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ITER NEWSLINE 180
It is now a little more than two months since I arrived here at ITER and I must confess that it's been a whirlwind of activity. I would guess that I have given more talks in these two months than during any other similar period of my career. The same week that the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) convened here in May, a delegation from the Budget Control Committee of the European Parliament moved in to put its finger on our pulse. The previous week the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) had looked over our scientific and technical progress. Ever since then, our attention has been devoted to the upcoming meeting of the ITER Council taking place in Aomori, Japan, next week.
What do we expect to happen in Aomori? The representatives from the ITER Member states will certainly take a close look at the progress made to date. This is a time of transition. Together with the Domestic Agencies we must get the Procurement Arrangements completed, the design finalized, and the work moved to industry. It is good to see the visible progress on the site with the buildings under construction and the excavation for the Tokamak Complex completed.
A major issue will of course be the impact of the Japanese earthquake on the project's construction schedule. Some of the manufacturing sites for ITER's components were damaged by the shockwave, and it will require months to recover. The importance of this issue is evident in the Director-General's personal engagement in keeping the impact on the project schedule to a minimum.
As I step back to consider my new role in charge of ITER Administration, I must say that this is a very interesting experience. I am working with many highly motivated people seeking to make a positive impact on the project. The fundamental function of the Administration Department is to support the construction and the execution of this project. The Administration Department must be viewed as an accurate and unbiased source of information—which is a potentially very powerful tool. It enables people to plan and execute their work and, more importantly, to make mid-course corrections to stay on track.
I agree with the Director-General that many processes within the ITER Organization are still too complicated. Hence we must ask ourselves two critical questions: "What are the best practices in other laboratories and industry?" and "What can we do differently to help the rest of the Organization succeed?"
We in Administration also have an important control function. The governments of the Member states have given us substantial funds and it is our job to manage them effectively, efficiently and ethically. We need to be sure that our processes can withstand external scrutiny and we must avoid situations that which tarnish the reputation of the ITER Organization. We need to demonstrate to the Member states that we will deliver on the promises we have made.
Over the last several weeks, I have had many discussions on how to improve things, and received much useful input. One recurring issue in the input I have received is the working relationship within the team. This is something I feel strongly about. People here are working very hard but sometimes work in isolation focused on their immediate activities.
Face-to-face discussions often enable new ideas to emerge and preconceived notions to go away. I intend to encourage an environment that facilitates open, face-to-face discussion, discussion that is not stifled by the constraints of email or by organizational boundaries. The next great idea is likely to come from the cross-fertilization of several different ideas from people with different backgrounds who approach a difficult problem from alternative perspectives. So, let's talk!
The Winding Facility is the enormous building going up along the eastern side of the ITER platform that will house the assembly of the poloidal field coils. Five of the six poloidal field coils, measuring from 8 to 24 metres in diameter, are too massive to be transported in their finished state. The winding operations for these magnets will be carried out by Europe in the Poloidal Field Coil Winding Facility, using conductors supplied by China and Europe.
The heavy lifting required for coil assembly will be done by two bridge cranes. Straddling the workspace across its width (approximately 40 metres) and installed at opposite ends of the Winding Facility, the cranes will travel along metal rails that span the building's entire length.
"We're talking about two very heavy units that will be capable of carrying loads of 25 and 50 tonnes respectively," explains Philippe Martin, project director for the Winding Facility and representative of Spie Batignolles, part of the French consortium (Spie Batignolles, Omega Concept and Setec) chosen by the European Domestic Agency F4E to design and build the facility. "The building was designed around the requirements of these cranes, including massive concrete pillars anchored deep in the ground to support the runways."
During operations, the crane will unload 20-tonne coils of niobium-titanium (NbTi) superconductor from trucks that back directly into the building, and deliver them to the winding machines. On the opposite end, the completed windings will be transported by the second travelling crane for final assembly activities.
Over the past days, the beams for the first crane—with a combined weight of 46 tonnes—were settled into place in the west part of the building some 9.50 metres overhead. Once secured, workers will lift the hoisting trolley into its final position and proceed with electrical connections and load testing. In all, the installation should take three weeks.
"The delivery of this first crane happened right on schedule," says Philippe. "From the beginning of construction activities last August we have been able to maintain the schedule, which is a real challenge for a project of this size. It's hard to believe that 11 months ago, there was nothing here."
Rendez-vous at the beginning of September for the delivery of the second crane ...
Click here to view the image gallery.
Last Saturday 5 June, the Russian television network NTV aired a seven-minute program on fusion energy. The documentary was partly shot at ITER and features interviews of Deputy Director-General Valery Chuyanov, Senior Scientist Akko Maas and Diagnostic Physicist Evgeny Veshchev.
Viewers are also taken to the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow to retrace the history of fusion and to the Chepetsk Mechanical Plant in the Republic of Udmurtia in the middle Urals where superconducting strands are being produced for ITER.
Click here to view NTV program on fusion energy (in Russian).
It's been some time since fusion research made it to the Playboy magazine. In November 1974, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes—author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb and The Arsenal of Follies—published a nine-page account of the state-of-the-art in fusion research titled "God's Big Fix." "Controlled thermonuclear fusion," he wrote after performing many interviews with scientists in the East and the West, "is nearer this year to being realized in the laboratory than it has ever been."
Thirty-seven years later, we asked Richard for an update on his first encounter with fusion.
ITER Newsline: Mr. Rhodes, we feel very honoured that you agreed to conduct this interview because we know that you are a very busy man. What are you currently working on?
Richard Rhodes: You are most welcome! At the moment I am finishing a new book which will be published in November this year. It is a book about the Austrian-American actress Hedy Lamarr and her remarkable inventions. She happened to have been married to one of the leading ammunitions manufacturers in Austria and she picked up quite a bit of technical knowledge. The book, called Hedy's Folly, is quite an unusual story.
Talking about another unusual story ... what did you have to do to get a story about fusion research published in Playboy?
Oh, Playboy had a history of publishing serious articles on science and new technology. Besides, back then, they paid better than any other magazine in the United States, and probably in the world. Since writers often live from project to project, Playboy was always the place where one wanted to publish.
In those days I was basically a novelist. I published four novels between 1970 and 1980 but, as they were not very successful financially, I made my living as a magazine writer. I was very interested in technical subjects and so I proposed a whole series of articles on various technologies, thermonuclear fusion among them ... and this is how [the article] came about.
What stirred your interest enough to invest time and research in an article on fusion?
I think it came about when I was looking into nuclear—fission—power. I do remember visiting Princeton when they were building the Princeton Large Tokamak.
A key event in my life, as in so many lives, was the atomic bombings at the end of World War II. I was only eight years old in 1945, but I remember vividly being surprised, really stunned, that a couple of weapons could put an end to a war that had consumed my entire childhood. So I became interested even as a small boy in physics and began to read about it in popular publications such as Life Magazine, which in the late 1940s published a number of articles about the basics of physics, lavishly illustrated with interesting experiments. I guess I just maintained my interest in science through my childhood and young adulthood and found that it was an area that many people in magazine journalism didn't write about and so it became kind of "my little corner" of the market.
What led you to Princeton originally?
I think it was because I was beginning research for this Playboy article and so I travelled around looking at existing machines doing fusion research and at that time the Princeton Tokamak was a very interesting machine ...
Reading your article, it is evident that you got pretty close to the heat. You describe in great detail—as an eyewitness in fact—what was going on in the US fusion labs in those days. It seems that you invested quite some time and money to get that story together?
I did, yes. Again, the nice thing about Playboy was that they had lavish expense budgets. One could really go out and travel and do the research that needed to be done to write about such things.
Those times have gone, I'm afraid. But coming back to your article ... it seems that in those days everybody thought that we were pretty close to achieving fusion power.
I am sure you have heard the joke that fusion is and will always be 40 years ahead ...
... oh yes, we've heard that "joke" ... we hear it almost every day! But now that ITER is under construction, what is your perception of fusion today? Are you still following its progress?
Not in great detail, but I certainly notice any great story appearing in The New York Times, for example, or in the journal Nature which I subscribed to. I think it is interesting to look at this promising technology in the context of the terrible consequences of nuclear fission power we have recently witnessed in Japan. [Such a disaster] is simply not possible with fusion in either of the forms it is being developed, right? If the [fusion] machines were damaged they would simply stop functioning. There would be a little bit of residual radioactivity from the machine itself ... there would even be less potential for damage beyond the system itself than there is with a coal plant, as far as I can tell. In that sense, it is a very forgiving technology. But it is a very unforgiving technology in terms of getting to the point when you actually produce energy. So yes, I am still most interested in seeing fusion coming along.
There is a physicist in Austria, an Italian whose name I cannot remember right now, who has done some interesting work projecting the introduction of various new technologies and their rise as a percentage of world energy production. He shows in several of his graphs the peak and gradually the decline of primitive forms of energy which are coal and oil. He predicts that the two sources of energy for the second half of this century will be natural gas ... and fusion. His prediction doesn't look at the technology in terms of its actual physical development, but in terms of the development of energy systems over the past several hundred years. They seem to come along when they are needed, and to reach the point of practical application when they are needed. It looks very much as if he thinks that fusion is going to be a dominant source of energy in the second half of this century.
This is exactly what the famous Russian fusion scientist Lev Artsimovich said: "Fusion will be here when society needs it." Mr. Rhodes, I thank you very much for your time. If you ever happen to come to southern France, please stop by and visit us!
That may happen soon! I have written a play about the Reykjavík Summit in 1986 between Reagan and Gorbatchev that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna is keen to put on.
You wrote a play on the Reykjavík Summit? Why?
Well, you know I have been writing nonfiction books now for 30 years. I know the process well, and it is not challenging any more. I therefore decided a couple of years ago that I needed to try something else. And that Summit was naturally very dramatic. I mean it took place in two days in one location between two very interesting world leaders, two larger-than-life figures, who came very close to agreeing to eliminate all nuclear weapons. In fact it was Richard Perle who convinced Reagan that it wasn't a good idea ... . Anyway, there may be a production in Europe one of these days and if there is then it would be a wonderful chance to stop by.
The largest research institutions make investments worth billions, supporting research programs in the private and university sectors. Denmark has never been good at finding pathways into this lucrative network, but a new initiative is set to shake things up.
On 3 May, the Danish Big Science Industry Day took place at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Risø, with about 100 representatives from Danish industry and four of the biggest research infrastructures in Europe: CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), ESO (European Southern Observatory), ESS (European Spallation Source) and the European ITER Domestic Agency, Fusion for Energy. The aim was to help Danish companies secure a bigger share of a market worth many billions.
"In Denmark we have so far not tempted to compete for these big science contracts," explains Søren Bang Korsholm, Senior Scientist at Risø DTU and head of project for the Big Science Secretariat (BSS). "The self-perception of many small- and medium-size companies prevents them from becoming project suppliers. We therefore invited representatives from the big science facilities to Denmark to meet the Danish companies with a view to increase the number of Danish contracts and maximizing the knock-on benefits."
The aim of the Big Science Secretariat (BSS) is to build bridges between Danish companies, research institutions and major international research projects. BSS is supported by the Danish Council for Technology and Innovation in the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation, with additional finance from participating companies. BSS is a joint initiative of DTU, the Danish Technological Institute and FORCE Technology. The Secretariat is housed at Risø DTU and is managed by Juliette Forneris.
For more information visit the web site www.bigscience.dk.