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Actu & Médias


Of Interest

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Celebrating Tore Supra's 20th anniversary: Michel Chatelier.
Last week, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Tore Supra. Some people say that Tore Supra is the smallest of the big fusion machines, some that it is the biggest of the small. However you see it, Tore Supra certainly achieved its scientific goals, and also helped a lot to gain credibility for fusion research.

We have had many thousands of visitors here over the last few years, people from all over the world - among them very important people. They all looked at the device, which is not as big as the European experiment JET, but is by far able to run longer discharges. Tore Supra contains a lot of innovative technologies: superconducting magnets, megawatts of RF power, all actively-cooled facing components for long pulse operation. It is an industrial device serving scientists to solve fundamental questions. It is the real life the public sees here and that gives a lot of credibility to fusion overall and to build ITER in Cadarache. That is the one half of the equation.

The other half refers to the fusion community. And here the same holds true for Tore Supra as for ITER: both are experiments that permanently operate at the boundary of the possible, which of course gives the impression that things are difficult. A commercial reactor in the future will have to work sufficiently far from boundaries. Until then, every day we work right at the edge of the frontier. It's very similar to what we see in Formula 1 motor-racing. We have people that draw the engines, other who build them and others that push their performance and may damage them because they drive too fast. ITER is a research project, and the solutions to many issues do not lie on the shelf. You are permanently inventing, having to make decisions. That makes people nervous, but also extremely active.

At last week's celebrations, all the invited speakers had five minutes to speak about their experiences in building and operating Tore Supra. They spoke about the fabrication process for the superconductors which succeeded, failed and then succeeded again. There were many drawbacks on the way...but that's life. Winston Churchill once said that success is going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.

I am convinced that keeping up the enthusiasm and belief is a driving force for success. During all these years, there has been a dedicated team to make Tore Supra a success and contribute to bring ITER to Cadarache. And we never gave up our good spirits, even when in 2001-2002 the ITER project seemed to be lost. I can see that you are working hard to build up the ITER team and I wish you all the luck to succeed. You will win as a team, not as individuals.

DG Ikeda meeting Dr. Wan Gang, Chinese Minister for Science and Technology.
At the end of March/beginning of April, DG Ikeda visited both India and China, accompanied by senior IO staff from the two countries. In India he had talks with Dr Anil Kakodkhar, Chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission and Prof Kaw, Chairman of STAC. In China, he met Minister Wan Gang and Vice-Minister Cheng in Beijing at the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The purpose of these visits was to give updates on the IO's progress since the last Council meeting in November and to have discussions on various issues, including those related to the Design Review that will be raised at this week's STAC meeting and later at the second ITER Council that will be held in June in Japan. Whilst in Beijing, DG Ikeda also visited Peking University and the China Institute of Atomic Energy. At the CIAE he toured the materials laboratory, the Tandem Accelerator and the first Fast Breeder Experimental Reactor of China.

"Building must be in my blood": Olli Kalha.
After eight years spent in Kosovo helping to get the country back on its feet, Olli Kalha knows what it means to build from scratch.

Olli, who is from Finland and joined ITER as a Senior Administrator for Procurement on 1 March this year, arrived in Kosovo in the spring of 2000, right after the end of the war, to work for the European Agency for Reconstruction, an EU initiative. "The early days were really tough," Olli remembers, "with no water, no electricity, no structure and no procedures for anything, just the burning need to rebuild the country."

The country was under UN control and so an international team joined forces to get the infrastructures working again. Energy being in short supply, Olli, in charge of energy procurements, had to make sure he found the right companies to get some of the power plants, which were in less than pristine condition, up and running again.

Olli enjoys that operational part of his job and sees some analogies between his Kosovo experience and ITER. Both involve setting up procedures from scratch, working in a very international environment and building something big.

"Building must be in my blood," says Olli, "because I really enjoy working on a concrete project that will, in time, literally come out of the ground. Whereas in some sectors, procurement can be a bureaucratic job, here it is quite the opposite and that operational, hands-on side definitely adds an extra challenge and dimension."

At the invitation of the Director of the European Commission's Directorate J - Energy (Euratom), Octavi Quintana Trias, Kaname Ikeda and Norbert Holtkamp made presentations to a meeting of Europe's most senior fusion committee, the CCE-FU, on 3 April in Brussels. Mr Ikeda presented the overall status and perspectives of the ITER project and Mr Holtkamp addressed the Design Review and related consequences. Mr. Holtkamp then went on to make a presentation to the ITER-STAC European Delegates and Experts on detailed issues relating to the Design Review.

No birthday without a birthday cake.
On April 1st 2008, a celebration took place at the Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Tore Supra's first plasma. This was an excellent opportunity to gather several generations of physicists and engineers that had designed, built and operated Tore Supra.

Before a convivial buffet, several staff of the Institute including retirees, recounted the Tore Supra adventure through various anecdotes: industrialization problems of NbTi superconducting cables; designing Tore Supra essentially with drawing tables and slide rules; disbelief of foreign colleagues that a superfluid helium bath could properly cool down superconductors; the atmosphere in the control room on the night between 31 March and 1 April 1988 (with a scoop: the first plasma of Tore Supra probably happened on March 31st!); progress toward the minutes duration discharge; the saga of the klystrons for current drive from the choice of the 3,7 GHz frequency up to the latest technological developments for the CIMES project.

Beneath the physics findings and the technological achievements, the human and team spirit aspects really shined through. Jean Jacquinot, former Head of the Institute and Yves Caristan, Director of the "Direction des Sciences de la Matière" sent their congratulations and encouragements to the Institute staff by remote participation. Looking towards future prospects for Tore Supra concluded the presentations. The last word was given by Robert Aymar, Tore Supra project manager and currently Director of CERN whose advice to young scientists was "always keep a long ranging view on the future by always preparing the next step."

When the International School unlocked its doors for its "Open Day" on Saturday morning 29 March at 9 a.m., people were already queuing up to go in and find a seat in the "salle polyvalente" of the Lycée des Iscles.

More than 200 people had come to listen to Jean-Pierre Hardy's presentation on the unique features which make the International School so different from other French public schools. A single school for children between 3 and 18 years old with bilingual teaching and sufficiently small classes for every pupil to get the best possible individual attention and support is indeed something that deserves some explaining.

This was followed by a tour of the school and the opportunity to see the mock-up and plans of the future buildings of the school, part of which will be inaugurated in September 2009.

A vibrant show in the gymnasium of the school, which had been redecorated with flags and banners for the occasion, then awaited the more than 300 parents and possible future parents, as children from all age groups sung, danced and performed together. There was an introduction to the Chinese martial art of tai-chi but also a very skilful American "square-dance" demonstration whereas the school entrance had been decorated with some magnificent examples of Chinese calligraphy, prepared by the children.

"We are delighted that our Open Day attracted so many visitors", said Jean-Pierre Hardy, "both the children and the teachers have put in a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm and this success certainly is a wonderful reward for their hard work".

Eric Benoit and Nadine Utzel from the ITER team handing over the computer to school director André Barlatier.
Eleven computers, rather advanced in years and therefore obsolete for ITER purposes, were donated to the Ecole l'Eau Vive this Monday. The director, André Barlatier, happily received the present. "With these computers we can improve the quality of education in applied informatics."