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"If it were easy, they wouldn't need us"

-Peter Swenson, Head of the ITER Project Office

''Get ready for dust, noise, and heavy equipment,'' says Peter Swenson, Head of the ITER Project Office. (Click to view larger version...)
''Get ready for dust, noise, and heavy equipment,'' says Peter Swenson, Head of the ITER Project Office.
If you followed the signals coming from the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) and the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) last week, you could almost feel the shift in momentum. After more than two years of dedicated effort from many, many people around the world, the project is now ready for approval of the Project Baseline. We must first receive approval from the ITER Council in June but we have clearance to do so, and the entire team is aligned and agreed. After all of the effort, it's hard to imagine that we have finally completed it. This summer, anyone watching the activity on the site will see things will change dramatically. 

Recently, we have completed a number of major milestones. STAC and MAC went through our technical design basis, the underlying documents, the schedule, and of course, the cost; always the cost. Sure, we have some action items to treat, but in the end, the advisory bodies came to a supportive conclusion: they will endorse our Project Baseline to the ITER Council. If approved, it means the end of the ITER project's "Phase 1". 

In three short and action-packed years, we have gone from nothing to something very substantial and unique. I still walk down the corridor and look at the photo of the tiny band of original ITER employees, and am amazed at how far we've come and what we've become.  The really amazing thing is that it's just begun. Many young people who have joined ITER today will probably work their entire careers on this site and will be able to say that they were here before there were any permanent buildings, when it all began.

During the last week, we signed seven Procurement Arrangements (PAs) in seven days, amongst them the largest PA of the entire project with the European Domestic Agency: a whopping 368 kIUA for the site and building work. If you're like me and can't really relate to the ITER currency, just think of it as "a whole lot of money".  We now have more than 60% of the total project work committed in the Domestic Agencies, but the best part is that right now - just over the fence from Headquarters - there are already about 40 Architect/Engineer people getting ready to start digging, pouring concrete, and putting up buildings. At long last, the skyline is about to change at ITER.

We share these accomplishments with our Domestic Agencies, as a project team. They have been an integral part of this effort, and truly we could not have gotten to this point without their patience, work, and strong support. In many areas, they continue to carry the load in the design work and are now starting in earnest on the fabrication of components and systems.  During the coming year this will go from a trickle of work to a torrent. The Domestic Agencies supported the ITER Organization in the early years, and now we need to be prepared to support them.

We are moving into the next phase. Get ready for dust, noise, and heavy equipment on the roads. We can also expect lots and lots of technical and interface problems, and a whole lot of increased awareness on things like safety, quality, schedule compliance, and of course, cost containment. 

But this is the very best part of a construction project - watching the buildings come up out of the ground. It will be challenging, exciting, and many times filled with problems that seem unsolvable. In other words, it's just the thing for this team. After all...if it were easy, they wouldn't need us. Get ready, it's time to deliver.



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