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Lost in the wild: the 42-hectare ITER platform from an altitude of 500 metres. To the right: CEA-Cadarache; to the left, Mount Petit and Mount Gros Bessillon (~ alt. 800 m). © MatthieuCOLIN.com / ITER Organization
The last time an aerial photo survey was conducted of the ITER site, in September 2011*, the lower basemat had yet to be poured in the Tokamak Seismic Pit; cladding and roofing operations were underway on the Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility; and windows were being installed at ITER Headquarters.

A year and a half later, a four-hectare electrical switchyard is in place and 500 people work from the completed Headquarters building. Preparatory works have just begun for the Tokamak Complex basemat (the B2 slab) that will rest atop the Seismic Pit's 493 concrete columns (plinths) and pads.

Whereas in 2011, vast expanses of barren land still existed between the different work areas on the platform, this new series of photographs, taken two weeks ago, shows a much different landscape: mounds of earth, trenches, and material and vehicle storage areas now occupy most of the available space between the buildings.

In the Seismic Pit, the radial pattern of the plinths is clearly visible from the air. Nearby, the completed sections of the Assembly Building foundation slab reflect the mid-afternoon winter sun. From the Headquarters building, long shadows extend almost all the way to the deserted parking lot (the photograph was taken on a Saturday). On the "green" rooftops of the Access Control Building, the Amphitheatre and the Medical Building, the sedum plants wear their winter colour—they will turn from red to green in the summer and from green to yellow in the fall.

Photographer Matthieu Colin carried out the latest ITER aerial campaign from an ultralight aircraft flying at an altitude of 500-900 metres. (The September 2011 photographs had been taken from a helium-filled balloon hovering at 70-100 metres above ground.)

* The December 2012 pictures that appear in our web site's photo Gallery were taken from a cellular radio tower 40-metre high.
Click here to view more aerial photographs of the ITER site.

Christine, Alison, Sylvie and Carole in traditional kimonos from Mrs Motojima's garde-robe... the transformation requires no less than an hour and a half of patient and artful adjustments.
Close to 900 people—a record for the ITER canteen—attended Japan Day on Monday 4 March, the latest National Day celebration at the ITER Organization.

ITER's celebration coincided with a Japanese tradition called Hinamatsuri, or Girls' Festival, celebrated on 3 March—a day to pray for a young girl's growth and happiness. In the weeks leading up to this festival, most families with girls display ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in the traditional court dress of the Heian period, and arranged on a five- or seven-tiered stand covered with a red carpet.

At the luncheon attended by the Consul General of Japan in Marseille, Masaaki Sato, and his wife, traditional Japanese dishes were prepared by ITER's Sodexo food service: kenchin soup and either an oyako or tamago rice bowl.

The ITER band accompanied singers Michiya Shimada, Sachiko Ishizaka, and Arata Nishimura from the ITER Organization and Masao Ishikawa (JAEA) in a selection of Japanese pop and folk tunes known in the West as "Sukiyaki" songs, that inspired some members of the assembly to join in.

Click here to view the Japan Day image gallery.

"ITER has to think of countries like Australia that can connect to the project in a very effective manner outside of a full membership arrangement and potentially form a new model of engagement," says ANSTO CEO Adi Paterson.
Fusion research is deeply indebted to Australia: it was the Australian Mark Oliphant who, under the guidance of Ernest Rutherford, realized the first fusion reaction at Cambridge's Clarendon Laboratory in 1933, and it was in Australia where the only tokamaks outside the Soviet Union operated between 1964 and 1969.

Over the past half-century, the country's small but active fusion community has developed a strong reputation, carrying out seminal theoretical work in plasma physics, developing significant plasma diagnostic innovations and making important contributions to fusion materials research.

Many Australian fusion physicists are closely associated to the ITER project. While Australia is not an official Member, these physicists are eager to see their country engage with it. As yet, no formal institutional collaboration has been established.

On his visit to ITER, last September, Australian National University physicist Matthew Hole, who chairs the Australian ITER Forum, shared his hopes for Australia to become more involved.  "ITER," he said, "will define the fusion research program for at least the next generation. We're keen to be part of that enterprise ..."

How could Australia be more closely associated to ITER? The question was at the centre of the "very useful conversations" that Adi Paterson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), had with the ITER management when he visited here on 20 February.

"A project the size and scope of ITER cannot be limited to only seven Members," explains Paterson. "ITER has to think of countries like Australia that can connect to the project in a very effective manner outside of a full membership arrangement and potentially form a new model of engagement."

In this context, ANSTO has an important role to play. "My job is to help define and implement a coherent strategy and assist in strengthening the fusion community at home" adds Paterson. "We need to initiate exchanges, develop knowledge on the real questions of diagnostics, 3D fields, energetic particles, collision cross-sections, materials, neutronics..."

The "model of engagement" doesn't exist yet, but both sides are eager to create one. Seeing the reality of the project's progress comforted Paterson in his determination. Along with the obvious progress of construction and of components manufacturing, what makes ITER real in the eye of ANSTO's CEO is "the milestone that was accomplished last November. When the nuclear safety regulator says 'you can carry on', this is a huge accolade, and one that brought confidence to the whole fusion community worldwide."

Each toroidal field coil is made up of a winding pack (seven double pancakes plus radial plate) and a protective shell of stainless steel. At the La Spezia winding line, 750-metre lengths of toroidal field conductor will be bent into a D-shaped double spiral trajectory, and their length controlled to an accuracy of 500th of a millimetre per metre.
The magnets responsible for confining the ITER plasma—the eighteen D-shaped toroidal field coils—will form an impressive superstructure within the ITER machine: at approximately 6,000 tonnes (coils plus cases), they will represent over one-fourth of the Tokamak's total weight.

In two new videos produced by the European Domestic Agency, we are taken inside a vast manufacturing facility in La Spezia, Italy, where preparations are under way for the fabrication of ten toroidal field coils (nine plus one spare) that are part of the European contribution to ITER.

From winding through heat treatment and on to insertion into radial plates, the toroidal field coil manufacturing process is complex and exacting, requiring unprecedented levels of tolerances and performance. In the videos, experts from the ASG consortium* and Europe speak of the technical challenges, the specialized tooling, and the qualification work underway.

You can see the two 6-minute videos on F4E's website.

*ASG consortium: Iberdrola Ingeniería y Construcción SAU, ASG Superconductors SpA and Elytt Energy SL

The four-metre-high structure is a designer's interpretation of the ITER Tokamak. © Paul Bernhardt Exhibit Design & Consulting. Photo by Chad Loucks.
An imposing object stands at the heart of the Tom Hunt Energy Hall in the recently opened Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas.

The four-metre-high structure is a mock-up of the ITER Tokamak—or, rather, a designer's "interpretation" of the science of fusion and of the flagship device of fusion research.

Those familiar with the arrangement of components that make up an actual tokamak—central solenoid, vacuum vessel, toroidal and poloidal field coils, divertor, piping and feeders—will be a bit lost when gazing upon the towering mockup.

This is intentional. "Our goal was to create a sense of wonder in our visitors that might inspire them to learn more about the subject," explains Paul Bernhard, whose team designed and installed the 700-square-metre Tom Hunt Energy Hall. "We see our tokamak as based in science, but coloured by a future vision influenced by science fiction—a somewhat cinematic element that you might imagine seeing in a new Star Trek film..."

The result is indeed spectacular. Although Bernhard's tokamak looks a bit like a thermonuclear mushroom cloud—a "purely coincidental" similarity due to the geometry of the large rounded shape containing the brightly glowing "plasma" suspended over the narrower central core—it is a truly astonishing work of science art.

The moment of awe passed, visitors can experiment with a neon/argon plasma, manipulating it with a magnet; have a hands-on experience with actual toroidal field coil and central solenoid conductor sections provided by the US Domestic Agency; or watch video clips.

Impressed by the "amazing potential of fusion energy," Bernhard and his team sought to "pass along [their] sense of inspiration." In stimulating curiosity and enthusiasm for the sciences, a bit of artistic license can't do any harm.