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ITER NEWSLINE 168
As the news about the devastating earthquake that took place off the eastern coast of Japan has trickled in over the past few days, many of us here at ITER have been worrying about the fate of our families, friends and colleagues living in the Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures. Our concern has also been for all those in Japan who are associated with the ITER project and with fusion in general.
We are receiving an overwhelming number of messages from concerned parties near and far—local municipalities, the ITER Domestic Agencies, scientists and researchers associated with ITER, former colleagues and friends. They all express their sympathy and support following the unimaginable events of these last days in Japan. I very much appreciate these words of condolence and encouragement and would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who are thinking of us.
In the meantime it has been confirmed that no ITER staff was on mission in Japan at the time of the earthquake. We have also been reassured that our friends working at the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency and the Japanese Domestic Agency in Naka are all safe. The office buildings there have suffered some damage and, as there is currently no water or electricity, the offices have remained closed. Further north in Rokkasho, where the Broader Approach activities are located, the situation seems to be sound according to reports from our contacts there.
Even for a nation that has long become used to the disastrous consequences of earthquakes, nothing could have prepared us for a tragedy of this scale and magnitude, the aftermath of which has left the people of Japan reeling from shock. The death toll keeps rising and we grieve for the Japanese people, so many of whom have lost loved ones.
At this distressing time, it is the kindness and support shown by so many which helps to sustain us, and for this we thank you.
In one of the interviews he gave to the media shortly after he was appointed Préfet of the Region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) five months ago, Hugues Parant stressed the importance of "going out in the field" and "seeing things for [him]self", before coming to any conclusion.
At ITER, this Friday, there was much that the Préfet de Région wanted to "see for himself".
For the head of the French administration in the PACA region and the government's High Representative, interest in a project the size of ITER goes with the job. In Mr Parant's case however, his interest was visibly more than just professional. There was a genuine curiosity about the science, the technology and the challenges of ITER.
The Préfet had come from Marseille the long way, following the ITER Itinerary all the way from Berre Harbour to the Cadarache site. The sky was perfectly clear and the view from the Gendarmerie helicopter must have been spectacular.
At the Château de Cadarache, where the helicopter landed, the Préfet was met by other members of the French administration (the Préfète of the Alpes-de-Haute Provence département, the Sous-préfets of Aix-en-Provence, Forcalquier and Brignoles, Gendarmerie General Mondoulet) as well as Carlos Alejaldre, Deputy Director-General of the ITER Organization; Jérôme Paméla, director of Agence Iter France; and CEA Deputy Director Michel Bedoucha. Mr. Parant and ITER Director-General Motojima were to meet later on at ITER Headquarters.
The crash course in ITER began with an overview of the French commitments to the project. Jérôme Paméla explained how funding and contributions to the project were organized, and described the component delivery process by way of the ITER Itinerary. "The first test convoy," he announced, "will be organized in September."
The Préfet insisted on the importance of communicating to the local population. "Transparency," he said, "is essential for the acceptability and success of the ITER Project."
Following the discussion, Mr. Parant and his party travelled to the ITER Headquarters, where they were met at the entrance by ITER Director-General Osamu.
As an introduction to his presentation, Director-General Motojima expressed his gratitude "for France's constant support and large contribution to ITER. Both are essential," he affirmed, "to the success of our project."
The Director-General defined ITER "as a fusion reactor and an energy amplifier" and stressed "the huge responsibility that we have to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy." The Préfet seemed surprised to learn that, "over 50 years, progress in fusion machines has been as fast and spectacular as in microprocessors."
Considering the present tensions on the energy front, the Préfet wondered if "the project could be boosted and the schedule accelerated." Deputy Director-General Carlos Alejaldre answered that, as far as ITER was concerned, about ten years were needed to complete construction of the installation which would then operate for twenty years. "However," he added, "strong political will could make it possible now to begin designing an electricity-producing machine."
Mr. Parant asked several questions (in fluent English as he was posted in the US for four years between 1989 and 1993) on the safety of the fusion process and the long-term prospects of fusion energy.
The visit ended with a bus trip trip to the site, where the French government's High Representative could confront the knowledge he had just acquired to the spectacular reality of the ongoing works.
As a young man growing up in southern Italy, Luigi Serio had already determined his choice of career. Nuclear engineering combined the math and physics that interested him, as well as more practical studies. But in Putignano, "known for its Carnival—but not much in the way of nuclear engineering," his options were limited. And so began a journey that was to lead Luigi to Milan, Oxford, Geneva, and finally southern France, where he has just been appointed Plant Engineering Division Head for the ITER project.
His early timing left a little to be desired, though. While he was a Master's student at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy voted by referendum to abolish nuclear power. Unlike the majority of his classmates he stuck with the field, and then went on to a PhD program at Cranfield University in the UK.
He looks back on the five years at JET that followed as a very valuable part of his training. "At JET, I was exposed to a wide variety of challenges. I began in diagnostics, and then moved on to work on the tritium plant and the cryogenic forevacuum system. Things that I learned then are serving me well today," says Luigi. He won a patent during this time for a new method of tritium accounting.
Luigi was offered a position at CERN in 1994. "It was the R&D prototype stage at the Large Hadron Collider ... an exciting time," he recalls. "We were able to successfully demonstrate the operation of the superconducting magnets test string, which led to LHC approval that same year." Luigi's focus was cryogenics—that branch of physics and engineering which deals with very low temperatures that do not naturally occur on Earth.
As Deputy Group Leader, Luigi oversaw the design, procurement and early commissioning phases of the cryogenic systems before joining the ITER Project...where a new cryogenic challenge awaited.
The ITER cryoplant will be the second largest in the world, after the LHC. Luigi explains that while the ITER plant will have less overall capacity, there are several challenges that are unique to the ITER cryo system. "The cooling capacity of the LHC plant, while very large, is shared among eight separate plants distributed over the 27 km circumference of the machine. At ITER, we will have to concentrate a slightly smaller cooling capacity in a common cryoplant and distribute it within a complex system of cryolines in the Tokamak building . In addition, we will have to manage unprecedented load variation due to the ITER pulses. The ITER cryogenic system will be absolutely unique."
And so history is repeating itself for Luigi. Since joining ITER in January, 2008 as Section Leader for the Cryogenic System, he has seen the design through its conceptual phase. The first of four Procurement Arrangements for the system has been signed, and three are to follow this year. "We've accomplished the first step with the cryogenic system," says Luigi "and will move on now to the procurement phase."
As Plant Engineering Division Head with a team of 30 people, he will have the additional responsibility of the Cooling Water, Radwaste, and Hot Cell Sections. "My goal is to see the successful commissioning of the cryo and cooling water systems—both of which must be in place to enable the testing of other components and the cooldown of the magnets before First Plasma," explains Luigi. "The radwaste and hot cell systems will come on line at a later date, but their designs must also be defined far in advance in the context of building construction and the nuclear licensing process."
On Monday, 14 March, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima and the Head of the Korean Domestic Agency, Kijung Jung, signed Procurement Arrangement number 52 for the AC/DC converters feeding ITER's magnetic coils. The components supplied by Korea will play an essential role to the plasma initiation, ohmic heating, plasma control, and for the full integration of the entire coil power supply system.
The ITER coil power supply system will likely be the world's largest high current power conversion plant (~2GVA) with the innovative technology and challenges that many of them will be the pioneer applications on ITER Project.
Korea is contributing 37.3 percent of this procurement, 62.7 percent will be procured by China. "For us this is a big step forward," Kijung Jung said after the signing. "Korea has now committed about 83 percent of its in-kind contributions to ITER." In manufacturing the powerful converters, ITER Korea will build on its experience gained in developing the converter systems for the Korean KSTAR tokamak.
"I am convinced that we will deliver good food for ITER and in this way ensure a long and healthy life for the machine," Jung said. "Our joy over achieving this milestone is only diminished by the tragic events in Japan. Our feelings are with the people there."
Emmanuelle Seyboldt, a student at the Georges Duby International High School in Luynes, was surprised to be hailed as visitor number 30,000 on Tuesday, 15 March as she stepped off the bus onto the ITER site in Cadarache, France. Along with her tenth-grade classmates (seconde) and a group of final-year students from the scientific section of her high school (terminale S), Emmanuelle was visiting the ITER Project for the first time.
Luigi Serio, Plant Engineering Division Head, presented fusion and the ITER Project to the students in understandable terms, and fielded many questions: What materials will be used in ITER? How is the ITER Tokamak cooled? What technical difficulties must still be overcome? How much time could a fusion power plant operate? How will we extract useable energy? What is the cost of the ITER Project? What waste will be produced?
"The visit gave me a much clearer idea of the ITER Project," exclaimed Emmanuelle. "Before today, I had mainly heard about the ITER Itinerary, with its roads modified for the transport of the Tokamak components."
The place was the Tore Supra Control Room, the date: Thursday 10 March. As we watched the large control screens covering the walls, however, place and date appeared different: we were in the ITER control room in the year 2030, four years after ITER produced its first deuterium/tritium plasma.
The illusion was almost perfect. As the characteristic "D shape" of the ITER plasma came alive on the left screen, dozens of graphs appeared on the right: temperature, heating power, plasma current ...
Had it been a real shot instead of a virtual one, there would certainly have been cheers in the control room. Parameters appearing on the screens were perfectly in line with what ITER was designed for: ion temperature in the plasma core reached 250 million °C; plasma current was measured at 12 MA; and, as anticipated, fusion power production was in excess of 500 MW.
What was feeding these figures to the screen was a simulation code named METIS. Such codes are essential to predicting the behaviour of future ITER plasmas. "When ITER enters operations," explains Jean-François Artaud of CEA Research Institute on Magnetic Fusion (IRFM) and METIS's main developer, "every shot will have to be very carefully prepared and simulated. The more precise and thorough our simulation codes, the more efficient our plasma shots."
This brief excursion in time was organized as a side event to the "European Code Camp", a gathering of code developers from some 27 Euratom associations , held at IRFM from 7-18 March.
In Europe, hundreds of code developers have been working for several years on a large variety of mathematical models to predict the behaviour of the future ITER plasmas. In order to coordinate this effort and eventually provide a validated simulation platform for ITER exploitation, EFDA established an Integrated Tokamak Modelling Task Force (ITM-TF) in 2004.
"Developers all over Europe are in close and constant contact," explains Gloria Falchetto, a physicist at IRFM and ITM-TF leader. "It is important, however, that they meet face-to-face four to five times every year - especially if they can do it here, close to the ITER team."
More than 60 different codes, based on different mathematical models and addressing different aspects of plasma simulation and tokamak technology, were developed over the years. Many of them however, use proprietary input/output interface, or are only suited for conditions in a specific tokamak.
"The challenge is to bring all these bits and pieces together into a standard interface that enables the different codes to talk to each other," says Falchetto. "And this is precisely what ITM-TF is about."
Codes are in constant evolution. "Code modelling integrates all our knowledge," explains Xavier Litaudon, Leader of the ITER Scenario Modelling group within ITM. "Data from any experimental breakthrough is immediately integrated into the codes, which are then checked against experiments in other machines. Elaborating codes implies permanent movement between theory and experiment."
As "campers" sat around the virtual ITER plasma, they exchanged tales of turbulence, disruption and instabilities. "We interact much better this way," says Tom Casper, a specialist in Equilibrium and Control and one of the ITER participants to the Code Camp. "In ITER, things will be very unique. We'll need some very powerful and accurate tools to predict our plasma scenarios."
This Monday, Mr. Jae-Ill Byun, Chairman of the Korean Education and Scientific Technology Committee of the National Assembly, came to visit ITER where he was welcomed by ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima. He was accompanied by Gyung-Su Lee, Chairman of the ITER Management Advisory Committee.
Mr. Byung attended the signing ceremony of the Procurement Arrangement for the AC/DC converters with the Korean Domestic Agency (see related article in this issue) before he was invited to a guided tour around the ITER construction site.
As Committee-Chairman, Mr. Byung was keen to learn about the project's progress, to meet and encourage the Korean ITER staff members and to investigate the possible ways to support the project.