"First of all, we should recognize and highly appreciate the efforts by the Parties to have brought the international treaty to this final stage. The ITER project was initiated some 20 years ago. The signature which took place on 21 November marks an historical moment, as, subject to parliamentary ratification by some of the parties, it binds the parties to set up the ITER Organization and to support it in its mission to realize the ITER project.
From 1 December, the ITER Organization will have the capacity to directly hire its staff, and to start preparing procurement contracts, which will be necessary early next year for some of the items which have a long lead time. In short, the ITER Organization can now embark on its mission, as a worldwide international cooperation, to help create a new source of energy for humankind."
One day after the official ceremony at the Elysée Palace in Paris the ITER staff, together with their hosts and neighbors from the CEA and Agence ITER France, took the chance to celebrate the signing of the ITER Agreement. A short video compilation of the signature event was shown, which will be made available on the ITER website.
On 21 November, Ministers from the seven ITER Parties came together to sign the agreement to establish the international Organization that will implement ITER.
The signature took place at a ceremony at the Elysée Palace in Paris and was hosted by the President of the French Republic M. Jacques Chirac and by the President of the European Commission, M. José Manuel Durão Barroso. The signed documents were formally handed over to the representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to be deposited with the Director General of the IAEA.
French President Jacques Chirac said: "If nothing changes, humanity will have consumed, in 200 years, most of the fossil fuel resources accumulated over hundreds of millions of years." He adds: "It (the ITER project) is the victory of the general interest of humanity."
The first meeting of the Interim ITER Council took place at Ministerial level after the signing ceremony, under the chairmanship of Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research. With the signature of the ITER Agreement and the first Council meeting, the ITER Organization can start its operation on a provisional basis pending the entry into force of the agreement which is expected in the course of 2007.
With a good number of newcomers to the ITER Team, efforts are being made to make them feel at home in Provence and part of the "ITER family". Jennifer Hay in Public Relations is currently acting as a contact for social activities and is picking her local French colleagues' brains for interesting things to do and see and places to go. So far staff have been kept informed about classical music concerts, jazz evenings, karaoke evenings and the like.
One trip being planned after Christmas is a visit to the prestigious chocolate factory at Puyricard, just north of Aix en Provence. This was the most popular excursion on the basis of a questionnaire sent out to the ITER Team, closely followed by wine-tasting (also to be arranged soon). A Christmas get-together making the most of cuisine from all around the world are also on the agenda.
The European Commission has launched a call for expressions of interest for specialised scientific and technical staff interested in joining the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy ('Fusion for Energy'), which will be established by a decision of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, expected to be taken before the end of 2006. 'Fusion for Energy', which will act as the European Domestic Agency for ITER, will have its headquarters in Barcelona, Spain.
Further details concerning this call for expressions of interest can be obtained by visiting the following website.
Some 50 representatives and experts of the ITER Parties came together the Château Cadarache on 8-10 November, to iron out the last wrinkles in the ITER Agreement, in preparation for the signature in Paris on 21 November.
This so-called Contact Persons (CP) meeting grew out of the negotiation meetings for the ITER Agreement. Its present task is to prepare the ITER Council meetings, and to prepare most of the documents that the Council will need to endorse and approve. This time, issues such as staff regulations, resources management, and the ITER budget for 2007 were on the agenda.
"Today, we CP's are preparing the last documents that will allow the ITER Organization to operate as a legal entity and manage its own affairs, such as recruiting personnel, place contracts, etc.", said Didier Gambier of DG Research, one of the Contact Persons for the EU. "Our job here is to make sure all material presented to the Interim ITER Council is sufficiently consensual for the Parties to approve it without too much trouble."
Until now, fusion research in Moscow has been overseen by the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (FAAE, former Ministry for Atomic Energy). The coordination center "Fusion - International Projects" was established in order to help FAAE to coordinate the Russian activities in relation to ITER. In the beginning of the ITER Engineering Design Activities (EDA), it was a Headquarters of the ITER Council, and Academician Velikhov was the Council's Chair. With the signing of the ITER Agreement on 21 November, the FAAE will take over responsibility for fulfilling the country's obligations on implementing the project. Furthermore, the Russian ITER Domestic Agency will be established by the end of the year. "Right now we are under extensive discussion where this domestic agency will be located," Dr. Vladimir Vlasenkov, Deputy Director of the Coordination Centre "Fusion — International Projects", said.
There are around 200 institutes involved in the Russian ITER activities. The major one is the Kurchatov Institute for Atomic Energy in Moscow. Secondly, here is the Efremov Institute in St. Petersburg, which is responsible for designing and manufacturing the hardware. These two organizations are candidates for becoming host of the Russian Domestic Agency. The decision will be made before the end of this year.
"Now we go from paper to hardware," said Dr. Vladimir Vlasenkov.
Born in 1955, Gary Johnson received his Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Tennessee in 1983. Until 1993 he worked on the Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation (AVLIS) program in Oak Ridge and later at Livermore National Laboratory, where he was Mechanical Group Leader for seven years.
Between 1993 and 1999, he was ITER Vacuum Vessel Group Leader at the Garching Joint Work Site. Since 1999 he has been working on the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) Project at ORNL. Early responsibilities included defining requirements for buildings and oversight of the Architect Engineer and Construction Manager, as well as coordination of the mechanical design of the warm linear accelerator, and planning and overseeing all assembly, installation and testing of that system at ORNL. In 2004 he became Experimental Facilities Division Installation Manager.
As DDG for the Tokamak, Gary Johnson will be responsible for "the core of the system". He will have to coordinate the various contributions by the ITER Parties and ensure a high quality in the construction of the device. "There is little room for mistakes," he confirmed.