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ITER NEWSLINE 164
Amongst the guests that evening was Congressman Rush Holt from New Jersey, introduced as having "a long history in fusion" by Thom Mason, Director of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). "A long history...and I hope a future too!" countered Holt.
The evening reception was hosted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its partners in the US ITER project: Stewart Prager, Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Terry Michalske, Director of the Savannah River National Laboratory. The event gathered many key people within the US fusion community such as William Brinkman, the Director of the Office of Science within the Department of Energy; Ed Synakowski, the Associate Director for Fusion Energy Sciences within the Office of Science; US ITER Project Director, Ned Sauthoff; Fusion Power Associates Dale Meade and Stephen Dean; representatives from US ITER suppliers AREVA Federal Services, Luvata Waterbury and Oxford Superconducting Technology USA; and—last but not least—the Director-General of the ITER Organization, Osamu Motojima.
The gathering aimed to "provide the delegates with information about the ITER Project and the important role of the United States in this next step toward fusion energy as a power source". As Thom Mason put it: "ITER is a challenging project fuelled by high tech and smart brains. A project that will move us toward a promising long-term solution to the energy challenge. Fusion energy has the potential to be a major contributor to the global supply of energy."
The total budget for the US ITER project is $2.2 billion, or about 9 percent of the total cost of ITER, Mason pointed out. "In return, we will have access to 100 percent of the technology and research benefits of ITER. We are gaining experience in the design, construction, and operation of a reactor-scale fusion facility."
So far, the US ITER project has awarded more than $90 million in procurements to US industry and universities; US industry is also winning contracts to supply other ITER Members. "Together," Mason said, "we are playing an essential role in an extraordinary international research partnership."
Today, Friday 18 February, the 177th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) opened its doors at the Convention Center in Washington D.C. The AAAS is the largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Founded in 1848 in Philadelphia, the AAAS is dedicated to increasing the public's understanding of science—"a universal currency" as Alice Huang, the conference's president and distinguished virologist, said in her opening address.
This year's conference theme "Science without Borders" integrates interdisciplinary science ... from estimating the Earth's human carrying capacity and predicting the state of the oceans in 2050 to the digitalization of science. The 177th issue of the AAAS also celebrates the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie's Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity ... a discovery without which fusion energy and the ITER Project, exhibiting at AAAS, would not be possible.
Fusion has to face several challenges before it enters its industrial age. One of them, systematically put forward by fusion opponents, is the development of materials able to withstand the harsh environment of fusion plasmas.
The deuterium + tritium reaction (D-T), which is presently the most accessible of all possible fusion reactions, produces one helium nucleus and one neutron.
While the helium nucleus remains trapped within the tokamak's magnetic field and communicates its energy to the plasma, the neutron, being electrically neutral, escapes the trap and hits the blanket modules that line the inside of the vacuum vessel.
Neutrons from a D-T fusion reaction are exceptionally energetic. Their repeated impact on the blanket modules will have a double effect: one desirable, the other not so ...
On the positive side, the neutrons' impact will heat the coolant circulating inside the blanket modules, and initiate the cycle that will eventually produce electricity. On the less positive side, the neutrons will gradually cause damage to the material. By disrupting the atomic lattice they will progressively "activate" the plasma-facing material and degrade its mechanical properties.
Solving the material issue before post-ITER steady-state devices like DEMO or PROTO (1) enter operations is thus of utmost importance for the future of fusion. This will be the task of the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) that will test and qualify advanced materials for use in future fusion power plants.
The project, which is presently in the Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (EVEDA), is part of the Broader Approach that Japan and the European Union formally launched in 2007. IFMIF is coordinated from Rokkasho, in northern Japan, and headed by Pascal Garin, formerly of CEA's Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research (IRFM) and Agence Iter France.
IFMIF-EVEDA is presently engaged in the validation activities of two very innovative technologies: an accelerator prototype that will produce high-energy deuterium nuclei and a test loop ("EVEDA Lithium Test Loop" or ELiTe) destined to check and validate all of the thermo-hydraulic characteristics of the system.
In the future IFMIF facility, whose location has not been decided yet, accelerator and lithium loop will be coupled to generate neutrons similar to those produced in a fusion reaction.
While the accelerator prototype is being manufactured in Europe and will be tested in Rokkasho, construction of the test lithium loop was completed in a record twelve months in December 2010 at the JAEA Oarai centre, near Naka.
ELiTe was designed by JAEA with contributions from the European Domestic Agency for ITER (F4E) and the Italian Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA). By the end of February, ownership of the installation will be transferred from the constructor Mitsubishi Heavy Industry to JAEA who financed it. As for operations, they could begin as early as June of this year.
ELiTe is fully representative of the future IFMIF lithium loop, with the exception of the target assembly width—reduced by a factor 2.6—and of the absence of a heat removal system as test operations will not involve nuclear interactions.
In the actual IFMIF lithium loop, the high-energy deuterium nuclei from the accelerator will impact a fast-flowing film of liquid lithium, generating high-energy neutrons which will in turn be directed to small samples of material to be tested.
In the test loop ELiTe, the IFMIF-EVEDA team will test the capacity of the system to generate a steady 25-millimetre-thick "liquid curtain" of molten (250 °C) lithium, flowing over a "backplate" at the regular speed of 15 metres per second.
The test loop will also validate several diagnostics systems, among them a high-speed video camera that shoots 20,000 frames per second, contact probes to measure the minute fluctuations on the lithium film surface, and a stereoscopic analysis device to capture images of the fluctuations.
Although it would seem like an exciting idea to connect the prototype accelerator to the lithium test loop in order to proceed on the validation of IFMIF principles, this is not anticipated in the framework of EVEDA. The reasons are cost, technical complexity and regulation as the coupled devices would then become a "nuclear installation."
(1) PROTO is the pre-industrial prototype that would follow DEMO.
Early February, the Fusion Power Coordinating Committee (FPCC) convened in the Headquarters of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, located at the footsteps of the Eiffel Tower, to report on the state of the fusion art and to coordinate the Committee's future work.
The FPCC was established in 1975 by the IEA Governing Board. Today nineteen IEA Countries, the European Commission, the Russian Federation, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are members of the FPCC. The FPCC coordinates the IEA activities on fusion and advises the IEA Committee on Energy Research and Technologies (CERT) and other IEA bodies on fusion policy and technology issues. The current Chairman of the FPCC is Francesco Gnesotto from Italy.
The overall objective of the FPCC is to enhance fusion research, development and deployment activities with a strategic approach to realizing fusion energy in both IEA member countries and in non-member countries. The FPCC accomplishes this objective by promoting, initiating and coordinating international cooperation on fusion under the auspices of the IEA and within the IEA Framework for International Energy Technology Collaboration.
The FPCC also coordinates and supports the activities of the IEA Fusion Implementing Agreements. These international groups carry out R&D activities such as physics, technology, materials, safety, environmental and economic aspects, and social acceptance of fusion power. Their work is of direct relevance to ITER and the "beyond-ITER" program including the realization of a DEMO reactor and fusion power plants and the investigation of the economic, environmental, safety and social aspects of fusion power.
This 40th meeting of the FPCC saw ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima in a new role. After having led the international stellarator activities as Chairman of the Stellarator Implementation Agreement, this time he presented the status of ITER as Director-General of the ITER Organization.
Further presentations were given by Kumar Rajendra from the Institute of Plasma Research in India and Galvao Ricardo from the Brazilian Center of Physics Research, acting as Special Observers to the FPCC. Both presented the status of fusion research in their home countries. Richard Kamendje from the IAEA reported on the fusion program within the IAEA and Hideyuki Takatsu on the impressive progress made on the Broader Approach in Rokkasho, Japan.
final design review in December and the signature of the Procurement Arrangement in January, the Chinese Domestic Agency (CN-DA) is currently preparing the formal tender process for an industrial supplier.
Since mid-2010, trial hardware fabrication for the ITER feeders has been underway at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP), in parallel with the construction of new fabrication facilities—one of which is complete and being commissioned.
Three members of the Magnet Division at the ITER Organization—Neil Mitchell, Arnaud Devred and Chen-yu Gung—travelled to China in February to view some of the results of these trials, together with Niu Erwu from the CN-DA and Song Yuntao and members of the feeder group from ASIPP, including former ITER Organization member Weng Peide.
The trial fabrication is well advanced and includes cryogenic piping systems, coil terminal boxes, elements of the S-bend box, parts of feeder ducts and the vacuum barrier.
The meeting also focused on the timeline in 2011 for preparing the feeder manufacturing drawings and on the implementation of quality controls in the new facilities and the sub-suppliers, when a contract is awarded.
The ITER central solenoid is an essential part of the ITER magnet system, responsible for driving the current inside of the plasma. Procurement for the central solenoid will be shared between the Japanese Domestic Agency (JA-DA), in charge of conductor manufacture, and the US-DA, in charge of manufacturing the coils and associated structure.
In October 2010, the US-DA launched a call for tender to select a coil manufacturer, and the contract with industry is expected to be placed in spring 2011. In advance of manufacture, R&D actions are currently underway to address some of the more critical areas of this technically-challenging fabrication process (see below).
Mid-January, representatives of the ITER Organization paid a visit to the US-DA to review and discuss the available results of these ongoing actions.
Wayne Reiersen, Magnet team leader at the US-DA, presented the winding trials performed on empty central solenoid conductor jacket sections "within reasonably good accuracy" (above). This achievement was made possible by the use of a winding tool (left) that had formerly been used to wind the central solenoid model coil in the 1990s, refurbished by an industrial partner near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The successful shaping of the turn joggle that provides transition from one turn to the next inside of a central solenoid pancake was also demonstrated (below).
Further trials are planned on the shaping of the conductor in the area where a sharp bend occurs as the conductor exits the winding-pack to reach the terminals. Preliminary trials have shown that bending the cable on a radius as small as 100 mm is achievable without too much deformation.
Background information on the central solenoid:
The ITER central solenoid is split into six coils called modules, stacked one on top of the other and inserted into the free space in the middle of the torus that is formed by the toroidal field magnets. In order to maximize the total flux available to generate and sustain the plasma current, the number of turns (553) in each central solenoid coil is designed to be as large as possible. At the same time, the maximum magnetic field on the conductor must remain within the 13 T limit, providing enough margin for the Nb3Sn conductor operating at 4.5 K. The inner radius of one central solenoid module is 1.3 m, its outer radius 2.1 m and its height 2.15 m. The conductor is a cable-in-conduit conductor, with a square outer cross-section of 49 mm x 49 mm and an inner circular cable diameter of 32.6 mm. As the unit length of such a conductor will not exceed 918 m, it will be necessary to wind six unit lengths of 918 m and one unit length of 613 m for each module and to connect them with joints in order to reach the 6.1 km needed for 553 turns. The accurate winding of such a thick conductor into multiple pancakes with 14 turns each is indeed a serious challenge that has not yet been demonstrated; at the time of the central solenoid model coil program, layer winding, and not pancake winding, was used.
The ITER Organization may well become a new reference in intercultural organizations. Embedding intercultural learning within the organization has been a task undertaken since 2007. Between intercultural training sessions, international seminars and workshops, weekly intercultural questions and monthly intercultural activities for spouses, the participation in these events has just reached 2,000.
The need to understand one another in order to work more efficiently together is one of the motivations behind the attendance at these events as well as simple curiosity and interest in learning about other cultures. Most international organizations have to call in intercultural experts to find a solution to a crisis: ITER employees are setting a precedent in learning intercultural skills in order to help prevent possible misundertanding and inefficient communication. The importance of acquiring these skills has become apparent to many. Working in a multicultural team has specific challenges and these are being addressed instead of ignored.
The construction of the ITER machine is a human endeavour. Recognizing the human dimensions of the project is a pre-requisite for its success.