Last week, several members of the Magnet Division joined me to visit industries and institutes in China. This was my first trip to China and I was eager to see industrial capabilities first hand and to meet the design teams working on important systems for the Tokamak. David Sands, Head of ITER's Quality Assurance Division, joined us for part of the trip to discuss procurement quality procedures. This is particularly important for magnet components.
China is heavily involved in many magnet components including: toroidal field, poloidal field, and correction coil conductors and magnet feeders. Our first company visit was with WST—a superconducting strand supplier in Xi'an. This company has constructed many new facilities but has limited production experience. Our discussions centered on quality assurance and control, facilities, training, and documentation. The conductor database that has been developed by the ITER Organization was fully discussed, as it is a critical tool to manage the information on the thousands of billets and conductor samples required for the project. We were happy that this company had used similar databases before.
Just a few kilometres from Xi'an is the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang, and its 8,000 terra-cotta figures dating from 210 B.C. and discovered in 1974. This site gives a historical perspective of the technical capabilities of the region. Not only was this vast construction project completed in 38 years—an impressive construction management achievement—but also large-scale bronze casting technologies were developed, as well as a chrome-plating technique for bronze weapons that protected them from corrosion even after being buried for more than 2,000 years. Unfortunately, much of the technology was lost since the labour force was buried alive after construction.
Our second company visit was to Baosteel in Shanghai. This company has very modern facilities capable of producing high-quality conductor jacket such as that required for the central solenoid conductor: a square jacket with an internal circular hole. This company has plenty of capacity and may be an attractive option from a cost standpoint. The impact of the global financial crisis was clear in this modern facility where many of the furnaces lay idle. To minimize layoffs during this downturn, they have chosen to reduce pay and continue to employ as many as possible.
Our third visit was to ASIPP, where we discussed magnet feeder and correction coil design activities and progress related to the procurement of toroidal and poloidal coil conductor. Significant design progress has been made and our priorities are beginning to shift from design to Procurement Arrangement preparation. Activities related to toroidal and poloidal conductor procurements are particularly impressive and the Chinese are moving ahead aggressively. The toroidal field and poloidal field conductor jacketing building is nearly complete. This includes the 900-metre jacketing line. Both winding and compaction machines have already been procured and are sitting on the floor. Soon facilities like this will be under construction all around the world. This is an early sample of exciting times ahead.
On 4-5 March, the European Domestic Agency held the first "Meeting for Buildings for ITER" at the Château de Cadarache.
"Our first information meeting for construction and support companies was a great success," said Laurent Schmieder, Head of the Division for Site, Buildings and Power Supplies. "More than 80 representatives from technical support companies attended the meeting on the 4th, and 96 the next day. My thanks to the ITER Organization and Agence Iter France for their very valuable contributions."
Michael Loughlin's job at ITER's Project Office is to write "histories" and, like any writer today, he does it on a computer. But the "histories" he writes are unique: they are about the collective behaviour of billions and billions of individual particles called neutrons and how they move about and interact with the material of the ITER machine. As a result, the computer he uses is unique too.
"Particle movements," explains Michael, "involve quantum mechanics. At the individual level, the movement is random. But when you have an enormous population of particles, their average becomes predictable." Sixty years ago, when scientists began modelling particle behaviour, they would repeatedly throw dice and extrapolate the results with a slide ruler. This approach, dubbed the "Monte Carlo method," proved efficient and is still widely used today. The method is the same, but the dice and slide rulers have been replaced by fast and powerful supercomputers.
The one Michael and his team at Nuclear/Shielding Analysis use is a 10,000-processor monster machine called Mare Nostrum, the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea. It is housed at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, in Barcelona, Spain.
"The architecture of the machine is well adapted to our needs. But we don't need its full computing power, and we don't need it all the time." Like others in human genome research, astrophysics or weather forecasting, ITER has bought "CPU time" (one million hours) on Mare Nostrum. Theoretically, ITER could use just one of the computer's 10,000 chips for a million hours, or, more realistically, 100 chips for 10,000 hours, 1,000 chips for 1,000 hours, etc.
In computer parlance, the Monte Carlo technique is termed "embarrassingly parallel." This means that it can deal with a problem by breaking it into a number of parallel tasks: the more processors the computer effectively uses, the faster the problem will be solved.
"Understanding the way particles travel and transport radiation is essential to assuring that ITER will function correctly and safely," says Michael. "It is also essential, at this stage of the project, to be able to model the whole thing every time a small change is made in any one system. In a way that we haven't been able to do before, Mare Nostrum provides us with an overall view of the ITER machine from a neutron's point of view and helps us make unforeseen effects become apparent."
In January 2008, Michael Loughlin went to install software on Mare Nostrum, whose steel-and-glass enclosure occupies the entire nave of an early 20th century chapel, deconsecrated and beautifully redesigned. There, under the arches of the nave, amid the low-frequency hum of the cooling system, he admits he "couldn't help but feel reverential."
A major art event will be taking place in Aix-en-Provence this spring/summer at the Musée Granet, three years after the acclaimed "Cézanne in Provence" exhibit that brought thousands to the city in 2006.
Were you aware that Picasso greatly admired Cézanne? The new exhibit opening 25 May explores Cézanne's influence on Picasso's development as an artist, as well as shared themes in their work. It reunites paintings, drawings, engravings and sculptures from private and public collections around the world, including three of Cézanne's masterpieces from Picasso's personal collection. In all, the exhibit will present 100 works by the two artists.
And there's more. As an added attraction Picasso's 17th century château in Vauvenargues will open its doors to visitors for the first time in its history. Picasso resided here with his wife from 1959 to 1965, specifically choosing to live and work in an area that had so inspired Cézanne. It is also the final resting place of the master painter. Located only a few minutes from Aix, shuttle buses will be provided by the Tourist Office for the full duration of "Picasso-Cézanne."
The exhibit and the château visits run from 25 May through 27 September. Tickets can be purchased at the Musée Granet ticket office, the Tourist Office in Aix-en-Provence, or on-line in English at http://www.ticketnet.fr.
Hosted by the European Domestic Agency, the first meeting of the ITER Council Working Group on Intellectual Property Management and Dissemination of Information took place in Barcelona from 3-5 March 2009. Experts from the Members and the Domestic Agencies exchanged ideas with the ITER Organization under the chairmanship of Vassilis Koutsiouris. During the three days a draft text for the "ITER Organization Rules on Intellectual Property Management and the Dissemination of Information" was developed based on the ITER Agreement's Annex on Information and Intellectual Property.
Discussions focused not only on near-term items such as protection of background intellectual property, publication rules and training needs, but also on longer term strategies such as what happens with the intellectual property rights after dissolution of the ITER Organization.
A report will be presented to the ITER Council meeting in June.
You may have felt these past couple of months that there was something wrong with Provence. After all, this region is supposed to be the land of balmy weather and permanent sunshine, and all we've had since December is rain, snow, gale, sleet and freezing temperatures.
Well, you were right. Méteo France, the French National Weather Service, just issued a report showing that the month of January was the coldest in the past 20 years, with temperatures 1.7 °C below average. Winter 2008-2009 as a whole was the third coldest over the same period.
Temperatures of —20° were registered in the north of the country, snow fell repeatedly in Paris, and here in the Bouches-du-Rhône, we had the spectacular episode of 7 January: 30-40 centimetres of snow causing an unforgettable "white mess," with motorways closed and hundreds of shivering commuters stranded in their cars (some ITER staff among them...). These conditions, however, are all part of "the natural variability of climate," explains Méteo France, and don't change the fact that "global warming is still on."
There are always a number of laptop computers in meetings at ITER. People are busy checking online materials, taking notes, and performing other miscellaneous tasks. Laptops offer the power of some desktop computers, while typically weighing far less. Although extremely convenient, laptop computers do present some problems, notably with ergonomics and heat generation.
A keyboard in a well-designed computer workstation should sit low and tilt downward toward the user. The screen top should sit near eye height. Setting the laptop on a stand that tilts the base down in front and up in back can help. Laptop users are also advised to take several stretch breaks per hour and to avoid resting their forearms on sharp-edged work surfaces.
Heat generated by lithium ion batteries can cause problems. Skin burns, equipment damage and fire can occur. Users should ensure they have adequate space below their computers, unblock ventilation ports and make sure that cooling fans are running. A laptop stand, such as the one mentioned above, can help to efficiently channel air through the computer. This added airflow helps to cool a laptop's lithium ion batteries, which also helps to extend their service life.