The keystone of the ITER Project is its collaborative nature. The seven Members have each agreed to build a part of the machine. Agreeing on a schedule for delivery of each part is thus key to the success of the project. We call this our "integrated schedule" and, along with technical scope and cost, it is one of the three pillars of our overall Baseline. Finalizing this integrated schedule has been the focus of discussion between Members since the last ITER Council. All Members need to back the schedule before we can move forward with confidence to the construction of ITER.
At the last ITER Council meeting in November, certain Members found the schedule too risky to commit to, especially for what we call the "critical path" items. Since then, the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies have made tremendous efforts to identify and mitigate the risk factors in the schedule.
In recognition of this collective effort, and of the urgency of getting the Baseline approved as soon as possible, the ITER Council Chair, Academician Velikhov, called for an ad-hoc meeting of senior representatives from all seven Members this week in Paris to review progress made since November, and to prepare a possible consensus before the next ITER Council meeting in June.
During this two-day meeting, the schedule and its improved risk mitigation measures were presented by the ITER Organization. The Members were pleased to note the progress made, and gave us their full support to move ahead. The next step will be to present the improved schedule to the Management Advisory Committee (MAC), which will hold an exceptional meeting on 10-11 March.
Throughout this meeting, I was pleased to observe a very cooperative atmosphere among all parties towards the establishment of the finalized Baseline at the June Council this year. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all our colleagues for their effort so far, and encourage them to see the process through to the end.
Collaboratively, we are setting the stage for the way forward for the ITER Project. Bearing in mind that this is happening against the background of severe financial crisis worldwide, we are grateful that the ITER Members have remained unwavering in their support. Their hopes are on us.
On Tuesday, 23 February, Procurement Arrangement number 32 for the high heat flux testing of ITER's plasma-facing components was signed in Paris between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agency of the Russian Federation. This is the third Procurement Arrangement which has been signed in the divertor area. The other two were signed last June for the procurement of the outer target and the dome with Japan and Russia, respectively.
The testing of the plasma-facing components will be performed at a new facility under construction at the Efremov Institute in St. Petersburg by means of a powerful 800,000 watt electron-beam-gun. Electrons will be accelerated through an applied voltage of 60 kV. The energy that is released when they strike the targets simulates the heat delivered by the plasma to the surfaces of the components. ITER's plasma-facing components are designed to cope with heat loads of up to 20 megawatts per square metre. "From an engineering point of view that might sound painful," says Mario Merola, ITER's Internal Components Division head. "On the other hand, heat from the plasma is exactly what we want."
To withstand the extreme thermal loads is not the only challenge for the plasma-facing components. Thermal fatigue due to the high number of operating cycles (several thousands) is another. The heat flux tests will thus be performed in so called on/off cycles in order to assess the thermal fatigue of the components. The assessment of the behaviour of plasma-facing components under cycling heat loads is essential to demonstrating their fitness for the purpose of the ITER machine.
The value of this Procurement Arrangement is EUR 12.38 million.
The coming years will be quite busy for the Local Commission for Information (CLI), the independent body that acts as an interface between ITER and the local population.
The ITER CLI was formally established last December. On Wednesday 24 February, 28 of its 42 members convened in the Council Room at the Château to hold their first general assembly and elect the Commission's Executive Board.
The role of the CLI will be particularly important over the next two years as ITER will go through the successive steps of the regulatory "authorization process."
As Carlos Alejaldre, Deputy-Director-General for Safety and Security explained in his presentation, the CLI will be kept "informed" at every stage of the process that will begin in the coming weeks with the submission of the installation's safety files to the French Nuclear Safety Authority.
On the occasion of the CLI's inception three months ago, Director-General Ikeda had insisted on his wish that a "trusting and transparent relationship" be established with ITER. Last week's general assembly was a first test of that relationship as many questions were asked and answers provided by the ITER Organization and Agence Iter France's senior management.
Nuclear communicators from around Europe gathered in Budapest on 14-17 February to attend the annual international Public Information Materials Exchange (PIME) conference.
The highlight of the conference, which has been organized every year since 2005 by the European Nuclear Society, was the announcement of the PIME award for Communications Excellence.
A jury presided by Robert Leclère, CEO of Synatom and President of the Belgian Nuclear Forum, had shortlisted five communication campaigns that had "successfully connected with their audiences, helped to dispel myths and misinformation about nuclear energy and enhanced the image of our industry."
ITER Communication campaigns (local TV series, weekly Newsline, New Scientist poster, website, Facebook page, etc.) were among the five shortlisted candidates. The other finalists were: EDF, the French utility company; Rosatom, the State Atomic Energy Corporation of Russia; the Young Generation Network of the European Nuclear Society; and a consortium of energy companies from Finland.
At the event's closing session on 16 February 2010, the PIME 2010 Award for Communications Excellence was presented to a project by Rosatom aiming at creating a network of information centres about atomic energy in the various regions of Russia.
Talk about a crash course! In less than three hours last Thursday in the Council Room at the Château, some 35 members of the Conseil Économique et Social (CES)—the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur (PACA) region's advisory committee on economic and social affairs—were introduced to the ITER Project, fusion R&D, the Fusion Master's program, and the role of the Cadarache-based innovative cluster Capénergie in the development of the "energies of the future."
"Our role is to advise the regional executive body on such matters as research and higher education policy," explains Jean-François Cousinié, the President of the CES Education and Research Commission who headed the delegation. "We were curious to find out more about ITER and wished to have a clear vision of how the project relates to other research ventures in laboratories and universities."
Presentations by Pascale Amenc-Antoni, Senior Advisor to the Director-General; Richard Pitts, Senior Scientist in the Fusion Science and Technology (FST) Department; Christian Grisolia of CEA-Cadarache's Magnetic Fusion Institute; Serge Durand, director of CEA-Cadarache; and by two Université de Provence professors provided the CES members with the "picture" they needed. "Relations with the universities in Marseille and Nice are clearly strong and growing," said Cousinié after the meeting. "The challenge now is to create in the Durance River Valley something that would resemble Silicon Valley in the field of innovative energies."
For 65 years, "CEA" stood for Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique ... period. On 14 December, President Sarkozy of France announced that "in order to honour the government's equal commitment to the development of nuclear and alternative energies," the acronym should now be understood as Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives.
Does this mean that, from now on, we'll have to refer to our neighbour and host as CEA-EA? "We'll keep the acronym unchanged," says CEA-Cadarache's Director Serge Durand. "But there'll be an added line under the logo that will clearly spell out the institution's commitment to alternative energies."
CEA was established in 1945 to develop applications of nuclear power, both military and civilian. "Early on, the expertise in nuclear-related matters naturally led to the exploration of other domains of knowledge and technology," says Serge Durand.
CEA's competence in microelectronics, for instance, directly stems from research on "hardened" electronics destined for nuclear warheads; second generation biofuels are a spin-off from the expertise acquired in very high temperatures; the quest for neutron-resistant materials boosted research on nanomaterials that are presently implemented in solar panels ... Only 60 percent of CEA's present activity is devoted to nuclear energy, whether fusion or fission.
"An energy mix is something we've always advocated," says Durand. "With the exception of hydroelectric and wind energy, we have research programs in all forms of renewable energy. We would have been sorry to loose the "atomique" part of our acronym, because this is what our culture and history are about. As it is now, it makes perfect sense."
Do you need to know the exact date of the last ITER Council? Do you have a question about neutral beams or superconducting strands? Do you remember reading about an ITER engineer who used to pick roses as a student in Bulgaria?
The complete Newsline archive is now available, from the first issue in October 2006, to the 120th issue that you have—well, if not in your hands than at least on the screen before you. Newsline is a repository for ITER history-in-the-making, and an important resource for information about the project, its people, and its progress.
Also, try out our new search function to go straight to the information you need the most.
The last modules of the new temporary office building JWSIII were assembled this week. Work on the interior fittings started in January, and it is expected that the building will be ready to open its doors in June.
The completion of this building brings to 6,800 m² the total amount of temporary office space provided by Agence Iter France (both on the ITER and CEA-Cadarache site) to welcome the staff of the ITER Organization and the European Domestic Agency "Fusion for Energy."
A detailed and lively account of fusion research in the late 1970s and early 1980s, The Man-Made Sun is set against the backdrop of the looming "energy crisis" when the oil barrel, which had been stable at an average of $3 since 1946, passed the $10 mark in 1974 and was trading at $37.5 in 1980—almost one hundred of today's dollars.
Industrialized societies were facing a future with fuel that was neither "cheap" nor "convenient." Like the spectre of "peak oil" and climate change today, the oil crisis thirty years ago sparked renewed interest in non-fossil energies.
While public opinion embraced the promise of solar and wind energy and governments were considering investing massively in nuclear programs, several laboratories, largely out of the public eye, were attempting to fuse isotopes of hydrogen to ignite "the fire of the Sun" in a new generation of fusion machines.
In 1983, the year T.A. Heppenheimer's The Man-Made Sun was published, hopes for demonstrating the feasibility of fusion energy were at an all-time high. The Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) was nearing completion at the US Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, as were the European JET in the UK and JT-60 in Japan. At the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, where the tokamak concept had been "invented" in the mid 1950s, plans were being drafted for a very large superconducting machine, T-20, that would surpass the TFTR-sized tokamaks.
The Man-Made Sun traces the development of fusion energy programs—with a strong emphasis on US labs—from the early research on mirror machines at Princeton and Livermore in the mid-1950s to the "big tokamak" programs of the early 1980s.
Heppenheimer's clear and vivid narrative provides an exceptional behind-the-scenes look at how large science projects were conducted in labs and government offices. The Man-Made Sun is a story about scientists and bureaucrats, visionaries and maverick entrepreneurs. The pages that Heppenheimer devotes to Robert Bussard's "Riggatron" and the financial backing he received from Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione are particularly colourful.
"Fusion is unquestionably one of the key technologies that will shape the coming millennium," writes Heppenheimer in the closing pages of the book. "Today we see it as a man-made sun about to rise; tomorrow, we will stand in the radiance of its bright promise." Thirty years later, tomorrow is here and—despite some delay—so is the "bright promise."
The Man-Made Sun: The Quest for Fusion Power, T. A. Heppenheimer, Little, Brown, 1983
The book is available in the ITER library, 519/15.
Tony Donné, head of the Fusion Physics department at Rijnhuizen, has been appointed part-time professor at Eindhoven Technical University. He will investigate fusion plasma diagnostics at the Faculty of Applied Physics, within the sub-faculty of Science and Technology of Nuclear Fusion.
After starting his career at Rijnhuizen in 1985, Tony Donné was quickly appointed leader of the diagnostics development for high temperature fusion plasmas. His group developed diagnostics for the Rijnhuizen Tokamak Project and from 1997-2008, Donné was stationed at the German Forschungszentrum Jülich, where he first worked as head of diagnostics and, from 2004 on, was "chef de mission" of the Dutch scientists at Jülich. In 2009, he was appointed head of the Fusion Physics department at FOM-Rijnhuizen.
Source: FOM Institute for Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen