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Shortly after their arrival and before meeting the press prior to the inauguration, European Commissioner Oettinger and French Minister Fioraso listen to ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima explain the workings of the ITER Tokamak in front of a 1:50 scale model.
A full-page in the regional daily La Provence, another one in O Estado de Saõ Paulo, one of the major Brazilian newspapers, and scores of articles, photos and videos in the media across the world—the ITER Headquarters inauguration, on Thursday 17 January, was indeed an event with global reach...

Words pronounced by European Commissioner for Energy Günther H. Oettinger and French Minister of Research Geneviève Fioraso, who unveiled the marble plaque at the entrance of the building together with Director-General Motojima, made headlines. In both their official addresses and in the many interviews granted to the press, the Commissioner and the Minister voiced their strong support for the ITER Project.

Commissioner Oettinger highlighted Europe's "particular responsibility to make ITER a success," as the project's main contributor. Minister Fioraso reaffirmed France's unwavering commitment as Host, "in cooperation with all the ITER Parties," to see the project through to a successful conclusion. "If the spirit of cooperation is present, if the spirit of commitment is present," she said, "then we will be successful."

The Minister expressly thanked the French Agence Iter France and the European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy for their accomplishments in the realization of the ITER Project in France.

Some fifty members of the French and European press had the opportunity to ask questions during a Press Point held in the ITER Council Chamber.

In answer to a question on her government's nuclear policy and the part fusion could play in the "energy mix" of the coming decades, Minister Fioraso stressed the "fantastic progress that ITER and fusion represent." With fusion, she said, "we can access a decarbonized energy source, one that does not depend on rare raw material and does not produce high-level, long-life radioactive waste. It would be folly to refuse it!"

"ITER is also tremendous scientific adventure," the Minister said. "From this major investment in science, France and its partners know that they will benefit from valuable technological spinoffs and economic stimulation."

Commissioner Oettinger insisted on the importance of "keeping steadfast in funding projects like ITER [that] bring the global community together behind the important and ambitious mission to bring clean and limitless energy into everyday use."

Both invited guests expressed their appreciation to ITER Director-General Motojima and the ITER staff for the work accomplished, stressing the importance of meeting the "challenge of keeping the project to schedule and within budget" (Commissioner Oettinger) and of "doing everything possible to guarantee the control of budget, schedule and machine performance" (Minister Fioraso).

In the bilateral meetings held during the day and in his welcoming speech in the Council Chamber, ITER Director-General Motojima had anticipated this exhortation: "It is a huge task that we have embarked upon collectively and a heavy responsibility that we have been entrusted with. We can ensure you that we are profoundly dedicated to our task. The ITER Organization and the seven Domestic Agencies are doing everything in their power to respect the budget and schedule that have been established by the seven ITER Members for the ITER Project."

As the Commissioner and the Minister departed respectively for Brussels and Paris, the ITER staff, who had worked hard to make this day a success, could say "mission accomplished"—all in all it had been a very good day for the whole ITER family.

View images of the inauguration here.
 
Read the press release here (English and French).

Despite a sore throat that made her voice hoarse, French Minister Fioraso gave a live interview to regional TV with the Seismic Pit as a backdrop.
Another few weeks and it would have been too late: as formwork on the Tokamak basemat is set to begin, the site visit that was organized last Thursday for the European Commissioner for Energy, the French Minister of Research, guests and the media provided one of the last opportunities to take in the spectacular setting of the Tokamak Seismic Pit, open to the sky.

Knowingly or unknowingly, the visitors all made the best of the outing. Despite a sore throat that made her voice hoarse, French Minister Fioraso gave a live interview to regional TV with the Seismic Pit as a backdrop. Commissioner Oettinger, deliberately walking ahead of the group of officials, took a solitary stroll through the 493 plinths and seismic pads, closely examining the concrete finish of the columns and the rubber and steel bearings.

As for the press, it was a rare occasion to have the main ITER actors, both international and local, gathered in one place: the European Commissioner, the French Minister, the ITER Director-General, the High Representative for ITER in France Bernard Bigot, Agence Iter France and Fusion for Energy officials, and local contributors to the project. All were available for questioning and visibly enjoyed answering media requests despite the brisk January wind.

The power of attraction of the ITER work site is such that additional tours had to be organized later in the afternoon for members of the diplomatic corps, photographers and cameramen. The latter were particularly satisfied: it is in the late afternoon winter light that the ITER work site is at its best.

Watch the live interview of Minister Fioraso on France 3 regional TV here (begins at 4'26'').

The 800-metre-long jacketing bench at High Performance Magnetics (Florida) runs parallel to a runway under renovation at the Tallahassee Regional Airport. Photo: High Performance Magnetics
US ITER and its vendors are moving into a new fabrication phase for the toroidal field magnet system for ITER. Cabling and conductor fabrication are now underway in New Hampshire and Florida for the niobium-tin wire produced in the US. All of this fabrication effort is in preparation for delivering the final product in 2015 to the European Union.

As part of its contributions to the ITER Project, the US is producing over 4 miles of cable-in-conduit superconductor; other ITER partners will provide the remainder of the conductor. This conductor will encircle the ITER Tokamak in a toroidal pattern, providing immense magnetic fields for confining 150-million-degree plasma into a doughnut-like shape.

Kevin Chan, a project engineer for the US ITER magnet systems, comments, "Cabling is a standard industrial process, but when dealing with the scale of the ITER conductor it becomes a much greater challenge."

New England Wire Technologies in Lisbon, New Hampshire acquired and then carefully refurbished a cabling machine that could handle the weight of the spools and conductor. While typical spools are 12 inches in diameter, 40 inches is needed for the toroidal field conductor. So far, New England Wire has shipped both 100-metre and 800-metre test cables to Tallahassee, Florida, where High Performance Magnetics will take on integrating the cable into the final cable-in-conduit conductor.

The integration process at High Performance Magnetics required the development of a unique facility. Located next to a runway at the Tallahassee airport, an 800-metre-long jacketing line was built to handle the insertion of cable into stainless steel tubing.

So far, High Performance Magnetics has successfully demonstrated compaction and spooling of a 100-metre sample length. The company is now preparing to test their process for the 800-metre lengths required by ITER. To achieve success, the jacketing line must maintain alignment and avoid excessive deformities as the tube is squeezed onto the cable. Past performance suggests that this is well within reach.

"High Performance Magnetics (HPM) is using a novel, more economical, approach to the jacketing line. For quality assessment, HPM uses computer radiometry. Early tests of the jacketing process through the PVC pipes have shown great alignment. In contrast, more elaborate approaches, such as roller lines for moving the cable, present some challenges and increase costs," said Chan.

A vacuum vessel, produced by Alloy Fabrications in Clinton, Tennessee was delivered to High Performance Magnetics on 19 December 2012.

The next step is to test the final product for any leaks in the narrow channel in the middle of the conductor that permits helium to be pumped through the magnets for cooling. To perform this test, HPM received delivery of a large vacuum vessel from Alloy Fabrications in Clinton, Tennessee on 19 December.

"This is an important accomplishment—shipping the vacuum vessel from Tennessee to Florida. It is 15 feet in diameter and required special routing to make its destination," observes Chan.

80 metres high, 120 metres long and 80 metres wide ... the ITER Tokamak Complex. The Tokamak will sit 13 metres below ground level in the central Tokamak Building.
A major contract has been signed by the European Domestic Agency, Fusion for Energy, for the construction of the Tokamak Complex—a 360,000-tonne edifice that comprises the Tokamak, Diagnostic and Tritium buildings.

A French-Spanish consortium, VFR, has won the five-and-a-half year, EUR 300 million contract that also includes the construction of the ITER Assembly Building; the radio frequency heating building; areas for heating, ventilation and air conditioning; a cleaning facility and site services buildings; the cryoplant compressor and coldbox building; the control buildings; the fast discharge and switching network resistor building; and three bridges.

This is a milestone of significant importance for the ITER Project and for Europe, which is responsible for the construction of 39 scientific buildings and dedicated areas on the ITER platform. By year-end 2012, Fusion for Energy had awarded a total of EUR 1.8 billion in contracts for ITER, representing approximately 40 percent of the European contribution to the project.

The Tokamak Complex will be 80 metres high, 120 metres long and 80 metres wide. Over 600 people will be involved in the construction work, which will require some 150,000 m3 of concrete (plus 16,000 tonnes of rebar) and 7,500 tonnes of steel for the building structures.

In the coming weeks, work will begin on the formwork for the Complex basemat. Concrete pouring is scheduled to be carried out between April and December 2013. The Tokamak Complex will be completed in time for assembly operations to begin in 2016.

The VFR consortium groups French companies VINCI Construction Grands Projets, Razel-Bec, Dodin Campenon Bernard, Campenon Bernard Sud-Est, GTM Sud and Chantiers Modernes Sud and the Spanish firm Ferrovial Agroman.

Read more about this landmark contract on the F4E website.

Combined with agreements with other Domestic Agencies, the procurement of the port plug structures that was signed by Director-General Motojima and Dr. Kijung Jung, head of the Korean Domestic Agency, will now be carried out in a joint tender approach.
On Thursday 17 January 2013 at precisely 17h00, as planned, Director-General Motojima and Dr. Kijung Jung, head of the Korean Domestic Agency, signed an important document for the diagnostics program. This document, a Memorandum of Understanding, paves the way for the selection of a joint supplier for all diagnostic upper and equatorial port plug structures.

Combined with agreements with other Domestic Agencies, the procurement of the port plug structures will now be carried out in a joint tender approach. The Diagnostics Division has the responsibility to manage 12 out of 16 upper port plugs and 9 out of 14 equatorial port plugs.

"This approach makes good sense as it enables cost efficiencies through bulk buying of components and the very important sharing of resources," said J.S. Bak, chief engineer at the ITER Organization. The design of the port plug structures is currently at an advanced stage.