Seven days of deliberation on ITER twice a year. It is preparation week for the next ITER Council and that means working straight from Sunday to Sunday for many of the ITER people—both in the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies. The weather is gloomy and dark clouds hang over the Château de Cadarache on Wednesday morning.
It is the morning of the MAC, the Management Advisory Committee to the ITER Council that is about to start. New tables and chairs have been installed in the Salle de la Fenière for this occasion, but still there is not enough seating for all delegates and observers. This MAC meeting is certainly one of the biggest meetings the room has seen for a while. Additional tables are quickly brought in before Bob Iotti, the MAC Chairman, calls the meeting to order. A meeting, Iotti says, whose importance is underlined by the presence of the Chairman of the ITER Council, Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, and the exceptionally high number of delegates from each party.
On 24 October 2007, the ITER Organization celebrated its birth with a modest but exuberant party in front of the Joint Work Site in Cadarache. The seven Domestic Agencies of the ITER Members participated via a live video link. Spirits were high; it was the start of something big.
One year later, it's still big and there's a much better understanding of just how big and challenging it is in reality. "This is the time to get the project up and running," the Council Chairman states. "We have to get on with this!" He expresses a feeling that everybody shares and the next few days are spent on exactly how that is going to happen.
The ITER Project has made considerable progress over the past year: the Organization has grown from 153 staff members in October 2007 to 276 today. As we set up the management and organizational structure, the nuclear licensing process is also well on its way, as well as the preparations for the start of construction next year. In parallel, a comprehensive review of the 2001 ITER design has been carried out with all seven parties heavily engaged. Multiple design change requests and some major technical improvements like additional coils to improve the control of ELMs (edge localized modes) and the vertical stability of the plasma, a complete new design for the hot cell and so on have been proposed for inclusion in the new 2007 baseline. They are all necessary and help to make sure that ITER can safely fulfil its scientific and technical mission. Everybody agreed and the Council approved the technical baseline in its last meeting in June.
These design changes, the changes in the Organization's set-up since the first negotiations in 2001, the unprecedented increases in commodity prices, and the fact that more parties do need more people to manage the interfaces in the ITER Organization all imply a substantial cost increase. In order to get a more solid prediction of how big this increase will be, the ITER Council asked for an estimate by the ITER Organization and at its last meeting in Aomori, Japan, in June this year charged the well-known fusion scientist and former Operations Director at the UK's fusion centre at Culham, Frank Briscoe, with setting up an independent panel of experts to assess the resource estimates.
He shows the ITER Tokamak as a logo on every single slide "to remind us of the importance of what we are doing here at ITER." The so-called "Briscoe panel" consists of 17 experts, at least one from each ITER Party, plus three advisers. Some of the panel members are fusion scientists, some have no scientific background at all. "But they all have good knowledge of big projects," says Briscoe. "It is a good mix." In two four-day meetings the Briscoe team went through the ITER figures—at least as far as possible within the given time. "ITER is a huge endeavour. It was impossible to assess all open issues within eight days." Another round of reviews will likely happen in spring of 2009.
So the summary Briscoe gives to MAC this Wednesday morning is only preliminary with regard to the conclusion on numbers. For the time being, 36 recommendations were made—some of them "very much straightforward"—namely to produce a more effective management system and well-founded cost and schedule to be presented to the MAC. The outcome will be discussed by the ITER Council in a few weeks.The MAC members further agree to support the effort of the ITER Organization in implementing the recommendations given by the Briscoe panel.
Besides the ongoing cost assessment, the question of how to effectively operate this construction project based on "in-kind" contributions was a central theme for much of the meeting. Although not completely new, at the scale of ITER this concept is unprecedented. Finishing Procurement Arrangements, which are agreements between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies to deliver components, become a key indicator for success on the schedule and—looking at a traffic light system representing their status—there is as much red as there is green to be seen on the slides. The Chair explains that there is no need to change the schedule yet, but its certainly requires very close attention.
"The clock ticks and the money runs," Norbert Holtkamp, the Principal Deputy Director-General, points out. "It is as simple as that." The ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies have set up recovery plans to make up for the lost time but its not obvious that this can be achieved easily and why not remains to be discussed in the MAC. For the first time the heads of the Domestic Agencies have joined together to explain where some of the reasons for their difficulties lie.
Didier Gambier, the Director of the European Domestic Agency in Barcelona, is the first to take hold of the microphone. "The ITER Organization has the responsibility for the ITER design. But the Domestic Agencies have the money. And money talks!" Ned Sauthoff, head of US ITER, agrees with his European colleague: "This is not a normal project. The ITER principle foresees significant in-kind contributions and the Domestic Agencies hold considerable resources. We thus have to find the right balance."
Making the ITER Organization and Domestic Agencies work as an integrated team has been a long-standing recommendation by the MAC, and that means finding the balance between sharing responsibility and authority. The ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies propose the implementation of Integrated Product Teams and a structure above them that allows effective management. The MAC in its subsequent conclusions strongly supports the ITER Organization to put the three teams in place "as soon as possible." Even though the MAC members agree, one question remains: "Will it work?"
This is the moment for the Chairman of the ITER Council to get back on stage: "The lawyers will certainly have to look at this," says Chris Llewellyn Smith. "But if this is the right tool to make ITER work, then I am sure it will be perfectly legal to find an interpretation of the document. I have no doubt about that. The true answer lies in the willingness of this global collaboration. It will not work if there is no good will."
On the second day of the MAC, the sun shines again. Another round of difficult discussions has finished and a solution is in sight. Success of its implementation will be measured in six months from now and more guidance from the ITER Council will be received in three weeks. Meanwhile the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies are already working to get the answers. A long week ends with the ITER Organization-Domestic Agency coordination meeting on Sunday, where the people in the room feel the burden, recognizing that much of what was discussed will dominate their working days over the next six months. And they won't be short days, everybody has understood that.
See some photos of the meeting here...
At the end of November it is finally going to happen, part of the ITER Organization will move onto the ITER site and into the new temporary building JWS 2, which will be renamed ITER Headquarters after the move.
More than just a move, this is a true milestone in the history of ITER because the Organization will finally move onto its own grounds.
Exactly 210 employees will be moving to the new building; others will stay on the CEA grounds for now.
The departments that will move to JWS 2 at the end of November are: the Office of the Director-General, Administration, Civil Construction & Site, Safety & Security, part of the Project Office, part of CODAC, Heating & Diagnostics, part of Central Engineering & Plant, and 10 European Domestic Agency employees.
The actual move of the Office of the Director-General and Administration will take place over the weekend of 22 and 23 November and will be carried out by our logistics section and an outside removals company. The other departments will follow in the course of the week of 24-28 November.
In the week prior to the move, all employees involved will receive cartons in which to pack their files and other belongings. The removals company will take care of moving all computer equipment as well as the cartons to the new offices.
All personnel moving to the ITER site will receive a new telephone number, but the old numbers will stay valid in parallel until 1 January 2009.
Between the date of the move and 1 January, the pedestrian gate (Rotogate) between the CEA and the ITER site will not be available. During this interim period, for those who come to work by bus, a bus connection will be set up between the CEA bus station and JWS 2. This bus connection will be available in the morning when people arrive, at lunch time to go to the canteen, at 16.15 and at 18.15 to take the bus home.
We will keep you informed during the coming weeks as more details about the move become available.
In the Pantheon of fusion research, many names are inscribed—but not that of Oleg Aleksandrovitch Lavrentiev.
For more than 50 years, the improbable story of this young Russian soldier had laid buried in the secret Soviet Archives. Uncovered in 2000, it was to shed a new light on the beginnings of magnetic fusion research in the USSR.
Young Lavrentiev, who had developed a passion for nuclear physics in secondary school, dreamed of becoming a nuclear scientist. But war disrupted his plans. In 1944 at the age of 18, he volunteered for the Army, fought bravely, rose to junior sergeant and, when the fighting was over, was transferred to the Far East island of Sakhalin.
There he found time for more study by himself, and in January of 1950 decided it was time to write a letter directly to Stalin.
What junior sergeant Lavrentiev had devised in his remote posting were the blueprints of an H bomb and a concept to produce energy through controlled thermonuclear reactions.
Lavrentiev's letter to Stalin never received an answer, but a second one, addressed to the Central Committee, triggered an almost instantaneous chain reaction: a private, "guarded room" was provided for the young soldier who was ordered to write a more detailed description of both his devices; on 22 July 1950, his paper was rushed by secret mail directly to the Central Committee and submitted for review to Andrei Sakharov himself.
Despite some reservations about the solution Lavrentiev had suggested to confine the hot plasma—an "electromagnetic trap"—Sakharov acknowledged that "the idea of controlled nuclear fusion suggested by [Lavrentiev] was a very important one," and that he had been impressed by "the originality and boldness" of the young sergeant's proposal. "The first vague ideas on magnetic thermal insulation started to form, while reading his letter and writing the referee report."
For some mysterious reason, Oleg Lavrentiev's role in initiating magnetic fusion research was never officially acknowledged. Although he was permitted to enroll at Moscow University and briefly joined the secret Atomic Research Institute headed by Igor Kurchatov, his name was deliberately left out of history books.
Lavrentiev, now 82, was to lead a quiet, almost anonymous life, working for the Kharkov (Ukraine) Institute of Physics and Technology, eventually earning his doctorate in 2004. He recently devised a new concept for a fusion machine ("Elemag") and still attends meetings and conferences. "Between sessions, he loves to play chess," says Academician Valentin Smirnov, "and he wins every game."
This week, starting on Wednesday, the Test Blanket Working Group will convene in Aix-en-Provence. Breeding blankets represent one of the major technological breakthroughs required from passing from ITER to DEMO, a demonstration reactor able to furnish electricity power to the grid. The breeding blanket and associated systems have to ensure tritium breeding self-sufficiency, to show good power conversion efficiency and to withstand high neutron fluence.
In order to comply with this mission, the ITER Test Blanket Working Group was officially established by the ITER Council and charged to define and coordinate an appropriate breeding blanket testing program in ITER. The main issues of this 20th meeting are thus to define the interfaces between the Test Blanket Modules (TBM) and the ITER machine, as well as to update the TBM testing plan. "We will also have to discuss how we can better formalize the contributions of the seven parties to the TBM program," the Chairman of the Working Group, Luciano Giancarli, said. The meeting takes place in the Aquabella Hotel and will last until Friday.
US expats Dennis Baker and Christopher White gave their views on following the American Presidential elections while living in France to the newspaper La Provence.
Philippe Lebrun is head of the Accelerator Technology Department at CERN. The engineer, who holds a Master of Science from the California Institute of Technology (US) and a doctorate honoris causa from the Wroclaw University of Technology (Poland), has more than thirty years experience in superconducting magnets, cryogenics and particle accelerators.
Newsline: In the ITER Organization-Domestic Agency meeting recently held in Geneva you were asked to give a presentation on CERN and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This was not just because the meeting happened to take place in Geneva. Indeed there are several similarities between the ITER Project and the LHC which I would ask you to sketch.
Lebrun: Although the goals of ITER and the LHC are totally different, the two projects share a number of specifics. Firstly, they rely on the same key technologies which constitute their backbones: advanced superconductors, large high-field superconducting magnets, helium cryogenics, high-vacuum technology, radio-frequency systems and electrical power converters, to name the most salient ones. Secondly, the sheer size and cost of both projects imply a large number of industrial contracts in advanced technology, for which competent and interested companies must be qualified and selected worldwide, products must be industrialized and production lines set up, efficient project management implemented and robust quality assurance enforced. Thirdly, both projects are truly global, stemming from political decisions in most regions of the world and pooling resources and contributions—in different forms—to their financing, staffing, construction and operation. As a consequence, they are unique, highly visible and obliged to succeed.
A new window on nature
Before we continue comparing both projects, could you please summarize in your own words what the LHC is about?
The LHC is "simply" the largest research instrument ever built. It is a high-energy particle accelerator, installed in an underground tunnel of 26.7 km circumference near Geneva, Switzerland, which brings into collision intense beams of protons and ions, to probe the structure of matter at the scale of the elementary constituents, at an order of magnitude even finer than the present state-of-the-art. It is therefore a new window on nature, which will help provide answers to basic questions about our universe: where does mass come from? Why are we composed of matter rather than anti-matter? What are the "dark matter"and "dark energy" which constitute most of the universe? Besides the accelerator proper, the LHC program consists of four large particle detectors located in underground caverns around the points where the beams are brought into collision, and a powerful, distributed computing grid to process the high volume of data gathered by the detectors.
ATLAS, the largest of the four particle detectors, claims to have the biggest magnets ever built. Could you please give some bullet points that give us an idea what "big" means? How much energy is stored in ATLAS' magnet system?
ATLAS is 44 metres in length, 22 metres in diameter, with a mass of 7,000 tonnes (i.e., comparable to the Eiffel Tower). It uses four superconducting magnets (one solenoid and three toroids) to generate an analyzing field in the large volume where the tracks of the particles emerging from the collisions are observed and measured. The ATLAS barrel toroid is the largest such magnet in the world: powered at 20,500 A, it produces a field of up to 3.9 T, with a stored energy exceeding 1 GJ. (The total energy stored in the ITER magnet system will be 46 GJ.)
Both, the LHC and ITER are international organizations. How is the LHC built up politically? How many countries participate in the project?
The LHC started as a CERN project, i.e., governed and financed by the twenty European Member States represented in the CERN Council. As the LHC attracted interest and will effectively serve researchers from many regions of the world, the Council decided to negotiate special contributions from the main countries concerned (Canada, India, Japan, Russia and the US), as well as from the Host States, France and Switzerland. These contributions took different forms—in cash, in kind, or in secondment of expert personnel from national institutes—mounting to about one-tenth of the value of the project. In the case of the large detectors, CERN co-finances them only at a level of 20 percent: the remainder comes from the several hundred institutes in some sixty countries that have signed Memoranda of Understanding to become members of the detector collaborations.
The LHC was thus partly built by in-kind contributions from the members. How are the responsibilities and the rights shared? Is your system similar to the ITER in-kind procurement system?
The in-kind contributions to the LHC were formulated, as much as possible, in terms of deliverables. Still, they represented de facto fixed amounts of resources from the national laboratories and funding agencies. In the fortunately few cases where these fixed amounts proved insufficient to achieve the deliverables, the latter had to be de-scoped. The key to success was to develop a true spirit of collaboration with our partners in the national institutes, who really felt part of the project and fully committed to its success. Getting the most from such in-kind contributions was important for us; it will be essential for ITER, as they represent nine-tenths of the value of the project.
Water in-leaks, manufacturing errors, contract breaching—and a roman villa
How long did it take to build the LHC with its four detectors? What were the major obstacles?
The idea of building a more powerful accelerator in the large tunnel of LEP has been around for many years, but the first conceptual studies of the LHC started in the early 1980s. Structured R&D on the key technologies of high-field superconducting magnets and superfluid helium cryogenics took place from 1990 onwards, leading to technical validation and approval of the project for construction by the CERN Council in 1994. Civil engineering started in 1998, once the authorizations from the Host States were obtained. The main procurement contracts were adjudicated between 1998 and 2001, leading to completion of component deliveries by 2006. Over such a time span, there were evidently a number of obstacles and mishaps to overcome of very different natures, from negotiations with local opponents to reduce the visual impact of the buildings, to water leaking into underground works, manufacturing errors discovered late in series production, insolvency of suppliers and breach of contracts, cost overruns, knock-on effects of delivery delays on sequential installation in a long tunnel with few access points, not to mention the archeological discovery of a Roman villa on an excavation site, delaying progress of construction work!
Would you like to say a few words about what the problems are you are facing right now, i.e., what happened and how you hope to solve the problem?
We have been commissioning the technical systems of the LHC throughout the year, each 3.3 km sector after the other. On 10 September 2008, the whole machine was powered at a level corresponding the injection energy (450 GeV), and the first proton beams were injected in both rings, and kept in circulation, testifying to the good quality of the magnetic field and beam vacuum, precise alignment of the accelerator, proper control of powering and beam steering systems. Shortly after this, we were completing the commissioning of the last sector at high current, when an electrical fault in the main dipole circuit provoked an arc, leading to electrical and mechanical damage. We have been investigating the event and drawing conclusions from it, and are now engaged in a repair and consolidation program to be carried out during the planned winter shutdown 2008, so as to restart the LHC in spring 2009.
He is the new face of the new post in ITER called the "Office of Audit Service": Yuichiro Ogino from Hokkaido, Japan. Yuichiro's office is in building 525a and by now his name will be on the door. Yuichiro started working for ITER on 23 October and hardly had time to unpack his boxes that were delivered from Manila, Philippines, where he had been working as Senior Financial Control Specialist for the Asian Development Bank since 2004. Having worked for truly international organizations around the world such as the United Nations Headquarters in New York and later for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Bangkok and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Yuichiro has 22 years of professional experience in auditing, accounting, administration and finance. That will certainly help him establishing a new office whose main tasks will be to review the activities within the ITER Organization in order to ensure the soundness of procedures as well as their efficiency and effectiveness.
Yuichiro is currently waiting for his family to follow him to France, and to move out of the hotel where he is staying for the time being. Talking about his hobbies turns out to be a one-liner: "I think our family is below the 'poverty line' in terms of spare time." If he only knew that this won't change in the near future ...
Yuichiro is thrilled to have become a member of the ITER team. "This is a very unique project," he says, 'a very unique type of project also in its political sense. To me, ITER is not just a project that helps to secure our future energy needs. It might also serve as example for solving political conflicts."
Autumn in Provence means that the weather can be very stormy, as you will have noticed over the weekend. Please remember to shut the office windows when a storm is announced on the CEA public address system and always shut the windows before you leave the office in the evening.