Setting up an international organization from the scratch is not a trivial mission to say the least. Staff has to be hired and multinational teams formed and then trained on procedures and routines which are newly developed and in the early stages of being implemented.
In order "to streamline, improve and speed up" the procurement process within the young ITER Organization, Francoise Flament—since April the Head of the Procurement & Contracts Division—gathers her team around the table once every month. From time to time, they move off-site for an unbiased, auto-critical assessment "to measure our overall performance," as Francoise Flament puts it. Stepping back, progress is visible, even measurable.
Through end-August 2009, a total of 390 contracts, 7 Task Agreements and 391 Purchase Orders representing EUR 120 million have been signed. The time span between a purchase request and placement of an order has been dramatically reduced from more than 20 days to less than five. Since the start of 2009, the decrease in the percentage of single-tender contracts has been significant, dropping from 25 percent to 16 percent in contract value, and from 72 percent to 41 percent in total number of contracts signed.
A new dedicated website gives detailed information on procurement procedures, the types of solicitations issued by the ITER Organization, calls for nominations, calls for tenders, and forthcoming calls. A recently-issued Procurement Manual describes the workflow and provides a guide through the standardized procurement process.
A contract management system has been set up in conjunction with IT. This system will enable the Procurement & Contracts Division to keep track of the status of individual tender processes. A web-based application for supplier database management has also been established, which will help suppliers register with the ITER Organization by providing corporate and procurement classification information. This tool aims to improve the communication between the ITER Organization and the supplier community, to increase knowledge of the market place and to facilitate competition. An on-line registration form for suppliers will also be available through ITER Organization public website.
A procurement plan has now been developed together with the ITER Organization departments and offices. Such a plan is essential for the effective and timely solicitation of tenders, quotations, award of contracts, delivery of services and supplies, or performance of the works required for the ITER Organization.
In order to make sure that the bidder for a technically complex part of the ITER machine has the financial strength to fulfill his commitment, a contract for global business information was placed to support the ITER Organization in its assessments.
"The whole team, together with ITER departments and offices, has achieved a lot," says Francoise Flament. "Still, we need to stay focused on performance and continuous improvements in order to support the ITER Project."
When Cadarache was officially created, on 14 October 1959, France was already engaged in an ambitious program to develop nuclear energy. Five research centres, each entrusted with a specific mission, had already been established in different regions of the country.
Cadarache's assignment was to implement research programs in view of developing the promising fast-neutron reactors and to develop a submarine reactor destined for France's strategic naval forces.
In the course of half-a-century, this and much more was achieved. Cadarache, with a "population" of some 4,000 engineers, technicians, physicists, biologists, is now "one the three largest nuclear research facilities in the world."
Fission, particularly the development of Generation 4 nuclear reactors, remains Cadarache's core activity. But over the years the Centre's activities have evolved to include research on fusion, biofuels, renewable energies, hydrogen...
So there was pride, last Friday, under the large tent that CEA had installed close to the Jules-Horowitz Reactor work site to celebrate Cadarache's 50th anniversary.
Bernard Bigot, CEA Administrator-General, Christophe Béhar, CEA Director of Nuclear Energy and CEA-Cadarache Director Serge Durand retraced the history of the Centre, its achievements, its challenges for the coming years. "What Cadarache is about," said Bernard Bigot, "is producing innovation."
Emotion reached a high when the clapping and cheering of a standing ovation drowned out the last words of Serge Durand's speech.
Hundreds of people had gathered under the tent: former Cadarache directors and CEA administrators, local authorities and politicians, and of course staff members, present and retired. Bernard Bigot reminded them what General de Gaulle had said when visiting Cadarache in 1963: "I envy those who have the privilege to work here ..."
The birthday cake, though quite large, was a bit too small to be shared by all who attended the party. Symbolically, it was cut by those in the "family" that were born on a 14 October—among them Jean Jacquinot, former head of fusion research at CEA and a member of ITER's Scientific Council as early as 1992.
The bulldozers are back! Unmistakeable for the staff working in the ITER Headquarters building ... preparations for the Joint Worksite III have begun! This week, the ground was levelled and bore holes were drilled. Next week the excavations for the foundation will be dug in preparation for the pouring of the concrete base plate for the new—still temporary—office building that will host 200 workspaces for European Domestic Agency staff and 100 desks for ITER staff. The first office modules are expected to arrive early 2010. Getting to grips with the breadth and complexity of remote handling applications for ITER was the subject of a recent ITER Remote Handling Workshop organized by UKAEA Fusion and Industry at the Culham Science Centre.
JET remote handling experts and some 80 representatives from over 30 companies attended the workshop and the presentation by Alessandro Tesini, ITER's Remote Handling Section Leader.
Any great scientific endeavour is first and foremost a human story; the history of people who made the endeavour possible. This is particularly true of the history of fusion. It was written by a "tight fraternity" of men which formed in the late 1950s and "reached across international borders to collaborate."
Robin Herman's 1990 book, Fusion, the Search for Endless Energy, opens with a snapshot of that fraternity of scientists, as they ride tour buses heading from London to Culham where the inauguration of JET was to take place. Most of them had begun their career experimenting on small tabletop fusion devices; they would soon be in front of the 3,000-tonne machine that carried the hopes of the whole fusion community.
Writing in the late 1980s, Herman, an American science reporter, was able to meet and interview most of the "founding fathers" of fusion science and magnetic machine technology. Her account, written for a general audience, makes an easy, entertaining read and an excellent introduction to the basics of "fusion culture."
To tell the history of fusion, Herman calls on a complete cast of characters: Lev Artsimovitch, head of Soviet fusion research from 1950 to 1973; Paul-Henri Rebut, the designer of JET in the mid 1980s; Lyman Spitzner, inventor of the stellarator in 1952; Masaji Yoshikawa, considered as the builder of JT-60; and dozens of others whose contribution to fusion was essential.
Another reason that makes Fusion, the Search for Endless Energy an interesting read is Herman's interest in the minor characters, the fringe players in the great fusion adventure. Argentine dictator Juan Perón, who claimed in 1951 that his nation had built a fusion reactor, is one of them; Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse magazine who invested part of his fortune in private fusion research, is another.
In 1990, the agreement to design ITER had been signed by the US, Japan, the European Union and the Soviet Union, and Conceptual Design Activities were almost complete. What the fusion community was waiting for when Robin Herman's book was sent to print was "an act of political courage and foresight, a concrete commitment to build ITER."
The time for such an act would eventually come—but it would take another decade.
Fusion, the Search for Endless Energy, Robin Herman, Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Suzanne A. Herron has been appointed Deputy Project Director for the US ITER Project Office at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She previously was Senior Manager for Project Controls for US ITER.
In Herron's new role, she shares responsibility for providing leadership in all project areas with US ITER Project Director Ned Sauthoff. She also will help lead interactions with the international ITER Organization regarding scope and schedule of the US portion of the project.
Before joining US ITER as Project Controls Manager, Herron held a similar position for ORNL's $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source Project for seven years. She has more than 30 years of diverse experience in US Department of Energy (DOE) and industry programs, including some 20 years in project and program management.
Herron has served on a number of national and international advisory boards for large-scale science projects. She is the recipient of numerous company achievement awards, including recognition as Middle Manager of the Year at ORNL's 2001 Awards Night.
Herron holds a B.S. in mathematics and an M.S. in industrial and systems engineering, both from Ohio University. She and her husband, Andrew, live in Lenoir City. They have three children.
The US ITER Project Office is hosted by ORNL and sponsored by DOE's Office of Science.
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The Fusion Power Associates (FPA) nominated this year's award recipients: the Distinguished Career Award goes to Weston M. Stacey, Jr., Callaway Regent's Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. In selecting Professor Stacey, the FPA Board recognizes his outstanding career contributions to fusion research and development, including his pioneering contributions to power-producing fusion reactor designs, to the INTOR design which was a forerunner for ITER, and to conceptual designs of fusion-fission systems.
The FPA Distinguished Career Awards have been given annually since 1987 to individuals who have made distinguished lifelong career contributions to fusion development.
This year's Leadership Award goes to Dr. Gyung Su Lee, President of the Korean National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) and former Director-General of the ITER Korean Domestic Agency. "In selecting Dr. Lee, the FPA Board recognizes the leadership he has provided to the KSTAR tokamak project, to Korean participation in the ITER Project, and his leadership of the International Fusion Research Council (IFRC)," it says in the FPA press release.
The FPA Leadership Awards have been given annually since 1980 to individuals who have shown outstanding leadership qualities in accelerating the development of fusion.
Darren Garnier of Columbia University and Jeff Latkowski of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been chosen to receive 2009 FPA Excellence in Fusion Engineering Awards. "In selecting Dr. Garnier, the FPA Board notes the contributions and leadership he has provided for the design, fabrication and operation of the Levitated Dipole Experiment (a joint Columbia-MIT project located at MIT) and his contributions to the diagnostics and control systems for that experiment," states the press release. "In selecting Dr. Latkowski, the FPA Board notes the contributions and leadership he has provided for the LIFE fusion-fission project, the NIF Final Safety Analysis, and to LLNL contributions to the non-laser portions of the national High Average Power Laser (HAPL) program."
The FPA Excellence in Fusion Engineering Awards, established in memory of MIT Professor David J. Rose, have been given annually since 1987 to recognize individuals in the relatively early part of their careers who have shown both technical accomplishment and potential to become exceptionally influential leaders in the fusion field.
The Awards will be presented at Fusion Power Associates Thirty-Year Anniversary Annual Meeting and Symposium on 2-3 December in Washington, D.C. A list of previous award recipients is posted at http://fusionpower.org .
When we talk about the size of the ITER enterprise, the data stored on the ITER Collaborative Network, in short ICP, is a good scale to measure by. This week, ICP registered the one millionth object stored in its database—which is, of course, a reason to celebrate.
ICP is both a document management and a document workflow system. Whenever you submit a Word document to the ITER Document System (IDM), the document is saved in a folder. IDM represents the biggest proportion of stored data, followed by Tickets, the Configuration Management Database, and E-forms.
It all started with the introduction of the first version of IDM, which went online in October 2004 as the first web-based document management system in ITER. It superseded an old cumbersome document management system which had collected 10,000 documents in ten years.
The new web-based system is much easier to use: in its second year of operation, more documents were uploaded than in the ten preceding years. Other applications followed and the last 500,000 objects were created in only nine months. Running on a single server a few years ago, ICP is now distributed among several servers sharing extreme loads in order to provide high availability 24 hours, seven days a week.
"Users of the ICP include the 800 people—employees plus subcontractors—working at the ITER Cadarache site, and another 2,000 people working from the Domestic Agencies," says Robert Jober, the new man in charge of Data Management Systems Integration at ITER. "At any given time we have around 200 persons accessing the servers, and an average of 2,500 new objects are created every day." This daily figure is comparable to the number of documents created during ITER Engineering Activities in twelve months in 1997. And the rate of uploads continues to accelerate. "It will take significantly less time to reach the two million mark," says Robert.