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ITER NEWSLINE 275
The complexity of ITER—not only of its science and technology but also of its governance and legal framework—leaves room for many a misunderstanding.
This was amply demonstrated last Wednesday 3 July during the public meeting that the Local Commission for Information (CLI) had organized in the neighbouring village of Vinon-sur-Verdon.
The CLI is the official citizens' watchdog group that acts as an interface between the ITER Organization and the local population. Anything that the public feels it should know falls under the CLI's jurisdiction. And there are many things that, quite legitimately, the public wants to know about ITER.
Since it was established two and half years ago, the CLI has focused on nuclear safety issues, which has led to a fruitful dialogue between the 42 CLI members and ITER's Department of Safety, Quality & Security.
Lately, the focus has shifted from nuclear safety to the economic and social impact of the ITER Project. And at last Wednesday's public meeting in Vinon, questions about the planned arrival of some 3,000 workers on the ITER worksite dominated the (heated) debate.
Where will the workers come from? What accommodations have been prepared for them? How will they commute to the ITER worksite?
Certain groups have long voiced concern over the legal status of the ITER workers. Recently, too, in blogs and articles published in France, the worry has been expressed that they will be underpaid and deprived of social protection.
As was made clear by the presentations given by the ITER Organization, Agence Iter France, Vinci (which leads the consortium that will build the Tokamak Complex) and representatives of the French authorities, these worries and concerns are totally unfounded.
All workers on the ITER site, whatever their nationality or that of the company employing them, will be subjected by law to French labour regulations and to the collective agreements (convention collective) that govern specific branches. This is the case now on the ITER site, as it will be the case when the number of workers doubles, triples and quadruples.
Addressing another point of concern—that ITER will be built by mainly foreign workers—figures were provided that showed that of the 3,000 workers expected, the majority will be recruited in France. Ten to twenty percent only will originate from the rest of Europe. (Statistics from another large construction project in France—the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) in Flamanville—confirm these projections.)
During the meeting, misunderstanding was also prevalent over worker transport and accommodation. Considering the difficulty of finding decent housing at a reasonable price in Provence and the already heavy traffic on the roads around ITER, the local population is legitimately preoccupied by the peak in construction activities on the construction site.
Not all of the 3,000 workers will be looking for accommodation, however, as a significant proportion of workers will be hired locally through companies that subcontract to the main consortiums.
Estimations range from 1,500 to 2,000 workers needing accommodation—still a high number but, as Vinon mayor Claude Cheilan noted, "this is not an unbearable load considering that the population pool around ITER numbers 200,000."
Working closely with mayors all around ITER, Agence Iter France has conducted a survey of available housing and identified 19 locations where accommodation solutions could be developed within 30 minutes of ITER. Transportation to and from work will be organized, and rationalized, by the companies operating on the ITER site, who have a contractual obligation to provide it to the workers.
The steady rise in the construction workforce expected at ITER clearly presents organizational challenges that must be addressed and explained to the public. That's one of the lessons from last Wednesday's public meeting.
In a nondescript warehouse some 30 kilometres from the ITER site, instrumentation components destined for the Tokamak's magnet systems are being prepared for a long journey.
Carefully arranged in their cardboard boxes, dozens of components—cables, connectors, sensors, signal conditioners—are being taped, wrapped into thick heat/humidity insulation aluminium foil and placed into a robust wooden crate.
The crate is going to India, where an ITER Organization contractor will install about 20 different types of electronic components into three cubicles and make sure that everything is operational. Once completed and tested, the cubicles will be shipped to ITER China to be used for the tests of prototype current leads, which must be qualified before actual series production begins.
For the components shipped on this occasion, the Magnet Division has relied on the help of CODAC Division engineers who have prepared a cubicle including a sub-system responsible for the investment protection during the tests.
"This place acts like a buffer," explains ITER Coil Instrumentation engineer Felix Rodriguez-Mateos. "This is where we store the instrumentation components that we have developed, or bought off the shelf when industry has developed a solution that we consider satisfactory. The components are verified and reconditioned before being sent to the Domestic Agency in charge of their qualification or integration into prototypes and mockups."
Contrary to the large majority of ITER components that are procured and delivered to the ITER Organization "in-kind" by the Domestic Agencies, the totality of magnet instrumentation (for feeders, coils and structures) is provided by the ITER Organization by way of "fund procurements."
The ITER Organization buys (or develops) the needed components, has them installed by a contractor or directly by the Domestic Agency concerned. It is then the Domestic Agencies' responsibility to validate the assembly procedures in prototypes or mockups prior to entering actual production. (In a later phase, in a lab installed for ITER, the ITER Organization will test assembly procedures for the systems it is responsible for.)
The complex logistics involved in sending the component-packed crates around the world are handled by the DAHER Group as part of their framework contract with the ITER Organization. "We never send anything before every problem, customs-related or other, is solved," says DAHER's Ines Bollini, who is present every time a crate leaves the warehouse. "There can be no improvisation..."
Every other week or so, a crate leaves the warehouse for a foreign destination. Its content is as important for ITER success as the giant components being manufactured throughout the world.
Beginning at age 11-12, when they enter the class of sixième, and throughout their secondary studies until age 17-18, the life of a French student is entirely focused on passing the baccalauréat exam.
For more than two centuries, baccalauréat—from the Latin "laurel crown"—has been both a ritual of passage and the indispensable key to higher education.
The long road to the "bac," however, ends in a rather lackluster fashion: anxious students wait for their name to appear on a list (either on the internet or posted at the entrance of their lycée) and either rejoice or lament ... and that's the end of it. No graduation ceremony, no caps and gowns, no party—just names on a list.
However this year, one school in France decided that the passing of the bac deserved something better than the usual impersonal notification. The International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in Manosque, attended by some 500 "ITER children," had good reason to celebrate in style: 27 seniors, among them the first students in France to sit for the European bac, and all of them passed.
Parents and friends who attended the ceremony on Saturday 6 July were witness to a very unusual event in France: young bacheliers wearing anglo-saxon style gowns and tossing their cap into the air amidst cheers and applause.
"We wanted to celebrate all of our graduates and have a formal moment together before they all head off in a different direction," explains international school Director Bernard Fronsacq.
"The young graduates," he adds, "now have a very strong academic base. But in organizing this event, they have also acquired something that is very important for their future: they have learned to work as a team. We are all very, very happy."
Of the 19 toroidal field coils that will be produced for ITER (18 for Tokamak assembly, plus one spare), 9 will be procured by Japan.
The Japanese Domestic Agency has contracted with four major Japanese and Korean companies—Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, Japan (main contractor, coil case manufacturer #1); Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Japan (winding pack manufacturer #1); Toshiba, Japan (winding pack manufacturer #2); and finally Hyundai Heavy Industry, Korea (coil case manufacturer #2 ).
Two weeks ago, participants to the Unique ITER Team (UIT) activities that followed the Twelfth ITER Council in Japan (19-20 June) had the opportunity to visit Mitsubishi Heavy Industry's Futami facility near Kobe, where the first toroidal field coil will be wound and integrated.
Installation of the winding equipment at the Futami facility should be completed in September, allowing for dummy winding to proceed until the end of the year. Double pancake dummy winding should begin in early 2014.
The visit of the winding workshop and a discussion on the schedule presented by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry left the ITER guests with "a strong feeling of confidence," says Head of ITER Organization-Domestic Agency Coordination Songtao Wu.