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Conferences


"It won't get boring," says PDDG Norbert Holtkamp.
With four top-level meetings in a row, the Science and the Management Advisory Committees, the Contact Persons Working Group and finally, the meeting between the ITER Organization and Directors and representatives from the seven Domestic Agencies, I am not exaggerating when I say that this last week has been long and very intense. The discussions we had within these different committees, however heated and difficult they might have been at some stages, proved to be consistently constructive and focused on the overall advancement of the ITER project. This is collaboration at work, even if it may look different sometimes! The common motivation to build ITER as fast as possible catalyses agreement even when it appears impossible.

Over the past six months the project has made visible progress finalizing the design of ITER by addressing major issues that the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) wanted to see resolved before moving on to construction. We presented the result of this endeavour to the STAC members who expressed their satisfaction at the ITER Organization's approach. The committee recommends that the design changes should now be incorporated in the revised ITER technical baseline design and then transmitted to the ITER Council for approval this June.

The two-day Management Advisory Committee (MAC) followed, including a joint session with the STAC on Wednesday morning. In this meeting we presented a new reference project schedule which has been developed together with the Domestic Agencies over the last nine months in a series of workshops where we went through the construction and installation process in great detail. "Realistic but aggressive" was the MAC verdict. A presentation followed of the resources needed to meet the new reference project schedule. With little time to spend and a lot of information provided, the MAC concluded that the ITER Organization had done a good job responding to the request to assess resources, but that it needed more time to fully understand the reply. Frank Briscoe, expert adviser to the European MAC delegation, was charged with carrying out an in-depth review of the cost assessment over the next two months.

On Friday and Saturday, the Contact Person Working Group (CPWG) worked with great rigour on the preparation of the ITER Council meeting in June in Aomori. Another important step was taken during this meeting: the Test Blanket Module Program, not yet part of the ITER construction project, will be included providing that the Council accepts our proposal. The Test Blanket Module Program has always been an ITER mission. Now that the program has matured, it is ready to come under the umbrella of the ITER Agreement.

Finally, yesterday, the ITER Organization met the Heads of the Domestic Agencies and their delegates. These IO-DA meetings are key for the successful implementation of all recommendations and requests. We went through another long day together making sure that construction continues according to plan and that components are being built on schedule.

After all these discussions with the various advisory bodies, the message is clear: make it cheaper, make it faster and make it better! Both the IO and the Domestic Agencies got the message loud and clear and we will come up with appropriate proposals. So, one thing is for sure: the next six months won't be boring.

The MAC members taking a tour around the ITER construction site.
"The schedule was aggressive, but not achievable." Bob Iotti, Chairman of the ITER Management Advisory Committee (MAC), could not resist making this ironic comment on the fact that lunch took a bit longer that day than expected. It could have been understood differently though.

Due to intensive discussions, the meeting was running behind schedule, so Norbert Holtkamp allowed the attendees no more than ten minutes for the buffet lunch. When the ITER Principal Deputy Director-General finally clapped his hands together to hurry everybody back to the conference table in the Salle de la Fernière at the Château in Cadarache, half an hour had passed.

Iotti's remark was greeted with loud laughter, as that Wednesday morning Norbert Holtkamp had presented the new bottom-up project schedule, "an aggressive, but credible project schedule, which permits assessment of the consequences of any action taken by the project," as Iotti later summarized the "very intensive" two-day meeting, which included a joint session with the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC).

In its draft final report, the MAC concluded that the ITER project has made "remarkable progress" since the last MAC meeting. "Visible achievements have been made in finalizing the design as well as in development and implementation of management systems and most of the administrative systems. A few technical design issues, recommended by the STAC, remain to be addressed, but the overall progress since the last ITER Council meeting has been very substantial and gratifying." The committee was particularly encouraged with the effective cooperation between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies through the IO/DA Coordination meeting, Iotti said, "which paves the way for an even closer interaction."

Size matters, especially when dealing with fusion machines. But when the picture below was taken, in the late fifties at Fontenay-aux-Roses, near Paris, where French CEA operated an embryonic "fusion service", no one had yet figured the importance of the "scaling laws" : plasma volume in TA-2000 was a fraction of a cubic meter — ITER's will be close to 1 000 m3 — and chances for fusion reactions were exceedingly low.

Not that the physicists operating this early "toroïdal pinch" machine really expected them, says Jean Jacquinot, the former head of fusion research at CEA, who started working at Fontenay in 1961 . "TA-2000's main accomplishment was to demonstrate how ignorant all of us were about plasma physics. We understood the individual behaviour of particles, but we didn't have the slightest notion about their collective comportment. We didn't know there was a Devil in the plasma..." Instabilities, "dreadful confinement", were the names of that Devil. Spectrograph operators would ask the machine operators if they had not, by accident, mixed "coal" with hydrogen, for the spectrograms showed more carbon atomic lines than anything else — an evidence that the plasma was in violent contact with the Pyrex walls of the machine.

"I really felt I could bring something to the ITER project" -  Jerry Goff.
After leaving school, Jerry Goff served an apprenticeship with the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell and was involved in building the Bundle Divertor power supplies on the DITE fusion experiment at Culham in 1978. He moved to JET in 1982 where he was involved in commissioning, operations and maintenance of the JET power supplies until he moved to Cadarache earlier this year.

In 1987 Jerry became an active trade union representative in UKAEA, eventually becoming a Branch Secretary. In domestic life he took interest in local politics, was elected to the Town Council of Didcot, a town about 10 km south of Oxford, and even became town Mayor in 2001. But when he was offered the opportunity to join ITER he didn't have to think very long. "Having been in fusion for so long, I really felt I could bring something to the ITER project," says Jerry," and at the same time it is a challenging new project in my own career."

At ITER Jerry works in the Coil Power Supply Section of Electrical Engineering Division within CEP Department. He supports the Section in analysis and design work, especially with regard to control and protection of the ITER magnet power supplies and will soon start working on the technical requirements for the Procurement Arrangements.

Cars queuing in front of a petrol station in La Rochelle last week.
Filling the car's tank is one of those menial chores which do not require much planning or thinking. Except when fishermen, faced with soaring fuel prices, decide to blockade the oil refineries in the Marseilles area, where 30 % of the country's total refining capacity is situated, to put pressure on the government. (Taxes amount to 50 to 60% of the price at the pump.)

As a consequence, starting last Wednesday afternoon, shortages - and a bit of paranoia - led to long queues in front of the service stations until the stations themselves ran dry. In some places, the situation got so tense that the authorities had to prohibit the filling of jerrycans.

Despite the government's decision to release a EUR 110 million "emergency package", fishermen held on, and on Thursday noon, riot police had to be sent to "liberate" the refineries. Friday morning, it was back to square one: refineries had been "retaken" and would remain "occupied" until the government guaranteed that fishermen would pay their diesel fuel 0,40 € per litre instead of 0,70.

Michel Barnier, the French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, agreed to the fishermen's demand — a decision which, in Brussels' view, amounts to "a subsidy in disguise". On Monday things were back to normal. But the fishermen's "base", now in disagreement with their leadership, were bracing for "new actions" in the course of the week.

One of the two stormbasins that will hold the floods in case of the - rare - rainfall event.
Talking about rainfall: in order to make sure that ITER does not get washed away by the odd flood, two storm basins have been erected on site. One basin with a capacity of 6000 m3 and a second one which can hold 13.000 m3 will make sure that the ITER facilities covering about 60 hectares of land won't get washed away even in case of persistent, heavy rainfall. The capacity of the two basins and the connected release pipes have been calculated both on the basis of rainfall statistics gathered over the past hundred years which were then extrapolated, and the given topography on the ITER site.

The second basin will be close to the future waste water sewage plant to be built in 2009 and the future cooling water control basins, for which construction will start later this year. The works related to the rainwater drainage will be finished this July.

Special events require special measures: Pascal Garin (second from right) paving the way for IFMIF.
On 21 May 2008, the Broader Approach site in Rokkasho experienced a rare celebration: the company in charge of safety for the construction of the buildings organized, on behalf of JAEA, the "anzenkigansai" ceremony - a groundbreaking ceremony following an old Shinto ceremony aiming to provide good auspices all along the construction phase.

Many personalities from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology within the Aomori Prefecture, the Rokkasho village, the JAEA and the Permanent Representation of European Commission in Japan attended this important and picturesque event.

The Broader Approach activities aim at supporting the ITER project and at an early realization of fusion as a clean and sustainable source of energy for peaceful purposes. They comprise the following three large research projects to be jointly implemented:

The Satellite Tokamak Program, also known as JT-60SA, a major modification of the existing JT-60U at Naka, reusing most of the infrastructure, but with a new machine: its magnet will be a full superconducting one (2.6 T on the axis) and its plasma will have a volume of about 110 m3. Duration of discharges will be 100 s on flattop and the heating system will provide 41 MW power (34 MW of neutron beam injection and 7 MW of electron cyclotron power). This tokamak will address key physics issues for ITER and DEMO. The International Fusion Energy Research Centre (IFERC), with three main components: A supercomputer, enabling calculations for ITER plasmas, advanced scenarios, materials and DEMO conceptual activities, A remote experiment centre, usable for both ITER and JT-60SA, An R&D centre for DEMO, in particular for its concepts, low-activation materials and breeding blanket technologies.

The IFMIF/EVEDA project: International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility / Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities, with the goal to deliver in 2013 the design file of IFMIF, enabling its rapid construction (similarly to ITER EDA). This design file will be validated by the construction and the operation of prototypes, representing the most challenging innovations of the project: the low energy part of the deuteron accelerator, the liquid lithium target and the high flux module of the test facilities.

The two last projects are located in Rokkasho, Aomori prefecture in Japan. They involve several "Voluntary Contributing Countries" in Europe, the JAEA and several Universities in Japan. They are implemented through the Domestic Agencies created in the framework of the ITER Treaty: Fusion for Energy in Europe and JAEA in Japan. This agreement is open to other ITER Members. Applicable conditions will be presented at the next ITER Council to be held in Aomori city mid-June 2008.