At age 25, Tore Supra is still far from being a museum piece. It is in a museum however that the anniversary of the CEA-Euratom tokamak was celebrated last Tuesday evening in Aix-en-Provence.
Why a museum? Why not ... the old priory of the Knights of Malta, now the Musée Granet
, was the perfect venue for the informal commemoration, providing a large shaded courtyard for the speeches, beautiful rooms to wander through and exceptional works of art to admire...
As he briefly retraced the history of fusion research and the part played by Tore Supra, Richard Kamendje of the International Atomic Energy Agency, drew this parallel between fusion science and art: "Every generation," he said, "faces similar challenges. But because you are living in a certain moment in history, you answer these challenges with the tools that belong to your time."
One of the very first fusion machines to implement superconducting coils, Tore Supra certainly rose to meet several challenges over its 25 years of operation. Originally led by the installation's designer Robert Aymar, Tore Supra teams explored the domain of long plasma discharges, achieving a record six-and-a-half minute "shot" in 2003 that produced one Gigajoule of energy.
Tore Supra pioneered the technology of actively-cooled plasma-facing components, real-time diagnostics, in-vacuum robotics... A quarter century after First Plasma was achieved on 1 April 1988, this accumulated expertise forms one of ITER's major assets.
An anniversary is an occasion to reflect on the past, often with emotion, and to welcome the future, often with enthusiasm. Both Alain Bécoulet, the present Head of CEA's Research Institute on Magnetic Fusion ( IRFM, the laboratory that operates Tore Supra), and his predecessor Michel Chatelier (2004-2008) expressed their conviction that the machine's future will be no less brilliant and exciting than was its past.
For Tore Supra and the IRFM team, this future has a name: WEST
(W Environment in Steady-state Tokamak, where "W" is the chemical symbol of tungsten). The project, which consists in installing an ITER-like full tungsten divertor, "will bring Tore Supra into the group of fusion devices that are actually preparing for ITER," said Bécoulet. The formal decision to "go WEST" was taken by CEA on 7 March 2013; the first experiments will begin in 2015.
The "family reunion," which was attended by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, several senior ITER staff and some STAC members present in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance for their biannual meeting, ended with a private tour of the Musée Granet, guided by curator Bruno Ely.
Conversions on tungsten, plasma confinement, magnetic geometry and actively-cooled components gave way to considerations, no less passionate, about art: Cézanne's early works (eight of which are on loan to the museum), 15th century French painting exemplified by a wonderful Virgin in Glory by the Master of Flémalle, and what Ely considers to be the jewel of his museum—a small, dark Rembrandt: Self-Portrait with Béret.
How can we help? It was this one sentence—or rather question—addressed to ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima after his welcome address that explained why communication officers from the seven ITER Domestic Agencies, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and from 25 European fusion associations had made their way from the different ends of the world to the ITER Headquarters last week.
The dissemination of information about the latest developments in the field of fusion research and of course the progress of the ITER project are the daily job of the communication officers working in the ITER Domestic Agencies in Oak Ridge, Hefei, Seoul, Barcelona, Moscow, Tokyo or Gandhinagar, or in one of the many fusion research facilities joined under the roof of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA). For the first time since the start of the ITER Organization, the EFDA Public Information Network met on the ITER premises in southern France to exchange ideas and opinions and to discuss appropriate communication tools.
Altogether, with more than 40 people present—dedicated to spreading the word about fusion—an impressive tool in itself.
Some of the Region's junior high and high school students woke last Thursday 16 May with one idea in mind: victory ...
Since October for some, January for others, their science and technology classes, lunch breaks and Friday afternoons had gone to realizing and programming a small Lego robot—one that would successfully participate in and, if possible, carry the ITER Robots challenge launched by Agence Iter France and the ITER Organization for the second
consecutive year. Each of the teams worked from a standard Lego kit that they customized, improving the optical sensors in some cases or modulating the articulating arm.
The five junior high and seven high school teams that had taken up the challenge arrived early at the Lycée des Iscles in Manosque, Lego model in hand, surrounded by their professors and classmates.
"A month ago, the jury visited the schools to assess the level of readiness, the technical maturity of each project," said Jean-Pierre Friconneau, an engineer in the Remote Handling Section at ITER and moderator for the day. "I have to say that we were very impressed by the candidates' understanding of the technical description, their organization. It was interesting to see the differences in the solutions imagined and very gratifying to see the young people's enthusiasm."
The first challenge, untimed, was to follow a pre-defined trajectory on the mat including curves, 90-degree turns and about-faces. A good number of the candidate teams—four of five junior high teams and four of seven high school teams—were eliminated after three unsuccessful tries at this stage.
As Jean-Pierre explained to the disappointed teams, because the lighting and surface conditions were not necessarily the same as those in the home practice areas only the teams that had included enough of a tolerance margin in their programs were successful: "Engineering comes down to making choices, and all engineers learn from their mistakes," he told the students, as he encouraged them to persist in their exploration of mechanics, electronics and programming.
For the teams still in the race, the second challenge was a timed remote handling task that involved picking up as many blanket modules as possible from the ITER Tokamak model and delivering them successfully to the nearby Hot Cell.
"The technical complexity of this competition and the fact that the students have worked together, collaboratively, around a common project, responds in all points to what we'd like to see more of in schools," said Bruno Pélissier who, as inspecteur pédagogique d'académie, is involved in the content of school programs in the area. "We supported this program—and worked hard to extend it to the high schools—because it provides an opportunity for practical, hands-on applications for what is learned in the classroom."
At the junior high level, it was a clear victory for the Sainte-Tulle team for the second consecutive year, with a robot that was rapid and precise. Their recipe for success? "Close team work and pleasure in working on this project with our professors," team leaders Alicia, Flavien and Mathis reported.
The high school competition was a tighter contest, with three teams advancing to the second stage—Lycée Thiers from Marseille, Lycée d'Altitude from Briançon, and Lycée des Iscles—and only two on to the final stand-off where the jury gave each team minutes to re-program their robot to pick up a specific module, chosen by throw of the dice.
Even the professors were surprised to see how well the teams responded under pressure. "What I saw," said a supervisor from Briançon, whose group placed second, "was that a group that was very disparate at the start came together around this year-long project. It motivated them. The students made their own choices in conceiving and programming their robots and we stood back and watched them go down unsuccessful roads before they found the solutions that worked. You have no idea how valuable an experience like that is. We're really happy to be here today."
In the end, the first prize at the high-school level went to the Lycée Thiers from Marseille. The winning team walked away with passes for an afternoon of Laser Game with their classmates and an educational robot that will allow them to continue their exploration of robotics.
Click here to view ITER Robots image gallery. |
The ITER site has undergone significant transformation in the past year. Following the completion of the Seismic Isolation Pit for the Tokamak Complex in April 2012, attention was turned to site infrastructure works such as the deep drainage networks, critical networks, the creation of a platform Contractors Area (from where the different construction work packages will be managed), and finally the foundation for the Assembly Building. These projects are now in their final phases.
As the focus returns to the heart of the ITER platform—the Tokamak Pit, where concrete pouring will resume this year—we asked Laurent Schmieder, project manager of the division for site, buildings and power supplies at the European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy (F4E), about the state-of-works on the platform and what we can expect to see in the months to come.
A new phase of construction is about to begin. Can you describe what has been accomplished on the ITER platform since the last major milestone of Seismic Isolation Pit completion?
A lot! In the last six months, our teams have focused on the construction of the Assembly Building foundation slab, an activity that required some excavation, much reinforcement and, since November, concreting work. The Assembly Building slab is about 95 percent complete and will be finished early June. Second, we oversaw the excavation for the deep rainfall drainage network and the installation of hundreds of metres of sizable (two-metre diameter) concrete pipes. These works caused major upheaval on the platform—currently, as we backfill and level, the mountains of dirt are slowly disappearing. Finally, we have erected Contractors Area 2 on the northwest corner of the platform. This area will host contractor workshops, a canteen to deliver 1,500 meals per day, and an infirmary for the welfare of the workers. We have had approximately 250 workers on site these past months; another 200 people in the offices are preparing construction drawings and finalizing ongoing calls for tender. In the next six months, you can expect to see the bottom slab (B2) of the Tokamak Complex take shape. We will also finalize the deep networks and continue the realization of technical galleries around the Tokamak Building.
The European Domestic Agency is responsible for the construction of 39 scientific buildings and dedicated areas on the ITER platform; before each project can start, tender offers have to be launched and contracts awarded. What is the status of contracts?
At F4E, we label our work packages by Tender Batch (TB). Last December we signed Tender Batch 03 (TB03) for the construction of the Tokamak Complex and auxiliary buildings, one of our largest contracts in the area of the civil engineering works. In 2012 we also signed TB08 for site infrastructure works—together, TB03 and TB08 represent a value of EUR 350 million. Before summer time, F4E intends to sign for over EUR 500 million in contracts with the planned signature of TB02 (handling items, such as cranes, within the Tokamak Building), TB04 (mechanical and electrical installations), TB05 (the design and construction of the magnet power conversion and reactive power control buildings), TB07 (the design and construction of the cold basin and cooling towers, pumping stations and heat exchangers), and finally TB06 (external power supply equipment and installation. What it's important for you to know is that these contracts cover the entire "buildings scope" except for the Hot Cell Facility, radwaste building and three surrounding buildings.
As you can see, we are making tremendous, behind-the-scenes progress. Each contract signature signifies that the tender design period is over and that the baton is being transferred to the contractors. But each signature is also an important and visible signal for the ITER project of progress made in construction.
The contract for Tokamak Complex construction (and all surrounding buildings) was kicked off on 30 April 2013 in Barcelona (see related article in this issue). After an introduction by F4E Director Henrik Bindslev and ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, all of us—F4E, ITER Organization and F4E's Architect/Engineer Engage—reminded the contractor consortium of the provisions of the contract and invited them to formally to start the works. The first phase of the contract will include the approval of quality documents, the selection of workers, and preparatory works (worksite, workshop, and welfare facilities). During the second phase of works, the consortium will deliver the detailed construction drawings. We are expecting construction works to begin early in 2014.
With all of the distinct work packages planned for building ITER, how will you manage the organization of the site in the years to come?
Most of the Tender Batches will be organized in separate areas on the platform and be managed in parallel. Where that is not the situation, as in the case of transversal packages TB06 (electrical distribution) and TB08 (roads and tunnels), each contractor will be responsible for the coordination of the work on its own area but general supervision and coordination will be closely followed by the following key actors: Apave, for health and safety coordination, and Engage, for the technical supervision.
In 2014, F4E expects to have approximately 2,000 workers on the platform, all contracts combined. And from that moment forward, the construction site will be a hive of activity for years! On top of the challenge of keeping to schedule, we will pay very particular attention to health and safety. F4E will also be implicated in the overall organization and coordination of the construction site because—despite the general impression that the ITER site is very large—in actual fact we will see that, progressively, all pieces of available land will be used by the contractors. In this context, access control and space management will be key elements to be able to optimize the schedule.
The F4E building team, with the support of Apave, Energhia* and Engage, will represent a workforce of around 200 staff dedicated to the follow-up and the monitoring of something close to EUR 1 billion of investment on the ITER platform over the next five years.
* EnergHIA, which provides support to F4E, is a consortium that includes IDOM (Spain), Halcrow (UK) and Altran (Spain/France)
The ITER Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) convened last week at ITER Headquarters for the 14th time in the history of the project.
Composed of the leading scientists and engineers from the ITER Members' fusion communities, STAC was established to review the progress that the project is making in key areas of science and technology.
Together with the ITER Management Advisory Committee (MAC), STAC makes recommendations that are submitted to the ITER Council.
The 14th session of STAC, last 14-16 May, covered a large range of topics, voicing concern over schedule but commending the ITER Organization for its efforts towards recovering delays and for the considerable progress made in the design, testing, validation and manufacturing of several components.
A column on the outcome of the meeting, by STAC Head Joaquin Sanchez, will be published in the upcoming issue of Newsline.