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The Tokamak Pit seen from the east, with the concrete columns of the Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility looming in the clear blue Provencal sky at the far end.
The flagpole that has been marking the future centre of the ITER Tokamak ever since the first site clearing works commenced in 2006 has finally been moved aside. The earth and concrete in which it stood over the last four years is gone. These days, huge dump trucks are removing the top soil and dynamite is taking care of the rocky rest. The excavation of the ITER Tokamak Pit is in full swing; the open heart surgery has begun.

For the Tokamak, the pit will have to be excavated down to a depth of 20 metres, whereas for the Hot Cell, which is directly adjacent, the shovels will have to dig down to at least 12 metres. From time to time, analytical measurements record the geological characteristics of the rock foundation.

Just a hundred metres away from the pit, tall concrete columns of almost 10 metres in height loom into the clear blue Provencal sky, soon to carry the main crane beams of the winding facility for ITER's poloidal field coils.

They will have to wait another nine years and three months before they will see their single malts again: Norbert Holtkamp, Hiroshi Matsumoto and Eisuke Tada at their farewell party this week.
This must be a tough challenge. You are given a bottle of precious single malt whiskey ... you are allowed to hold it and to look at it for one minute ... and then you have to give it away again—for another nine years and three months to be precise. Norbert Holtkamp, Hiroshi Matsumoto and Eisuke Tada will only get to see their farewell presents again in November 2019, when ITER will launch into what Gary Johnson called "the biggest celebration in the history of the project": First Plasma.

It was up to the Deputy Director-General to lead the ceremony for the three people that are about to leave the ITER Organization. The former Head of the ITER Office of Central Integration Eisuke Tada, involved in the ITER Project ever since the early days of the ITER Conceptual Design Activities, is "leaving the Organization, but not the project," as he stressed. He will be working for the Japanese Domestic Agency JA-DA. Hiroshi Matsumoto, the former Head of the Office of the Director-General and also involved in fusion and the ITER Project for decades, is moving to Rokkasho, Japan, the site where the Broader Approach is taking shape.

And finally it was up to Norbert Holtkamp, the former Principal Deputy Director-General of the ITER Project, to say "au revoir" to the assembled ITER team. After a five-year excursion into the field of fusion, the accelerator physicist is moving back to his place of origin to take over responsibilities at Stanford University. "Keep your goal in mind," Norbert Holtkamp said, "it is a worthwhile goal to be working for. Bon voyage!"

Weeping and holding on tight to Mummy are part of "back-to-school" days everywhere in the world.
Back in September 2007, when the International School of Manosque was still a virtual entity hosted by the nearby Lycée des Iscles, total enrollment from nursery to senior high reached only 79.

Three years later, upon the completion of the buildings and equipment, it is up to some 400, with "ITER children" accounting for more than half (53.5 percent) of total enrollment.

Back-to-school day on Thursday 2 September was just like at any other school in the world, with some tears and many a long hug in the kindergarten area, happy reunions and more hugs everywhere else.

In the soothing words of the parents and the excited chatter of teenagers, one could hear many of the world's languages; children and youngsters at the International School now come from 27 different countries, up five from the previous school year.

Kindergarten and primary school are by far the most cosmopolitan part of the International School: ITER children account for around 64 percent of the total enrollment there, a percentage that is much higher than in junior high (43.75 percent) and high school (29.5 percent). Among the 30 pupils of Cours Préparatoire, the first year of primary school, 24 (80 percent) are "ITER children."

"ITER personnel are rather young," explains Damien Michel, in charge of communication at the International School, "and this year, it seems we're having a real baby-boom here!"

Two years after laying the first stone, the International School of Manosque is now ready and fully equipped to fulfil its mission: providing a multilingual and multicultural education not only to ITER children, but to all those who feel that opening to the wide world is key to self-realization.

Click here to view many more photos of the day...

Who doesn't want a site tour? The team from left to right: Sylvie, Anaïs, Véronique, Alexia and Marina.
Marina, Alexia, Véronique, Anaïs and Sylvie are part of the newly established "Joint Visit Team" responsible for the organization of visits on the ITER worksite. The team has just moved into its new office in JWS 3. The Joint Visit Team develops visit programs that are adapted to the visitor's or group of visitors' wishes and to the operational constraints on the worksite.

In order to provide an even more efficient service, ITER Organization, Agence Iter France and Fusion for Energy (the European Domestic Agency responsible for the construction of 39 buildings and technical areas on the ITER site in Cadarache) have decided to join forces and create this shared structure.

The Joint Visit Team is now geared to deal with the thousand-plus visit requests that the three organizations receive every month.

For any inquiry or site tour, please contact the new office directly at: + 33 4 42 17 46 92.

Aside from his passion for classical music and spiders, there is nothing this flamboyant young man loves more than equations. © CNRS
There is actually no Nobel Prize in mathematics. There is, however, an international award which is universally recognized as its equivalent: the Fields Medal, which is awarded every four years by the International Mathematics Union (IMU).

The most prestigious prize a mathematician can receive, the Fields Medal gives recognition and encouragement to younger (under 40) scientists who have made a major contribution to their field of research.

On 19 August in Hyderabad, India, where the IMU had convened, French mathematician Cédric Villani, 37, was one of four 2010 Fields Medal laureates—two Frenchmen, one Israeli and one Russian.

A full professor at the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon and the director of the Paris Institut Henri Poincaré, Villani has been praised for "providing a deep mathematical understanding of a variety of physical phenomena."

Aside from his passion for classical music and spiders, which explain his romantic poet look and the large spider brooch he wears, there is nothing this flamboyant young man loves more than equations.

One of his favourites is the Vlasov equation: a three-line long list of numbers and symbols that can describe, among other things, the behaviour of particles in a plasma or the movements of stars in a galaxy.

"I work at the extreme theoretical end of ITER," said Villani in a recent interview for French daily Le Figaro. To Newsline, he explains: "I am not directly involved in the project, but in trying to get a better understanding of the equation's properties I can bring a contribution ... a modest one, certainly, but every contribution is valuable. I strongly believe in ITER and that interview in a national daily was an opportunity for me to advertise the project ..."

Villani's theoretical work will help those working in "numerical analysis" to develop algorithms, which, in turn will be used to optimize computational models of plasma behaviour.

Over the past decades, many prominent mathematicians have pointed out that a sharp mathematical understanding of equations governing physical phenomena is a key to the design of accurate numerical recipes.

A theoretician who may appear to the layman as lost in abstraction, Villani feels it is "important to be anchored in reality." Reality meaning, in his case, the frenzied agitation of particles in a plasma and the majestic motion of stars in faraway galaxies.