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ITER NEWSLINE 159
In order to hold the promise of launching ITER operations in 2019 and to prove the viability of fusion power to the world, we will have to focus and work very hard in all areas of the project to meet higher standards for both performance and efficiency in order to support the outstanding challenges ahead. I know that we can and that we will meet these challenges!
My first priority this year thus continues to be the completion of the ITER design and to fully concentrate on construction. The structure of the ITER Organization has to change accordingly: it has to become simpler, centralized and task force oriented in order to adapt to the new era of construction.
Within the coming weeks we will finalize the restructuring of the Organization. As a first step, Rem Haange, who recently returned the stellerator project W7-X back on track, has joined the ITER Project as Head of the ITER Project Department. I have the utmost confidence that Dr. Haange will provide outstanding leadership and continue to successfully advance the ITER Project. The new Head of the Administration Department will also be decided within the next two months.
ITER is a tremendous scientific and technological project that will also serve as precedence for a new culture of global cooperation. A close, long-lasting relationship with all seven ITER Members and the industries in the 34 countries represented is crucial for the success of this enterprise. To this end, I recently embarked on a world trip to meet the individual Heads of Delegation of the seven Members, explaining the needs and the status of the Organization's restructuring process. The implementation of a Bureau of International Cooperation with seven "hot lines" to the Members is another step to improve the cooperation and to enable us to react faster.
We know that in 2011 we will be faced with many challenges. Keeping to our schedule and containing the project's cost are among the most important. We will successfully overcome these challenges on the condition that we believe in ourselves and in our project, and work as hard as we can to reach our objectives.
For all of us and for me in particular, building ITER is a tremendous responsibility. The world is watching us and history will tell whether we have been up to this magnificent task.
The cranes towering above the concrete structure that will soon hold the winding facility for ITER's poloidal field coils were still hidden in the morning mist when the big steel beams that will support the roof were lifted into place. The first two beams had arrived from their manufacturing site in Fleurance in the Department of Gers, situated north-west of Toulouse, the day before.
In order to transport them, each beam had been split into three pieces and had to be assembled on site before the crane could pick the 12-tonne structures up and lift them in place. Very soon the other beams will arrive and with a final height of 18.4 metres, the skyline over the ITER construction site will once again change.
The ITER licensing process took a major step forward on 14 December, when the ITER Organization received a letter from the French Authority (Mission Sureté Nucleaire et Radioprotection) stating that the submitted safety files were "receivable." A statement that is obviously good news as it will allow the authorities to launch the technical examination of the files, the first milestone within a long process that comprises the technical examination of the files by various technical bodies and a public part.
"There is still a long way to go, but this note is certainly the key to opening the process," Safety Design and Integration Section Leader and ITER Organization Licensing Officer Joelle Elbez-Uzan said.
Following the letter, Deputy Director-General Carlos Alejaldre, Head of the ITER Safety Quality & Security Department, this week participated in a kickoff meeting at the ASN Headquarters in Paris, where the preliminary analysis of the files comprising more than 5,000 pages was presented. "This is a crucial stage for all of us," Carlos Alejaldre said, "both for the authorities and for us. As ITER is the first fusion device ever that has to pass the nuclear licensing procedure, we are setting the precedent for future projects."
Scientists and engineers at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working with the US ITER Project Office at ORNL, the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency and the ITER Organization to resolve issues with a critical component of the experimental fusion energy facility ITER. The VULCAN Engineering Diffractometer at SNS is being used to examine superconducting cables for ITER's central solenoid magnet, which induces the electrical current needed to confine and shape the plasma inside the reactor.
ITER is the international research facility in southeastern France whose mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion as a practical long-term energy source. SNS, located a few miles down the road from the US ITER Project Office, is the world's most powerful pulsed neutron source.
Ned Sauthoff, US ITER project manager, said the VULCAN measurements have provided useful data and that VULCAN will have a role in the continuing investigation. "Having seen the initial results, I think we have sufficient evidence to state that initial measurements have demonstrated the capability of VULCAN to measure important material properties, that meaningful results were achieved, and that the team is now focused on using the unique capability to gain important understanding aimed at solving the problem," Sauthoff said.
The central solenoid, a joint Japan-US ITER responsibility, is on a tight schedule. The superconducting cables, supplied by Japan, cost more than $3,000 per metre. Improving the cable performance by reducing the degradation of the superconducting strands is important to staying on schedule and on budget. "We are working on an important problem that will have an immediate impact on science and technology on an international scale," said Ian Anderson, head of ORNL's Neutron Sciences directorate, which operates SNS.
The team of Japanese, US and ITER Organization engineers discovered in late 2010 in a sample test that the superconducting cables making up the central solenoid magnet at the core of the ITER design were losing their current-carrying capacity over time to an extent well beyond that experienced in an earlier ITER model coil test. The cables can generate a magnetic field as strong as 13 tesla, and the electromagnetic (Lorentz) force exerted on the wires by the high magnetic field and powerful current is known to cause some degradation over a period of constant magnetic cycling. The exact cause of the degradation in the conductor sample is unknown. In addition to the Lorentz force, it may also be attributable to the sample manufacture or the particular sensitivity of the wires to the loads. The magnet team at the US ITER Project Office in Oak Ridge consulted with scientists at SNS about using neutron scattering to examine the states of materials inside the cables.
The samples examined at SNS are sections 1.65 inches in diameter and several inches in length cut from the much longer cables. The cables have a complex structure—copper wires interspersed with superconducting wires of a niobium-tin alloy, all contained in a stainless steel tube.
Neutrons are highly penetrating and nondestructive, so neutron scattering can return detailed data about the structure of the cable sections without destroying or altering them. SNS is the ideal facility for studying the thick cables because it has the most intense neutron beams of any pulsed neutron source in the world, said VULCAN instrument scientist Xun-Li Wang. And VULCAN is the ideal instrument because it is designed to handle large industrial-sized specimens, rather than small lab samples.
The multi-phase material making up the cable is perfect for characterization by a time-of-flight diffractometer such as VULCAN, Wang noted. "Neutron diffraction is a well-known technique for mapping strain or stress in engineering materials."
"With VULCAN we will be able to determine the deformation induced by the Lorentz force," he said. "On a fundamental level, we can also study in detail how the critical current in a superconducting wire responds to applied stress and develop a predictive model for the wires." A plan for future study is being developed with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for central solenoid conductor fabrication, and the ITER Organization.
In December, a plan to secure European financing of ITER was rejected by the European Parliament. Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General of DG Research & Innovation (RTD) within the European Commission and Head of the European Delegation to the ITER Council, explains the current situation and what is likely to happen next.
Mr. Smits, could you please explain the problem the European Commission faces funding its contribution to the ITER Project?
First let me underline that the EU budget for 2011 has now been adopted by the European budgetary authority and includes the required funding of the EU contribution to ITER in 2011. This is a very important element since it will allow the implementation of the ITER Project as foreseen. With the 2011 budget secured there should be no concern on the immediate implementation of the ITER Project.
The problem which is not yet resolved is the need for an agreement on the budgetary origin of the EU additional funding required for ITER in 2012 and 2013. The interinstitutional agreement between the EU Council and European Parliament which is presently in force defines the multiannual financial framework until 2013 and caps the amounts devoted to major categories of spending. Unfortunately, this agreement was based on the initial estimates of the ITER cost of EUR 2.7 billion for the EU contribution during the construction period, and therefore does not allow the funding of the additional ITER needs identified during 2010. This multiannual agreement has now to be modified by the Council and the European Parliament in 2011.
What is the current situation in the European Council and the Parliament?
The EU Council and the European Parliament represent the Budgetary Authority in the EU funding system. They make their decisions jointly on the basis of proposals by the Commission. They approve the annual budgets—as they just did for 2011—and also agree on modifications to the multiannual financing framework which caps the resources available for major categories of spending.
The Commission presented in July 2010 a proposal to modify the EU multiannual financial framework to cover the additional funding of the EU contribution to ITER in 2012-2013, estimated by the Commission and F4E to be EUR 1.4 billion for the two years. In November, the EU Council reached an agreement on the budgetary origin of the funds at the level of EUR 1.3 billion. The Commission's proposal to cover the additional needs for funding ITER in 2012-2013 has been politically linked to the overall process for the adoption of the Budget for 2011 and particularly the issue of flexibility within the budget, to cater to unforeseen expenditure for emergencies, or new EU tasks in the context of the Lisbon Treaty. In the end no modification to the interinstitutional agreement was feasible before the end of 2010. As indicated above, the discussions between the institutions continue and an interinstitutional agreement should be finalized in 2011.
In parallel, the Commission will prepare for adoption early in 2011 its proposal to the Council for the Euratom Research Framework Program for 2012 and 2013. The adoption of this proposal is necessary to provide a legal basis for the funding of ITER and other elements of nuclear research in 2012 and 2013. The procedure for adoption in Council also involves the European Parliament and will take into account the discussion on the sources of funding of the additional ITER needs.
What is the path forward now?
The EU contribution to the ITER construction for 2011 has now been secured. For the additional funding needed in 2012-2013, discussions between the EU institutions continue and should be finalized in 2011.
For the long-term financing beyond 2013, the EU Council has so far acknowledged the overall cost of the EU contribution to ITER construction and has capped the EU contribution at EUR 6.6 billion for the period 2007-2020, including all the F4E costs (running costs and other activities) and the contribution of the Host state. These financing needs will be integrated in the coming discussions on the next EU financial perspectives starting in 2014.
Wishing each other happiness, prosperity and good health on the occasion of the New Year is a tradition in most countries and cultures.
In France, it is more than a tradition ... it is a national ritual. From the President of the Republic down to the Mayor of the every village, and from the largest institutions to the smallest companies everyone organizes a Cérémonie des vœux (Best Wishes Event) during the first weeks of January.
Such a ritual was observed on Tuesday 11 January in Cadarache as CEA and ITER jointly presented their vœux to each other and to the local officials and personalities gathered at La Fenière.
For both institutions, 2010 was a momentous year.
On CEA's side, major milestones were reached in the construction of the RJH experimental reactor, the RES (submarine propulsion) and in several installations under renovation.
At ITER, on the other side of the fence, the approval of the Baseline, the spectacular progress of construction on the platform and the implementation of a new organizational structure opened a new chapter in the history of the project.
Maurice Mazière, who was appointed Director of CEA-Cadarache last July, at about the same time Director-General Motojima arrived at ITER, stressed the importance of the "synergies" established between the CEA, Agence Iter France and ITER teams.
Addressing CEA management, the local authorities and elected officials, the Director-General expressed his appreciation for "the warm welcome and constant support" that was provided to the ITER staff and their families. "Their well-being and quality of life," he said, "are essential to the success of our project."
As for 2011, it will indeed be another year of challenges. The ITER Director-General has no doubt, however, in the capacity of the staff to overcome them "on the condition," he said, "that we believe in ourselves and in our project and also work as hard as we can to reach our objectives."
A video of the joint CEA-ITER "best wishes" event is available on the TV7-Provence website.