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"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 in seven days, amongst them the largest 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 percent 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.

ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda accompanying Academician Velikhov to the meeting.
Last Wednesday 19 May in the Assembly Room at the Château, ITER Council Chair Evgeny Velikhov addressed the ITER senior staff and management.

Introduced by ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda as "the man who founded ITER," Academician Velikhov first stressed the Organization's achievements, and congratulated the management for having "fulfilled one of the project's main targets" at this stage: completing the ITER Baseline that will be presented at the upcoming ITER Council in June.

The former adviser to Secretary Gorbatchev, who played a key part in launching the ITER Project in 1985, noted that despite difficulties "... there is no skepticism about ITER. All Members firmly say: We need to build it!"

Academician Velikhov presented his view of the world energy crisis, saying that in his opinion "the gap between supply and demand will open this year." He also spoke at length of fusion and ITER history, stressing the fact that whatever the hardships and difficulties encountered, they were always eventually "overcome"—and "beautifully" at that.

The Chair of the Council then invited all those present to participate in "a free and frank discussion." Several questions were asked, giving Academician Velikhov the opportunity to outline his vision for the future, his hopes and his intentions.

Done! ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda and Kijung Jung, Head of the Korean Domestic Agency after signing the Procurement Arrangement for ITER's thermal shield system.
On Monday, 17 May, Procurement Arrangement #44 for ITER's thermal shield system was signed between the ITER Organization and the Korean Domestic Agency. The thermal shields, a key component for the successful operation of ITER, minimize the heat loads transferred by thermal radiation and conduction from the warm components inside the tokamak to the components and structures that operate at 4.5 K. The shields themselves will operate at approximately 80 K.

The thermal shield system is made of single-wall stainless steel panels with the cooling pipes welded to the panels. The panels are cooled by 1.8 MPa pressurized helium gas supplied by the cryoplant. Thermal radiation to the superconducting magnets confining the plasma is further reduced by providing a 5 μm thick, low emissivity silver coating on both sides of the shield plates. The shield's surface area covers 10,000 square metres and, once assembled, will stand 25 metres at its highest point.

The contract was signed by ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda on behalf of the ITER Organization and the Director of the Domestic Agency Kijung Jung on behalf of the Republic of Korea. The component will be manufactured under the supervision of the National Fusion Research Institute and is expected to be delivered to the ITER construction site in southern France by late 2016.

Like his grandfather, a coal miner in Poland's Silesia region who emigrated to Germany in the early 1920s, Manfred Glugla, ITER Fuel Cycle Engineering Division Head, works to supply energy to mankind.

The family settled near Dortmund in the Westphalian basin where Manfred grew up. At age 14, he entered professional life as an apprentice in a chemical lab.

The young lad was already curious about everything, from the inner workings of objects to the physics and math involved in his day-to-day work. "There were graduate students in that lab also, and they kept telling me: 'Go to evening school, it's not too late! This can't be the end of your education!' And that's exactly what I did ..."

Thanks to evening school the young apprentice earned his undergraduate degree, went on to receive a diploma in chemical engineering at an "Applied Science University," wrote a thesis in physical chemistry on tritium diffusion, and eventually, in 1984, obtained his PhD summa cum laude. "I wanted to know and understand everything," says Manfred today. "When only three courses out of eight were required, I managed to take them all—electronics, group theory, radiochemistry, you name it ... I was just crazy about learning."

Manfred married at 21 and kept studying for the following 12 years. "My wife supported me all that time ... I owe her a lot," he says. He owes a lot, also, to his family background and to his early work experience. "My values have remained those I was brought up with. I fix things that most people just throw away ... I'm still using the HP scientific calculator that I bought in 1974 and I still drive my old 1984 Land Cruiser to commute between Aix and ITER."

Starting off as an apprentice provided Manfred with a strong sense of "feasibility and manufacturability." "I have a gut feeling," he says, "for what is doable and what is not." In science projects like ITER there is always something that deviates from theory and that's where the apprentice has something important to share with the physicists.

Manfred joined the European fusion program in Karlsruhe in 1984 and worked for ITER "from day one." His PhD was in surface science and metal physics but the position he was offered was in the Tritium Lab that was being constructed at the time. Eventually, Manfred rose to head the facility.

Tritium has been at the core of his professional life and interests ever since. Manfred can talk about tritium as a horticulturist would talk about a rare orchid, praising its unique properties, marvelling at its "gyro-magnetic ratio" and pondering its particular relationship with hydrogen—"the same and yet so different ..."
"Tritium," says the ITER Fuel Cycle Engineering Division Head, "is a gift of Mother Nature ..."

The fourth joint communication meeting was held at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow.
The communication staff from the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies met this week in Moscow to join forces and to orchestrate their work. This fourth joint meeting was hosted by the Russian Domestic Agency based at the world famous Kurchatov Institute where fusion history has been written.

Taking a tour back in time, senior scientist Leonid Khimchenko showed the group around two of the Institute's power horses, the tokamaks T-10 and the T-15, with which precious knowledge has been gained since 1975—and is still being gained.

As the Director-General of the Russian Domestic Agency, Anatoli Krasilnikov, was still negotiating the project's path forward with his colleagues from the ITER Organization and the other Domestic Agencies back in Cadarache on Monday, his deputy Sergey Soldatov welcomed the guests on his behalf. "We are very much aware that any project of this scale [...] needs to be efficiently presented to state authorities as well as to the mass media, the scientific community and the public," Soldatov addressed the auditorium. "Your mission is strongly needed; otherwise this project becomes a black hole."

Every year in May the Gypsy elders are granted the privilege of taking Sara's statue out of the church's crypt and leading a procession to the sea.
They are the eternal wanderers of the world. Some mysterious event, more than a thousand years ago, set them into motion. By the thousands they left their home in the Indian province of Sind and headed west.

To those outside their nation, they are known as "Gypsies," a name that was branded on them in the Middle Ages, when they were thought to be natives of Egypt.

Within their community, they are known as Roms, Sinti, Manush, Kale, Lovari, Kalderash and to the French administration as the "Travelling Nation" (Les gens du voyage).

Every year, on the fourth weekend in May, they gather from all over Europe in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a seaside village in Camargue, some 35 kilometres south of Arles.

They come to honour their patron saint, the humble "Black Sara" who was a servant to two of the closest companions of Jesus, the "Holy Women," Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome. How the three women came to be associated with a small village in the Camargue, an area of brine lagoons and reed-covered marshes created by the Rhône Delta, is the stuff of legends ... and of a bit of history.

According to a very ancient tradition, the "Holy Women" and their servant, persecuted by the Roman authorities, were set adrift in a small boat "with no rudder or sail." Miraculously, they traversed the Mediterranean and landed on the coast of Provence.

Upon their death an oratory was erected upon their grave. Fourteen centuries later in 1448 as the present-day church was being built on the old oratory's location, their remains were rediscovered, a new fervour ensued and a pilgrimage was established.

Because she was dark-skinned like them, the Gypsies who arrived in Provence at about that time identified with "Black Sara" and elected her to be their patron saint.

For more than two hundred years now, the Gypsy elders have been granted the privilege of taking Sara's statue out of the church's crypt and leading a procession to the sea where the saint's blessing is extended to the whole of the Gypsy nation.

That's what will happen this Monday, 24 May and the following day, amidst much celebration, prayer, music and dancing. For an extended weekend, Les-Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer will be the capital of a people without a homeland.

This week, the third meeting of the Test Blanket Modules (TBM) Program Committee (PC) took place at the Cadarache Château. The Committee is charged with the governance of the TBM program and it serves as an advisory committee for the ITER Council on this matter. It is formed from one governmental representative of each ITER Member and up to three experts per Member coming from the various national laboratories and universities involved in breeding blanket R&D and in the TBM Program.

In its third meeting, the Committee addressed several TBM-related topics and made appropriate recommendations to the ITER Council. The first topic was the assessment and the endorsement of the recommendations made at a workshop held mid-April on the TBM impact on ITER plasma physics and potential countermeasures. The recommendations are for the TBM designers to minimize the amount of ferromagnetic steel used in the TBM and to be ready to replace the TBMs during the ITER high-performance deuterium-tritium phase if negative effects on the ITER plasma performance are observed.

The second topic was the sharing principle to be applied to the additional ITER Organization cost related to the TBM Program. In agreement with a similar recommendation made by the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) last week, the TBM-PC recommended the application of the sharing principle used for the construction phase of ITER.

The TBM-PC noted the good technical progress performed by the teams and the plan for future work presented by the Members. Progress reports are presented at almost every PC meeting by the teams in order to allow the Committee to monitor them and to take corrective actions in case they are not satisfactory.

Additional topics addressed were the aspects of intellectual properties rights related to the TBM Program and the schedule proposed by the ITER Organization for achieving the signature of the Arrangements that will commit the six TBM Leaders to delivering the corresponding Test Blanket Systems on time for their planned installation in ITER. The TBM Arrangements are similar in many ways to the ITER Procurement Arrangements, but present several specific features since they refer to systems that are fully under the responsibility of the TBM teams—from the technical specifications to the delivery—and for which no other commitment exists.

Finally, the Committee reviewed the performed ITER Organization activities on the TBM Program and the corresponding future short-term work plan.

Two years will be necessary to build the ITER Headquarters.
A EUR 40 million contract for the construction of  the permanent ITER Headquarters has been awarded by Agence Iter France to the French public works enterprise Léon Grosse and Axima, a specialist in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.
Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on the construction of the five-level Headquarters building, and two additional buildings for visitor reception, admittance and medical services. The  20,000-square-metre project was conceived by local architects Rudy Ricciotti and Laurent Bonhomme.
Léon Grosse is currently completing the International School of Manosque.

Taking a close look at what will soon come up out of the ground: Lucio Rossi, leader of the Magnets Group at CERN; Frédérick Bordry, head of CERN's Technology Department; Arnaud Devred, head of ITER's Superconductor Section; Anders Unnervik, head of Procurement and Industrial Services at CERN; and Neil Mitchell, head of the ITER's Magnet Division.
The sixth meeting of the Steering Committee of the CERN/ITER Collaboration Agreement took place at ITER Headquarters in Cadarache on Monday and Tuesday this week. The Cooperation Agreement between the two organizations was established with the aim of sharing knowledge and information on technologies such as superconductivity, magnet coils and cryogenics. Since its implementation, the collaboration has assisted the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies on various projects.

Read more in the CERN Courier.