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ITER NEWSLINE 36
The ITER blanket, consisting of 440 individual modules, each measuring 2 by 1,5 meters and weighing up to 4.5 tons, is one of the most critical and technically-challenging components in ITER: Together with the divertor it directly faces the hot plasma. Its objective is to maintain a clean plasma during operation whilst shielding the vacuum vessel and superconducting coils from excessive heat and neutron fluxes.
Six of the seven ITER parties requested to be involved in the ITER blanket procurement as they consider it to be an essential technology which is important for the next steps towards fusion energy. "Because of the critical nature of this component, the ITER blanket (as well as the divertor and the superconducting materials for the coils) is one of three procurement packages for which the parties must 'qualify' prior to being allocated the procurement package," explains Michael Pick, Division Head of the ITER In-Vessel Components.
For the "qualification," each Domestic Agency must demonstrate, well in advance of the assumed start of the procurement, its technical capability to carry out the procurement with the required quality, and in an efficient and timely manner. This is achieved through the manufacturing and testing of specific mock-ups and/or prototypes according to a previously defined "Pre-qualification Program" which includes detailed specifications, schedules and acceptance criteria.
The heat flux and fatigue tests are carried out in the US and in the EU; the electron beam facility in Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexiko, USA, the EU fatigue tests are done in the recently completed thermal radiation facility BESTH near Prague, Czech Republic, and the EU high heat flux tests will be carried out at the electron beam facility JUDITH in Jülich, Germany. The tests have begun at Sandia on two mock-ups, one from the EU and one from the US, with the aim to reach 12 000 cycles at 0.875 MW/m2. At the moment more than 7000 cycles have been successfully completed. Tests at the BESTH are just about to begin where the aim is to reach 12 000 cycles at 0.625 MW/m2.
A second set of tests are planned during which similar tests will be carried out on semi-prototypes. These are full scale (but not full size) components which will incorporate all the main technologies required for the manufacturing of the modules.
After the ITER Design Review it was decided to re-visit the ITER blanket design in-order to improve the power handling capabilities and some of the remote handling aspects of the cooling water attachment. Also, the possibility to use the blanket modules to start-up and shut-down the plasma was to be investigated. "If it turned out that this were indeed feasible, it would contribute to a simplification of the design and to cost savings," says Michael Pick.
Due to the lack of design resources within ITER, a plan was developed allowing the 440 modules to be designed and tested jointly by the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies of the parties involved. The plan was presented and accepted by all the parties in January 2008 in the form of a "Common Understanding on the Design and Procurement of the ITER Blanket First Wall Modules and Blanket Shield Modules." This plan describes the strategy toward the completion of the designs and includes the qualification stages and the associated schedule.
The plan hinges on the fact that the IO, together with individuals from each of the parties will develop and design so-called generic blanket modules. "These will incorporate all the design solutions into two or three modules and form the basis on which all other module designs can be developed," Pick explains. "Also included in the plans is the required benchmarking of all the relevant tools to complete the designs in the parties, namely the codes and methodologies to be used for the calculation of the electro-mechanical loads, the halo current loads, the neutronics, thermo-hydraulics, and the structural loads."
The meeting in Prague was thus called to update all the parties on the overall status of the ongoing work on the development of the generic modules, the progress in the qualification program, the benchmarking process, and to plan and confirm the next steps.
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Bastien studied physics and instrumentation in France and then specialized in technologies for particle accelerators. So when he learned that ITER was looking for a Vacuum Instrumentation Engineer in the Vacuum Pumping Section, not only did that perfectly fit his experience and ambitions, but it also gave him the opportunity to come back to his home country France. "ITER is not really France though, because the environment is so international," says Bastien, "which, together with the complexity of the project itself, makes it such a inspiring place to work."
Connecting these two worlds, physically and culturally distinct, has always been a vital economic necessity, as well as a tremendous technical challenge. From the Middle Ages until the mid-19th century, people, animals and goods had to rely on a cable ferry to cross from one bank to the other.
By 1835, engineers felt confident enough to defy the river's frequent bursts of fury. But the bridge they built lasted only eight years: in 1843, a particularly violent flood swept it away.
A major technical innovation, the "suspension bridge", made a second attempt possible. The second of the Mirabeau bridges was opened in 1847 and for almost a century stretched majestically between two monumental red brick porticos. Its cables and roadway had resisted the floods and the bitter winters, but fell victim to growing motor traffic. In 1934, with dark clouds looming over Europe, it was decided to build a new bridge, wide enough to accommodate heavy trucks and military convoys.
Ten years later, on 17 August, 1944 two days after Allied forces had landed in Provence, Americans bombed the bridge in order to cut the retreat of the German army. Soon after, Resistance fighters finished the job with dynamite.
Severely damaged, the third of the Mirabeau bridges was rebuilt just after the war. It stood for 40 years, but in January of 1985, its steel cables weakened by age and cold, it was declared a "public danger", closed, dismantled, and replaced in 1989 by the present structure.
Of the 1847 bridge, the pseudo-medieval porticos have been preserved. And the four steles which decorated its 1934 successor now stand on the roundabout at the southern entrance of the present bridge. They symbolize the four "départements" which meet at Mirabeau: Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhone, Var and Basses-Alpes, whose name was changed into a supposedly more elegant "Alpes-de-Haute-Provence" in 1970.
Fusion energy was mentioned as an innovative technology to be promoted as one of the means of developing a low carbon society. "It is my hope that by the Ministers in charge of science and technology policy getting together and holding intensive dialogue, we will be able to provide input from the aspect of science and technology to the summit and thus further improve its outcome," Fumio Kishida, Japan's Science and Technology Minister, said at the meeting's opening.
Earlier this year we announced that it was going to happen, now it is actually happening: The SAP Core system is being delivered to ITER this month.
SAP is an administration management tool to facilitate procurement (e.g. contracts, in-kind and in-cash), finance and Human Resources affaires (e.g. salaries, vacation days, mission trips, recruitment etc.). Once this system is in place, a lot of paperwork will become redundant as processes like invoicing will become essentially computer-based. And, what is even more important, this will speed up processing of transactions, increase efficiency and reliability of our processes and make our lives easier from an administrative point of view.
Over the last months, a team of consultants have been working with the ITER Administration to understand our current systems, work processes and requirements and analyze where improvements and streamlining of procedures is needed.
The system has now been designed to respond to all these needs and delivery is underway. The next phase is going to be the testing and the de-bugging of the system.
ITER key-users are about to be trained by Logica, the supplier for this system, which will also provide a User Guide. They will test the system so that it can go live in the second half of July. The remaining administration users will then also be trained so that all relevant divisions can start using the system right away.
The second part of the system, the Human Resources (HR) portal, will be launched in October. This portal will facilitate the administration of salaries, organization and recruitment for the HR division and will also enable all employees to manage their own vacation days, mission requests etc.
Starting with test convoys next year, about 300 exceptional transports will have to travel the hundred kilometres from Fos to Cadarache, the biggest ones weighing 900 tons and measuring 9 metres wide and 61 metres long.
The tour, organized by Mission ITER, was accompanied by around 30 journalists who listened closely to what Nadja Fabre, in charge of the ITER Itinerary, reported. Near Meyrargues, the former track is currently being transformed into a proper road including the construction of a new bridge across the Canal du Moulin and the crossing of the railway track.
At the Pont de Mirabeau, works for the supporting wall were slowed down due to the heavy rainfalls over the last weeks and the extreme water level of the Durance river. But the scrapers and caterpillars are back in full gear again. At the Pont de Mirabeau, the road towards Cadarache will be widened by 100 percent in order for the ITER vessel structures and the magnets to pass by.
The evening event provided a special opportunity for ITER kids to see their parents' work areas and learn more about how fusion energy can help meet the energy challenges facing today's world.