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Latest ITER Newsline

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Of Interest

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Coping with COVID

Adjusting to maintain progress

Laban Coblentz, Head of Communication

COVID-19 needs no introduction. But for a 35-country collaboration like ITER, the dramatic worldwide spread of the virus has introduced an entirely new set of challenges for international project management. Whether the task at hand is talent recruitment, efficient financial and procurement processes, ongoing fabrication of components, preparation of the Tokamak Building for Assembly Phase, or monitoring and receiving shipments of giant superconductor magnets, each member of the ITER team, from senior management to staff and collaborators, has tried his/her best to respond with the necessary adjustments, putting safety first as always.

The ITER site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France, in early March 2020, photographed by drone. (Click to view larger version...)
The ITER site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France, in early March 2020, photographed by drone.
From the beginning of the new coronavirus outbreak, ITER has taken all precautionary measures recommended by the World Health Organization and by the French government as the ITER Host State to preserve the health of all the stakeholders to the project. Given that China and Italy, the two most affected ITER parties so far, are both countries with intensive manufacturing of ITER components, the ITER Organization in France was in constant contact and, to some extent, was able to learn from their early experience with combating COVID-19. At all times, project-wide, the core focus has been to ensure the safety and wellbeing of ITER staff and collaborators, while maintaining progress on critical activities to the extent possible. Translated, this has meant emphasizing individual responsibility to follow all hygiene measures, project-wide solidarity as a single One-ITER team, advanced planning for multiple scenarios, and clear guidance from ITER Council Chair and ITER Organization top management at every level as the situation has evolved.

ITER has been fortunate that, as of this publication, no one at the ITER site has been tested positive or been hospitalized for COVID-19. We hope this situation will be preserved, even as we are aware that this of course could change at any time. Teleworking operations were tested well in advance, and have been implemented massively. Digital communication and meetings have become the new norm.

On the worksite, critical operations have been successfully maintained so far. In addition to essential safety and security staff and maintaining life-cycle operations such as electricity and water supply, this has included: completion of resin injection into poloidal field coil #5 (PF5) under the oversight of the European Domestic Agency, Fusion For Energy; completion of the cryostat upper cylinder by the Indian Domestic Agency, with preparations underway to place it in storage; and continued finalization of the Tokamak Building to be turned over from Fusion for Energy to the ITER Organization at the end of March. Critically, it also includes preparations to receive three of the giant superconductor magnets: toroidal field coil #9 (TF9), which arrived at the Marseille port from Italy one week ago; toroidal field coil #12 (TF12), scheduled to arrive in Marseille from Japan in about ten days; and poloidal field coil #6 (PF6), which has been packaged for shipment and should depart China in the next few days.

Newsline will continue to cover the progress that our home and international teams are achieving, despite the difficult global context, and we will keep our readers abreast of any developments in our organizational response measures.


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