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ITER Deputy Director-General for Administration, Shaoqi Wang
The last week saw the Administration Department buzzing in preparation of the Financial Audit Board and getting all the facts and figures ready for the upcoming meeting of the ITER Management Advisory Committe (MAC) in May and finally the ITER Council in June.

The Financial Audit Board is coming together in Cadarache this week for the first time in the young ITER history. It consists of seven independent auditors from the seven ITER Members who will check whether the contracts, tenders and other documents issued so far are in line with the Project Resources Management Regulations.

The second big effort for Administration over the past weeks was the preparation for the Management Advisory Committee and the ITER Council. We adopted the changes to the Staff Regulations and prepared the report on contracts and orders as required by the MAC in its last meeting. We are proud to announce that the calls for tender have doubled over the past six months while the number of single tenders has almost halved from 67 to 38.

Also in preparation for the MAC, four major contracts supporting the IO Engineering and Design efforts were prepared and are now ready for final approval by the ITER Council. Good news also from the construction front: the PreArchitect Contract which comprises the preliminary design of the future ITER buildings, is ready to be placed this week.

Also for the MAC, the Financial Statement of the ITER Organization for the year 2007 was written and with it the report on execution of the budget for 2008, the draft budget for 2009, the interim budget for 2010 and the preliminary budget for 2011. In addition we worked out a strategy on how to adapt the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Group in its meeting last week to the Resource Estimates.

As for the new round of recruitments, all seven Domestic Agencies have forwarded their lists of candidates who will be interviewed within the coming weeks. The implementation of the Staff Appraisals was another step forward, the interim assessment report is currently in preparation. With the first meeting of the Staff Committee and the ITER management we started the dialogue. I am sure that this exchange will improve the communication within the IO and by that lead to a constructive cooperation.

The members of the Technical Advisory Group on the ITER construction site.
For the third time, the ITER Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meeting took place at the Château of Cadarache on 14-16 April. In this three-day meeting, the independant experts from various fusion research institutes around the globe focused on the project's progress, its schedule and resources.

If you take the Mirabeau road between Jouques and St-Paul-Lez-Durance to go to Cadarache, you may have already noticed the temporary traffic lights on the RD 952. The traffic modifications are due to the construction of a retaining wall at Mirabeau as part of the work on the ITER Itinerary. The construction of this eight metre-high retaining wall in concrete will double the width of the existing road and consequently enable future nine metre-wide convoys to transport the ITER components from Berre to Cadarache in early 2010.

The wall will be 10 meters wide, including 6 meters of highway accessible to motorists. Terraces with trees will run alongside the whole length of the wall 'in order to facilitate its integration in the protected site of Mirabeau' added Annick Mievre, in charge of the Operation ITER itinerary in the Direction Régionale de l'Equipement (DRE PACA).

Avoiding any damage to the protected fauna and flora in the Mirabeau pass is essential in the overall work process. Last week, the vaults in the cliff were examined to evacuate any bats, before the work started on reinforcing the structure maintaining the wall. Next step: The start of the construction of the wall to widen the road on the Durance side of the pass, foreseen to last April 2009.

Members of the ITER Vacuum and Cryogenics Groups in front of EAST: Christian Mayaux, Luigi Serio and Robert Pearce next to Yuntao Song, Head of the EAST Design Division.
The last week of March, the ITER Vacuum and Cryogenics Groups visited the two new "babies" of the international tokamak familiy, EAST in Hefei, China, and KSTAR in Daejeon, Korea. While EAST celebrated its first plasma in September 2006 and is currently installing an actively-cooled first wall, KSTAR is in its commissioning phase and expects first plasma to happen in June this year.

Although both machines are much smaller than ITER, they do have many similarities in regards to the ITER vacuum and cryogenic systems, Robert Pearce, Leader of the ITER Vacuum Group summarized the visits. "The overall impression of the design and installations and the people's competencies very very positive," he said.

Physicist Jan Mlynár, in front of the Compass reactor at its new homebase in Prague.
It was not an April joke: On 1 April researchers at the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAV) in Prague officially unveiled the Compass Tokamak which formerly belonged to the UKEA. Compass is the only tokamak in the Eastern EU countries. Compass was transported to the Czech Republic last October. Until now, Czech researchers worked with a small tokamak Castor, developed by Russians in the 1970s. UKEA gave Compass, worth some half a billion crowns, to the Czech since it was replaced by Mast. Sir Cris Llewellyn Smith, Chairman of the Consultative Committee for Euratom and Chair of the ITER Council, said he believed Compass will become the centre of nuclear fusion research in Central Europe. Compass, weighing 21 tonnes, was rebuilt by the CAV in cooperation with CKD Group after its transport to Prague.

The refurbishment for the new phase of operations included the installation of new power supplies, new diagnostics and a new control and data acquisition system. With the first plasma scheduled for the end of this year, the tokamak becomes operational and will enable the Czech Association to expand its activities in fusion energy R&D. The new experimental program in IPP involves extensive collaboration with several of the other European Fusion Associations. COMPASS will be used to conduct a program of plasma physics studies of direct relevance to ITER.

The recently-created associations in the new EU Member States have a strong scientific background which has enriched and strengthened the fusion research community and — under the EURATOM banner —will make an important contribution to the ITER project as well as to further develop the know-how needed to build future power plants.

Possible new ITER Members: the delegation from Kazakhstan on site.
A delegation from Kazakhstan travelled to Cadarache on 17 April for an informal two-day meeting on possible Kazakhstan contributions to the ITER project in the event that the ITER Members would agree to start formal interactions for possible accession by Kazakhstan. ITER DG Kaname Ikeda and PDDG Norbert Holtkamp presented the progress of ITER, design review and preparation for the June ITER Council and the representatives of Kazakhstan gave presentations of their technical areas of interest for contribution to the project and on their preparation for possible formal interactions with the ITER Organization. These presentations were discussed in depth by the technical experts on both sides. The delegation also toured the ITER construction site and the French fusion experiment Tore Supra.

Fusion for Energy (F4E), the organisation for Europe's contribution to ITER based in Barcelona, Spain, last week unlocked new business opportunities for industry by launching its first ever procurement. The objective of this first procurement by Fusion for Energy is the supply of Chromium plated Copper strand that forms part of the ITER super conducting magnets in order to hold the heated gas known as plasma in position. "This first procurement marks the beginning of a strong partnership with European industry and research organisations in providing the components for ITER and ensuring its successful operation", explained Didier Gambier, Director of Fusion for Energy.

New head of the Tritium Breeding Blanket Group: Luciano Giancarli
His office is still empty, almost clinical. It has not yet reached that stage of organized disorder that researchers' desks tend to be buried under. But Luciano Giancarli has only just moved in. In fact he is still moving and when asked for his official title, he needs to check his computer. "I am the Chief Technical Officer for the TBM Program," he reads out loud, smiling his broad Italian smile.

TBM stands for Test Blanket Module. Within these test blankets, a viable technique will be exploited to ensure tritium breeding self-sufficiency, one of the major technological breakthroughs required for passing from ITER to the demonstration fusion power plant DEMO and finally to fusion power plants. "As there is no practical external source of tritium for fusion energy development beyond the Deuterium-Tritium plasma operation in ITER, the successful development of Tritium Breeding Blankets is essential for the whole mission of fusion power," Giancarli stresses. ITER will gain the 10 kilograms of Tritium that are foreseen over the entire lifetime of expected 20 years from external sources. But for DEMO with an expected electrical power output of 800 MW, about 300g of Tritium per day will be required.

For this reason, it is stated among the technical objectives of ITER that "ITER should test tritium breeding module concepts that would lead in a future reactor to tritium self-sufficiency and to the extraction of high-grade heat and electricity production." In fact ITER is the only opportunity for testing TBMs in a real fusion environment.

In order to comply with this mission, a working group called ITER Test Blanket Working Group (TBWG) was established in October 2003 with Luciano since then acting as Chairman. "We have the concepts, we have the materials," Luciano says. "The R&D is in a mature state. We now have to make provisions to implement the program into the ITER design."

All seven ITER Members will participate in the TBM program as it is clear that the tritium breeding technology is one of the keys to fusion power. What this technology will look like is not yet decided. As the name says, it is a test program.

Currently there are two major blanket families on the test stand: the solid ceramic breeders bankets — either cooled by water or by helium, and the liquid lithium-lead blankets, either cooled by helium or the lithium-lead itself.

The Test Blanket Module Program has always been an ITER mission, even though it is not - not yet - part of the ITER Agreement. But there do exist considerations to establish the TBM Program as part of the ITER Agreement and also the main principles of management for such a program.

Having been engaged in breeding blanket R&D almost ever since his University days in Genoa 25 years ago, working at the CEA laboratory in Saclay mostly ever since, Luciano came a long way to finally see all the efforts paying out ... to see theory turning into application. "Well," Luciano says with that broad Italian smile in his face. "It could be worse. I could have been retired."