The scope is set, the schedule now is everything
The message was short and unambiguous: "The world relies on you!" With world energy use expected to double by 2030 and fossil fuels declining, "provision of sufficient energy, in a sustainable way, is therefore 'the key challenge,'" ITER Council Chairman Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith stated last Wednesday. "There is no single solution, we've got to go for everything."
"Energy" was the featured topic of the fourth Inside ITER seminar given by Llewellyn Smith, the prominent and world-travelling ambassador for fusion energy. "If we can produce fusion power in a reliable and competitive way, it will be one very important part of the portfolio of measures that must be taken to meet the energy challenge."
The seminar followed a round-up for the ITER staff on the outcome of the fourth ITER Council meeting that took place in the Japanese city of Mito the week before.The summary was jointly given by the Council's Chairman and the ITER Director-General, Kaname Ikeda. "The scope of ITER is set," Ikeda stressed, "everything now depends on the schedule."
In Mito, the ITER Organization had presented a proposal to the delegates from the seven ITER Member states to build ITER in stages and to have it commissioned in phases. This approach means that ITER operations will begin with First Plasma in 2018, with all vital components in place such as the vacuum vessel, the superconducting magnets that will confine the hot plasma, and the cryogenic system to cool the magnets. Over the following years all other components will gradually be added to prepare ITER for its ultimate goal: a power-producing plasma of deuterium and tritium by the end of 2026.
"Sticking to 2018 is not only politically important," Llewellyn Smith stressed, "but also important for morale." All big tokamaks have been built in stages, Ikeda pointed out. "This is a better and less risky approach. If something goes wrong, it will still be possible to get in and fix it."
In the context of the world's biggest financial crisis, the pressure was certainly on this fourth ITER Council. However, both the Director-General and the Council Chairman praised the collaborative and committed spirit of the Mito meeting. "Things are really coming together now," Llewellyn Smith said. "This relationship is working." He stressed the importance of keeping 2018 as the target for First Plasma. "The world needs to be convinced that 2018 is a realistic target. This requires a lot of hard work—both by the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies. They must work very closely together."
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