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In the last few months, we have come a long way to resolve critical issues in order to generate the 26 Procurement Arrangements (PAs) that are scheduled for this year. This big job is made even more challenging by the fact that several recommendations made by the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) will likely impact at least a few of these PAs. The three main STAC recommendations relate to ELM mitigation and vertical stability, increased asymmetric loads on the Vacuum Vessel (VV), and plasma shaping.

The mitigation of ELMs is certainly the most challenging in regards to design, cost, and schedule. The current concept which has the coils mounted on the inner wall of the vacuum vessel (which can also address vertical stability deficiencies) will see high electromagnetic loads as well as thermal loads, and must accommodate significant thermal expansion. Assuring high reliability for 20 years of operation, plus accommodating remote handling replacement (if needed) are critical requirements.

The complexity of this effort is even increased due to space constraints between the vacuum vessel and the blanket. Because the Vessel PA is planned to be issued in June this year and this is a critical path activity, every effort is being made to reduce the schedule impact. Therefore, strategies have been developed together with the Domestic Agencies involved to more fully define the design and assess impacts. This extensive effort is to be done by late May.

Increased asymmetric loads on the vacuum vessel are another design challenge that requires some reinforcement along the top of the nine divertor ports. The VV supports are located on the bottom side of these ports. Currently, every effort is being made to accommodate these loads without adding additional supports. At this time a solution with the current nine supports looks feasible.

Even without the potential changes associated with the STAC issues mentioned above, the completion of the VV design and finalizing the related Procurement Arrangements by June 2008 remains a challenge. Nevertheless, good progress is being made to finalize the interfaces, and to complete the analysis documentation and the technical specifications.

Last but not least, the STAC recommended changes to the Poloidal Field (PF) coil to address deficiencies in plasma shaping, flux and Li-control (a measure of how peaked the plasma current profile is). The current plan is to subcool PF6, move it closer to the plasma, and add an extra double pancake. Second, to add 10% more turns on PF2, and - third - to modify the conductor for PF2 to PF5 to allow enhanced current capability. Impacts on the PA issue schedule are expected to be relatively small.

Summarizing, it will take a concerted team effort within the IO to finish the related designs and keep the issue dates for the 26 Procurement Arrangements on schedule. This is starting to happen and I'm optimistic that 2008 will be not only be a pivotal but a successful year for the ITER project.

Last week, the Pre-Architectural tender process moved another step forward as the bids from the tenders that were chosen earlier this year in a preselection round were opened. The opening procedure was attended by representatives from ITER Administration, Civil Construction and Engineering and the Project Office. The Architect Engineering contract comprises the preliminary design and follow up for all the future ITER buildings.

Capable of lifting even the heaviest load: the ITER crane. 
Picture: ITER/Eric Verdult
They will be big, very big: The two cranes that will one day help to assemble the main tokamak components such as the vacuum vessel segments and the toroidal coils to form the nine tokamak sectors, and subsequently to transfer the sub-assemblies to their final position in the tokamak building pit.

Some of these components and sub-assemblies are very heavy, therefore a twin crane system has been envisaged: the two cranes can work in pair for lifting loads up to 1500 tons, while at the same time having the flexibility to operate independently and thus increase assembly operations productivity for the majority of other lifts.

Technical characteristics and dimensions are impressive and almost unique, each crane's weight is estimated to be about 700 tons. Their longitudinal travel isapproximately 175 m on rails at an elevation of 40 metres. The main beams span about 47 m and roll on two trolleys, each one provided with a hoist of 375 tons capacity.

"Furthermore, the cranes have to be designed in order to withstand the design seismic event at full load without collapsing or releasing the load," explains Roberto Lanza, mechanical engineer and responsible for the cranes. Also, the cranes have to be capable of bridging the gap between the Assembly Hall and the Tokamak Building - the gap is 25 cm wide - which are separated for seismic reasons.

One of the challenges of these cranes will be the erection on site, which will be done by means of a high capacity crawler crane. "Another important issue is linked to the transportation, in fact cranes should be assembled and load tested at supplier workshop, disassembled and brought to site," Lanza points out. "In this scenario the bridge beams (47 m long, 2m wide, 4.5 m high) will be the most problematic item for transportation from the Etang de Berre to Cadarache, requiring some interventions to the planned route."

The signature of the Procurement Arrangement with the European Domestic Agency is planned for December this year, the crane installation should take place between December 2012 and February 2013.

ITER on the agenda of Russian-European negiotiations.
On March 28, a Russian delegation headed by Acadimician Evgeny P. Velikhov from the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, plus representatives from ITER Russia, came together with delegates from the European Commission, led by Euratom (Energy) Director Octavi Quintana Trias, to discuss a strategy for a Russian-European cooperation in the field of energy. Special attention was paid to the construction of the first international experimental fusion reactor ITER.

Blue sky and Aioli - the ITER team enjoying the trademarks of Southern France.
Usually, garlic is not the most appropriate instrument to make friends. But when you live in France, in Provence, what else but Aioli do you offer when inviting colleagues to your house-warming party?

Last Friday, bright blue sky and radiant sunshine - trademarks of the French Provence - set the perfect scene for a joyful giant picnic. A lunch-party that was organized to welcome the colleagues to the new offices in Extension II, unofficially called "ITER Top of the Hill" or - for the acronym addict - I.T.O.T.H..

Some of the French ITER staff showed an interesting example of "best practice sharing", when they taught their colleagues from all over the world to play pétanque, the traditional French bowls game. Others just strolled around to meet new faces and then sat down on one of the long wooden benches to enjoy the food and chat with the others around the table. And even the local television and radio were there to get some first impressions of some of the non-French staff members, who were only too happy to try out their best French on the interviewers. All in all, a great way to start the Spring season.


Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith (right) and ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda at the first Council Meeting in November last year.
At the State Banquet in honour of the President of France hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle on 26 March, the Chairman of the ITER Council, Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, found himself seated next to the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Sir Chris, who believes that he was invited at the request of the French Government because he chairs the ITER Council, said: "I hope that, during a general discussion of energy issues with the Prime Minister, I succeeded in conveying the enormous potential of fusion."

East meets West at the International School.
For the last couple of weeks they had been in the midst of colourful preparations: the children of the German section of the primary school. Last week, they showed their classmates how Easter is celebrated in Germany.

It all started with hard-boiled eggs which were painted in vibrant patterns. That was followed by a giant egg-hunt, some Easter songs and poems, and then it was time for tea with German pastry and specialities. And this is only one example of how children at the International School get the opportunity to discover the cultures of their classmates from all over the world. In close collaboration with the parents, who have the best knowledge of the traditions and folklore of their countries, songs, art and food are brought to life.

It all started with Saint Nicolas on 5 December, a Dutch tradition where children (but only those who have been good and obedient all year round) receive presents, chocolate and Dutch cookies from Saint Nicolas, patron saint of children. This tradition, with its many Saint Nicolas songs, was also celebrated at the International School.

Next in line was Christmas with its songs, shows, beautifully decorated Christmas tree and Santa Klaus to crown it all. Then, in February the Chinese New Year was celebrated with a dragon, calligraphy, traditional Chinese paper folding and music, and an amazing buffet of Chinese dishes. Talk about cultural diversity: with 19 nationalities currently represented on the International School campus, this initiative still has a long future ahead.

The new cabins for the workers are erected on site.
The work on the ITER construction site is progressing rapidly, the landscape changing from day to day. Already installed are the portacabins for the workers and subcontractors. The next step is the construction of the 300 new temporary offices for the ITER team which will be ready by October this year. They will be located behind the Extension II on the other side of the fence. A pedestrian gate will allow access to the site. The preparatory work for the 3700 m platform and the electrical installations, telephone, internet lines etc. is underway.

Furthermore, Agence ITER France together with the CEA Cadarache are currently installing the power supply for the new ITER offices and the new car park. For that, the 15 kV line coming from Tore Supra will be reduced to a 400 Volt line.

Last Thursday, the Welcome Office organized a guided excursion to the heart of the Luberon. First, the tour led to Gordes, a typical village. After a delicious lunch, the group led by Audrey Duval discovered Roussillon with its unique ochre walls.