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Standing by the platform, Director-General Kaname Ikeda points "the way" to Prince Albert II of Monaco. © CEA
On Tuesday this week, two years after the Partnership signing ceremony between the ITER Organization and the Principality of Monaco in the Prince's palace in January 2008, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco visited ITER to get a first-hand look at the construction site and to meet both ITER management and the first five Postdoctoral Fellows pursuing research under the terms of the agreement: Sophie Carpentier-Chouchana, Matthew Jewell, Axel Winter, Evgeny Veshchev and Kim Junghee.

Since 2007, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation has been funding tangible projects in the areas of climate change, access to potable water, biodiversity preservation, the fight against deforestation and last but not least the promotion of renewable energies. In 2008, the committed Prince expressed his interest in the quest for clean fusion energy, underlining the Principality's historical interest in nature preservation. This led to a Partnership Arrangement with the ITER Organization that was signed on 16 January 2008.

For more information on the ITER-Monaco-Fellowships, please click here...

As part of that Arrangement, the Principality of Monaco will contribute EUR 5.5 million to the ITER Project over a period of ten years. This donation will be used to finance five postdoctoral fellowships every two years and a bi-annual international conference on ITER-related research. The first of these conferences is scheduled to be held in Monaco in October this year.

The conditions for Prince Albert's journey from Monaco by helicopter on Tuesday could not have been more perfect—not one cloud was to be seen in the Provençal sky and the landscape beneath was covered with fresh snow. Upon landing at the Château de Cadarache, Prince Albert II was welcomed by ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda and Serge Durand, Director of CEA Cadarache. The first item on his agenda was a virtual tour through the ITER Tokamak given by Professor Castejon from the institute CIEMAT in Madrid, Spain.

In his address to the Monaco Fellows and ITER staff, the Prince expressed his satisfaction for "this most interesting and most productive visit." The ITER Project, said the Prince, "opens vast prospects for future generations. The project quite naturally attracted my attention and that of the Monegasque Government, since it should ultimately open the way for energy from abundant resources, equitably distributed over the entire planet."

The visit of Prince Albert II, ended with each of the Monaco Fellows giving a short presentation of her/his research which the Prince received with great interest. After a short chat with the Fellows, the Prince boarded his helicopter and took off in a blast of sunshine and glistening snow.

Click here to view photos of the visit...

The future 12,000 m² Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility (which will not turn out as orange as in this drawing).
Six stories high ... two soccer fields in length ... the building's sheer size is impressive. And size matters, as this is the building that will house the workshop for one of ITER's biggest components. It is also the first building that will go up on the ITER platform. So undoubtedly, the spotlight this week at ITER was the coil winding facility for the poloidal field magnets.

On Wednesday, 13 January, Didier Gambier on behalf of the European Domestic Agency and Francois-Xavier Clédat, President of the French consortium comprising Spie Batignolles, Omega Concept and Setec, signed the contract that heralded the beginning of ITER construction.

The Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility will be 253 metres long, 46 metres wide and 19 metres high*. On the inside of the building, the coils for ITER's poloidal field magnets will be wound. There will be six polodal field coils in all, ranging in diameter from 8 to 24 metres.

Whereas most of the components for ITER will be built by industry in the Member states, five of the six poloidal field coils are simply too big for transport and will be delivered by Europe to be wound on site.

Construction of the Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility is expected to start in the summer of 2010. It will be the first of 39 buildings to be erected on the ITER platform in the coming years.

* In the video is says that the building will be 17 metres high, but updated figures give a height of 19 metres.

Participants of the signing ceremony for the ITER vacuum vessel and ports in Korea on 15 January: representatives from Korea are seen on the left, and from NFRI and ITER Korea on the right.
Today, 15 January 2010, a contract has been signed between Gyung-Su Lee, President of Korea's National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for the Korean sections of the ITER vacuum vessel and ports. Both are critical components of the ITER Tokamak.

Hyundai Heavy Industries will participate in the construction of the vacuum vessel for ITER in recognition of its technological capabilities as demonstrated by its experience with KSTAR. The company will construct and deliver two of the nine vacuum vessel sectors, the seventeen equatorial ports, and the nine lower ports of the ITER Tokamak by early 2017.

Of the ten main procurement items to be procured "in-kind" by Korea, the vacuum vessel sectors along with the toroidal field conductor are the principal long-lead items to be delivered early in the construction of ITER.

The vacuum vessel encloses the space where high temperature plasma will be created and maintained to produce fusion reactions. As such, it is designed to withstand both extremely high and cryogenically-low temperatures while maintaining a high vacuum seal.

"Domestic companies that have accumulated technological competence through the experience of KSTAR are now participating in ITER," stated President Lee. "Developments in new fusion technology by industry are expected to advance national development toward becoming an international leader in fusion."

JAEA has delivered the 2,000 m² building that will host the prototype of the IFMIF accelerator.
In deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion, the plasma-facing components of the installation are submitted to an intense flux of highly energetic neutrons. Their repeated impact activates the materials, alters their microstructures and modifies their properties.

It is therefore of crucial importance to develop and characterize materials that will withstand these aggressions and mitigate their effects—not so much for ITER, which will operate on a "pulse mode," but certainly for DEMO, PROTO(1) and the industrial fusion power plants that will follow.

IFMIF, the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility, will do just that. A part of the Broader Approach that Japan and the European Union formally launched in 2007, the project has been in the Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (EVEDA) phase for the past two years—a phase similar to the ITER Engineering Design Activity (EDA) of 1992-2001.

At Rokkasho, the IFMIF team is busy coordinating the detailed design activities that take place in many European and Japanese institutes. Staff is small—some 20 people, soon 40—seconded by Japanese, French, Italian, German and Spanish institutions.

In IFMIF/EVEDA, like in the ITER EDA fifteen years ago, prototypes are being developed. "We have to validate two very innovative technologies," says IFMIF Project Leader Pascal Garin. "One is an accelerator prototype whose characteristics are well beyond the present state of the art; the other is a lithium test loop to check all thermo-hydraulic characteristics of this very innovative system."

The IFMIF accelerator—a parallel pair actually—will deliver 40 MeV deuterium nuclei which, by interacting with a fast-flowing film of liquid lithium, will generate neutrons of the required energy. These neutrons will in turn impact small samples of materials, thus reproducing what occurs in an operating fusion reactor. "The flux rate will be slightly above that of a reactor. In six years irradiation we create a degradation equivalent to about ten years of continuous exploitation."

The prototype for the accelerator is being manufactured mainly by Europe, essentially through in-kind procurements. In Rokkasho, JAEA has already delivered the 2,000 m² building that will host the installation. The accelerator's "injector" will be tested next year at CEA-Saclay. "We will start receiving the components by late 2011," says Pascal Garin, "and experiments will last for three years."

As for the lithium loop, it will be installed in a dedicated facility at Oarai, not far from Naka, where JAEA has developed operational and handling skills for liquid metals such as sodium.

"Four or five years from now," concludes IFMIF's Project Leader, "the IFMIF Engineering Design Report, the equivalent of the 2001 ITER Final Design Report, will be delivered. I hope that the process of deciding on a site for IFMIF will be launched before, in order to ensure some continuity between the current EVEDA phase and the construction phase."

(1) PROTO is the pre-industrial prototype that would follow DEMO.

This article is part of a three-part series providing an update of the Broader Approach activities.

For more background information on the Broader Approach click here

Next week, 18—21 January, the 6th meeting of the ITER Technical Advisory Group (TAG) will take place in Cadarache. The TAG, chaired by Michel Huguet, is formed of senior engineers, scientists and project managers from a wide range of ITER-related research activities and industry to advise ITER management. This 6th meeting will focus on the technical challenges associated to the construction of components affecting the ITER schedule in a major way. Solutions implemented will lead to the optimum path towards a burning plasma fuelled by deuterium and tritium.

Today the driving issue related to the ITER schedule is the necessary manufacturing time for the vacuum vessel. Current estimates vary depending on available infrastructure, necessity of prototypes and manufacturing processes. "Time is money," says ITER Deputy Director-General Norbert Holtkamp, "the question is more or less ... what is the minimum time for minimum cost?"

The third day of the TAG meeting will be devoted to a vacuum vessel schedule forum that will include approximately twenty industry representatives from Europe, Japan and Korea who have been invited to provide recommendations based on their expertise. Six members of the European Domestic Agency will also attend, including its new director Frank Briscoe.

The recommendations from TAG will be combined together with outputs from other schedule-related meetings so that the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies can implement a schedule which minimizes risk and maximizes feasibility. These results will then be presented to the Heads of Delegations in February this year.

The first dummy copper conductor unit length measuring 760 metres was completed this week at Nippon Steel Engineering, Japan.
The Japanese Domestic Agency and Nippon Steel Engineering last week completed the compaction and spooling of the first dummy copper conductor unit (760 metres) for ITER's toroidal field coils at the Wakamatsu plant.

The applied pull-through and compaction process was originally developed for the ITER model coil conductors. It consists of assembling a straight and long conduit by butt welding tube sections, then pulling the superconductor cable through the whole conduit length and finally compacting the long tube onto the cable by passing both of them though the rolls of a compaction head, and simultaneously spooling the compacted cable-in-conduit.

The Japanese Domestic Agency has set up a 900-metre-long industrial jacketing line near the town of Wakamatsu to fabricate the Japanese share of toroidal field and central solenoid conductors. The line has been designed, fabricated, installed and commissioned by Nippon Steel Engineering. It includes not only fabrication tools but also inspection and test equipment (e.g., non destructive examination of welds).

The completion of the first ITER dummy toroidal field conductor unit length is a necessary step before superconductor cable-in-conduit is fabricated. This is full scale verification of the process application as well as the equipments and tooling. The Nippon Steel team completed the various fabrication steps successfully, assembling the 316LN tubes produced by Kobe Special Tube Co., Ltd., inserting the dummy cable fabricated by Hitachi Cable at 2m/min, and eventually applying the compaction and the final spooling.

Thanks to the high level of preparation of the Nippon Steel team all steps went very smoothly. The next challenge is now to fabricate the first superconductor cable-in-conduit lengths which are scheduled in February.

Click here to read the press release (in Japanese)

The Governing Board of the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (Fusion for Energy) has appointed Frank Briscoe as Director ad interim. Briscoe was Operations Director at the UK's fusion centre at Culham in Oxfordshire and recently led an independent assessment of the cost estimates of the ITER Organization for the construction of ITER.

The Governing Board thanked the outgoing Director, Didier Gambier, for his work. Gambier will take up a new position with the European Commission in Brussels.

Click here to read the Press Release

One hundred thousand billion operations per second: the High Performance Computer For Fusion in Jülich, Germany.
Since August, the processors of the new supercomputer at the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) Supercomputing Centre in Germany have been churning out data for fusion. This EUR 10 million machine, funded by the European Commission (50 percent), Germany (40 percent), and EFDA member institutes (10 percent), is the first supercomputer entirely dedicated to the study of magnetically-confined fusion plasmas. All EFDA institutions will have access to the new Jülich supercomputer.

The computing power of HPC-FF, for High Performance Computer For Fusion, is a valuable new tool for plasma physicists. Modelling requires extensive computer resources; increasingly realistic simulations that are able to take into account the full ITER plasma—and not just a part—will accelerate fusion research, and pave the way for optimum operation of ITER. "Up to now, fusion researchers—when they were lucky enough to have access to a supercomputer—competed for computer time with other research domains," explains Sibylle Günter from the Max-Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching. "Demonstration runs were possible in most cases, but parameter studies for advanced understanding and better prediction for ITER were not easy to do."

HPC-FF has a total computing power of 101 teraflops, meaning that it can treat approximately one hundred thousand billion operations per second. It can also access the resources of another Jülich computer, JuRoPA, for a total processing power of 300 teraflops. These exceptional resources will be used by researchers to increase understanding of turbulent behaviour in fusion plasmas, interaction of energetic particles with the plasma, edge physics, MHD stability, and material degradation—covering larger computational domains (up to an entire reactor) than ever before.

FZE Jülich was charged through an EFDA implementation agreement with constructing and operating the machine. Building the computer took six months, with another three required to reach full performance and regular remote operation. Since its launch on 1 August 2009, demand for the computer has exceeded available computer time by 30 percent. Projects are chosen by the HPC-FF Board through an annual call for research proposals. A team of experts in applied mathematics and computer science has also been formed to improve the performance of existing computer codes and develop new numerical techniques to make the most efficient use of the new supercomputer.

Experience gained on the HPC-FF supercomputer will prepare the way for the next-stage device, the first petaflop supercomputer (more than 1000 teraflops) that is planned for the International Fusion Research Centre (IFERC) in Rokkasho, Japan in 2012. The ultimate goal, says Sibylle, is "to provide physicists with the tools to simulate all relevant processes in a magnetic fusion device, just as a flight simulator helps airplane pilots to fly."

European Commission press release

Thanks to Sibylle Günter, director at IPP Garching, for her contribution to this article.

ITER staff numbers will be up to 450 by end of this month.
Some 140 people were recruited in 2009 by the ITER Organization, bringing the total of ITER staff to 430. Twenty additional staff are expected to arrive this month, but then recruitment is expected to slow in 2010; total staff will not exceed 500 at year's end.