually, to a permanent disposal facility managed by the French Nuclear Waste Management Agency ANDRA.

How to approach this issue? What are the realistic options to manage and transport the irradiated components? What are the cost drivers? What can be optimized? These questions were central to the meeting that summarized and developed the work accomplished since the Working Group kick-off meeting on 19 July. "Whether from ITER, Agence Iter France, CEA or the ITER Members," says Magali, "we all worked hard and the two-day meeting was a very motivating experience for all of us."

The progress of the work by this Working Group will be reported to the TBM Program Committee, which heads all TBM-related activities, during its meeting in early November.
- R.A.