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CODAC control system celebrates first plasma

The Frascati Tokamak Upgrade (FTU) machine seen from above. (Click to view larger version...)
The Frascati Tokamak Upgrade (FTU) machine seen from above.
While the ITER machine itself is still a few years away from its first plasma shot, ITER's CODAC system recently celebrated its contribution to the first plasma discharge at the Frascati Tokamak Upgrade (FTU) Project in Italy.

As with so many good things in life, the cooperation between the two projects came about by coincidence. During a meeting held in Aix-en-Provence in May 2010, the ITER CODAC team had presented its EPICS project, as well as the first hardware standards to be used in ITER plant control. It soon became apparent that these hardware standards were the same used by the control and data acquisition group in Frascati to upgrade the slow control of one of their major facilities, the Motor Flywheel Generator 1.

The idea to test the slow control architecture developed for ITER on a running device was soon born. The advantages of this collaboration were mutual: the ITER CODAC Section could benefit from a "real world" experiment to test its slow control software suite, while the FTU team would gain expertise on the CODAC software environment and EPICS-based frameworks, permitting a refurbishment of the legacy control system.
FTU's flywheel that successfully served as test-bed for the ITER plant control system. (Click to view larger version...)
FTU's flywheel that successfully served as test-bed for the ITER plant control system.
The Motor Flywheel Generator 1 is a motor flywheel generator powering the FTU's 8T toroidal magnet. To give a rough idea of the size of this plant, the plasma current induced by MFG1 is approximately 38 kA, equivalent to the current flowing in about 38,000 apartments. Its control logic can be reasonably isolated from FTU's supervising control system, making the Flywheel Generator the ideal candidate for this kind of test.

In order to prepare for the test, every component of the Flywheel Generator control system was replaced to comply with ITER CODAC standards, from the controller interfacing the plant—the so-called PLC — to the synoptic panels that operators use to issue commands and monitor the plant activity. Quite obviously, all this work was done in parallel to the already existing MFG1 control in order to avoid unwanted disturbances with FTU experiments. To complete the picture, a new software interface was developed to allow the new system to communicate, when necessary, with the existing FTU control system (typically, during the plasma experiments).

After the first test runs that helped to refine the details, two weeks ago the new MFG1 control system was put online. On 23 May, the ITER CODAC slow control architecture made its debut at FTU, contributing to producing the first ITER CODAC plasma discharge.


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