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Ready to work within tight schedules and budgets: Sergio Orlandi arrived on 28 January to head ITER's Central Engineering and Plant Directorate.
Two weeks into the job, and Sergio Orlandi feels like a young man again.

Despite taking on the challenge of leading ITER's Central Engineering and Plant (CEP) Directorate at a point in his professional life when most people would be starting to think of slowing down, Sergio feels literally invigorated by the 12-hour days of his first weeks in office.

"Before applying for the job, I asked myself, 'Can I still do it? Can I get involved in this good, most important challenge that is fusion at this point in my life'? And the answer was, of course, yes. I feel ready for a new challenge."

In a sense, it's his family history repeating itself. He saw his father start over at age 50 after the family was forced to leave Libya (Sergio was 14 at the time). "This example has always stayed with me and has been a strong force in my life. I saw my father reinvent himself, and now I, too, am beginning over. For me, a new beginning is synonymous with youthful energy, with renewed motivation."

Sergio comes to ITER from Ansaldo Nucleare (Genoa), the pre-eminent nuclear service company in Italy that he joined as a young nuclear engineer and whose ranks he progressively scaled to become project manager, technical director and finally—for the last seven years—chief operating officer. Thirty-three years in the nuclear fission business in contact with the most sophisticated technologies of the day, and a career that took him around the world: Argentina, China, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and US. Deeply involved in the technical issues of the nuclear business but also in charge of managing deadlines, cost control and quality.

It is this industrial culture that he is bringing to his new position at ITER. Although he describes himself as first and foremost a technical man, his experience as a manager will be an asset when it comes to meeting the demands of a tight schedule and a tight budget.

Another asset? Even as he worked in fission, Sergio remained abreast of developments in fusion and ITER. Back in the 1990s, as companies in Italy were divesting from the nuclear industry in the aftermath of Chernobyl, Ansaldo took over the preliminary design of ITER's primary heat transfer system. Ansaldo was also part of the consortium chosen by the European Domestic Agency to build the mockup divertor and the seven European sectors of the vacuum vessel; Sergio directed all of these projects, interacting with ITER team members who are now in offices only a few doors from his own.

And, coincidentally, the primary heat transfer system falls under CEP responsibility—making it feel a little bit like "coming full circle."

Since arriving on 28 January, Sergio, who speaks Arabic, Italian, English and French, has toured the three Divisions in his Directorate, getting to know the people and listening to the status of projects and contracts. "Highly impressed with the work accomplished," he already has an idea of the priorities: cost control, careful management of contracts, and respect of deadlines.

Sergio begins every day with a 30-minute meeting with the Budget Technical Officer of his Directorate. "A lot of money has to be managed—this is familiar to my experience and culture," he says. "I also believe that we have to manage our contracts very closely." Sergio has asked for the implementation of penalty clauses in all contracts, as a tool to enforce the respect of contract deadlines and dates.

"The ITER Organization is not only a research organization, it must also be a production organization," concludes Sergio, who is looking forward to bringing his industrial point of view to bear in the next phases of design completion and fabrication. "For attention to cost and attention to quality, I will be the guardian in my Directorate."

Data from the TJ-II stellarator showing oscillations in the turbulence, slightly ahead of oscillations in the flow.
There is a predator on the loose in Madrid. It's been discovered in the fusion laboratories of CIEMAT, preying on its favourite victim ... Turbulence!

This predator is not a large feline, but a type of plasma behaviour known as zonal flows. Strangely enough the relationship between zonal flows and turbulence follows exactly the same pattern as that between the numbers of predators and their prey in the wild—a significant discovery for fusion scientists in the quest to control the turbulence that allows energy to escape from their experiments.

In the same way that a large number of prey—for example, deer—might support an increasing population of tigers, in certain conditions turbulence seems to trigger the growth of the zonal flow pattern.

However as they grow, the zonal flows inhibit the turbulence, which dies away, eventually undermining the zonal flows, in the same way as a large population of tigers would cause a decline in the deer population, leading to their own downfall. But as the tiger population drops, the deer begin to thrive again, and so the cycle begins anew. This oscillatory predator-prey relationship is exactly what has been measured in the TJ-II stellarator at CIEMAT, as shown in the figure.

The scientist who made the discovery is Dr Teresa Estrada, head of microwave and laser diagnostics at TJ-II. "It was a lucky discovery!" she said. "I was not looking for this, the timescale of the oscillations is milliseconds so I could easily have missed it. I saw [the oscillations] first in the turbulence, and so I looked at the flow and was excited to see them there too, with the characteristic ninety degree phase delay."

Read more on the EFDA website.

Work progresses on the Assembly Building basemat. Two sections of structural concrete, or plots, have been poured since November and reinforcement activities are ongoing.
The 42-hectare ITER platform used to be as smooth and as flat as a billiard table. These days it's hard to find a clear patch.

Site adaptation activities (modified entrances and roadworks), digging and pipe-laying for critical networks and galleries, portable office construction, and network installation for the new Contractors Area in the southwest corner of the site have resulted in deep trenches in some areas and mounds of dirt in others.

The "quietest" area of the site is 15-metres below the surface in the Seismic Isolation Pit. But not for long: GTM Construction will soon begin propping and formwork in preparation for concrete pouring for the B2 slab—the "upper basemat" and actual floor of the 360,000-tonne Tokamak Complex.


True international collaboration: Russian-produced poloidal field cable was jacketed and compacted at Criotec (Italy) before being spooled to await testing. The conductor will then return to Russia for the next stage in the poloidal field coil manufacturing process.
It's common knowledge that close international collaboration is one of the key characteristics of ITER and that responsibilities within the project are broadly distributed among its participating members.

Early in February 2013, the Italian company Criotec completed the manufacturing of the first copper dummy conductor for the PF1 poloidal field coil using cable that had been manufactured in Russia. These works are being carried out within the framework of the bilateral agreement concluded between the European and Russian ITER Domestic Agencies.

The cable—composed of superconducting niobium-titanium (NbTi) strands produced by the Chepetsky Mechanical Plant in Glazov, Udmurtia (Russia)—passed the jacketing and compaction stages in Italy. The copper dummy, after spooling, will pass all the tests required by the ITER Organization before shipment to the Efremov Institute in St. Petersburg to be integrated into the PF1 double pancake dummy.

Completion of the first copper conductor dummy proves the complete readiness of all parties to begin batch production for ITER's poloidal field conductor.

The Russian Federation is responsible for manufacturing 2 copper dummies, 1 superconducting dummy, 9 superconducting unit lengths for the PF6 coil, and 17 unit superconducting lengths for the PF1 coil.  

There are several ways to ascertain whether proper safety procedures are being observed. All rely on the "safety culture" that should permeate all actions in the supplier chain.
In Ulsan, on the southeastern coast of Korea, Hyundai Heavy Industries mass produces supertankers, mammoth cruise and container ships, giant bulk carriers, and vessels of all shape, purpose and form.

The world's largest shipyard is also manufacturing part of a vessel that will never take to the sea—the ITER vacuum vessel, a 5,000-tonne, doughnut-shaped chamber that will house the fusion reaction and act as a first safety containment barrier.

Procuring two out of the nine ITER vacuum vessel sectors is part of Korea's commitment to ITER. In a workshop at the Ulsan shipyard, work has begun on the lower segment of the first of these two sections. More than 9,000 kilometres from the ITER site, one of the most critical components of the ITER Tokamak is slowly taking shape.

For Joëlle Elbez-Uzan, acting division head for Nuclear Safety, Licensing & Environmental Protection at ITER, and Sandrine Rosanvallon, safety analysis technical officer, inspecting this impressive piece of steel was one of the highlights of their recent mission to Korea—a feeling of "history in-the-making."

The invitation to Korea had been extended by Kijung Jung, head of the Korean Domestic Agency. Intended as a demonstration of Unique ITER Team spirit, it provided the nuclear safety specialists with an opportunity to share information on safety regulations and licensing procedures with their Korean colleagues and to proceed also with an internal safety inspection on the ongoing work at Hyundai Heavy Industries.

"As the nuclear operator of the ITER installation," explains Joëlle, "the ITER Organization has an obligation to monitor the manufacturing process of the components that qualify as Safety Important Components (known as SIC components). The vacuum vessel—which forms the first standing barrier between the nuclear plasma and the environment—is one of the main ITER SICs."

There are several ways to ascertain whether proper safety procedures are being observed: some rely on a close examination of the paperwork that documents the manufacturing process; others require actual on-site inspections. All rely on what Joëlle calls the "safety culture" that should permeate all actions in the supplier chain.

The vacuum vessel is an especially challenging component. It is not only a SIC, but also an ESPN—équipement sous pression nucléaire (equipment under nuclear pressure) as defined by the French nuclear safety regulations that ITER observes.

"This classification means that in-service inspections will have to be conducted during the Operation Phase of ITER," explains Joëlle. "As this will be, practically speaking, very difficult, the ITER Organization defines  'compensatory measures' at the design phase that are integrated in the component's design: rails and guides, for instance, have to be installed in the vacuum vessel wall to accommodate endoscopes and other inspection devices."

During their five-day mission Joëlle and Sandrine verified all this and much more. "In a certain sense, it was also a training exercise. The French safety authority will carry out similar on-site inspections in the course of the manufacturing phase and our Korean colleagues have to be ready for them ..."

Joëlle and Sandrine flew back to ITER with an overall feeling of confidence. "Based on the documents we reviewed, the Quality Order is well implemented and fabrication control is robust," says Joëlle. "Methods and organization are in line with what the safety regulator expects and our Korean colleagues were especially open, warm and cooperative."

"Safety culture" is definitely trickling down from the stringent French regulations all the way to the workshop in the Ulsan shipyard.

Maria Van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, feels strongly about the need to communicate the importance of fusion and ITER to decision-makers and the general public.
Many things have changed since Maria Van der Hoeven last visited ITER five years ago. In February 2008, Newsline described the ITER site as a " barren land with only a couple of mud trails and plenty of trucks and tractors."

At the time, Ms Van der Hoeven was the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and already a strong proponent of the ITER Project. She is now the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and her interest in the project has not diminished.

Visiting the ITER site and meeting with ITER Organization senior management on Thursday 7 February, Ms Van der Hoeven insisted, like she had in a 2012 Newsline interview, on the necessity of communicating the importance of fusion and ITER to decision-makers and the general public.

Ms Van der Hoeven will be one the keynote speakers at the Monaco ITER International Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED) to be held on 2-4 December in the Principality of Monaco.