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Of Interest

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Following the publication this week of an article in Science Insider the Director-General of the ITER Organization, Osamu Motojima, has issued a letter to the author of the article to provide more detailed and accurate background information related to the ITER central solenoid conductor tests carried out recently at the SULTAN Test Facility in Switzerland.

A shortened version of the letter has also been posted on the Science Insider website.

                                                                         1st March 2012
Dear Mr. Clery,
Science Insider

I had a chance to read your article dated 27 February 2012 ("ITER Dodges Trouble With Superconducting Cables"). I appreciate your positive evaluation that the ITER Project is dodging trouble with its central solenoid coil conductor. However, I got the impression — and I'm not the only one — that this article does not really reflect the real situation of ITER's conductor development, achievements and history up to now. I believe that Neil Mitchell tried to do his best explaining the present situation to you, however your recap does not give the full picture. 

Therefore, I am writing this letter in order to ask you for the possibility of a "correction" or a "follow-up" to your most recent article. The article implies that the Japanese Domestic Agency (JA-DA) and its industrial suppliers have failed to deliver a central solenoid conductor sample that works. This is not correct, since there is neither technical mistake nor fault and the JA-DA and its supplier did their best to develop a central solenoid conductor sample as defined by the ITER baseline requirements.

The recent test conductor design reflects one episode of a long story that began with the successful testing of a central solenoid model coil in NAKA, Japan, which was implemented during the ITER Engineering Design Activity (EDA) phase that finished in 2001. A major change of the central solenoid conductor design was then decided in 2003-2004 done by the ITER team before the official establishment of the ITER Organization. After that, the tests performed at SULTAN were reviewed in 2006, which led to significant improvements in SULTAN sample preparation and instrumentation. 

Waiting for the official foundation of the ITER Organization in 2007, the Organization started to take responsibility to perform the SULTAN tests with Domestic Agencies under the authority of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC), the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) and the ITER Council.

This above-described history was a common effort endorsed by all ITER partners and the JA-DA implemented the recommended changes. The responsibility is thus not within the Japanese Domestic Agency nor its industrial suppliers. Japanese industrial suppliers have world-class capability which has been demonstrated by many superconducting projects up to now.

Therefore, the statements in your article: "The cables that failed last year ...." and: "Last year's sample, manufactured in Japan ..." do not reflect the situation. It is the failure of all of us not only Japan. However, as Neil Mitchell mentioned, "This demonstrates clearly that there is a solution that works."

With ITER, we are breaking new ground in many ways, especially with the design and manufacturing of its large and powerful superconducting coils. As it is difficult to extrapolate the performance of a new conductor design from the performance of its individual strands, all ITER Domestic Agencies and their suppliers are required to produce full-size conductor samples that are tested at the SULTAN test facility. At SULTAN, the samples have to undergo a comprehensive quality control program, which, for the central solenoid conductor, involves load cycling and warm up/cool down cycles. The recently performed tests are part of the performance qualification program of the central solenoid conductor. 

However, we have to bear in mind that at SULTAN only short samples can be tested in conditions that are not fully representative of the in-situ configuration in a real coil. Therefore, the SULTAN test results have to be carefully analyzed in order to draw conclusions that are relevant for in-coil performance.

As you correctly mentioned at the end of your article, we are now looking into options that could enable our Japanese colleagues to move forward and implement the results of the top-performing sample, CSIO1. In particular, the ITER Organization has already procured and prepared a conductor sample made from existing Japanese strands that adopt the cabling pattern of the best leg of CSIO1, where the inner triplet is made of (3 x superconducting strands) with a Cu-to-non-Cu-ratio 1.5:1. Also, based on the results of CSIO1, Japanese industry is presently developing a new generation of 1.5:1 strand that could potentially surpass the results of CSIO1 (given the lead time, this new conductor sample is expected to be tested by the end of the year). 

ITER is a challenging international collaboration, a kind of United Nations of Research, and all ITER partners are striving to achieve excellence and to demonstrate that developed nations regrouping more than half of the world's population are able to work together and address the main problems of the planet. Our Japanese colleagues are as eager as any of the other ITER Members to get the project to succeed and we expect that faced with unprecedented challenges (no other superconducting magnet coils in the world has ever been subjected to as many cycles as what is foreseen for the ITER central solenoid coil) the dedicated team of the Japanese Domestic Agency and the proactive Japanese suppliers will come up with a solution that meets the project requirements.

To conclude, if your article provides the very wrong impression that Japan had failed in demonstrating the performance because of the Japanese conductor design, you are sending a wrong message to the public. At present nothing is decided. The SULTAN tests will be continued using the Japanese sample and we will make the final decision based on more data and technical understanding. I would be very happy to ask you to continue to watch our action.

Best regards,
Osamu Motojima
Director-General, ITER Organization

The first cutting operation for vacuum vessel sector #6 (photo courtesy of Busan Waterjet).
An important milestone was achieved in February for the Korean Domestic Agency. Following the selection of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in January 2010 as manufacturer for the Korean section of the ITER vacuum vessel and ports, and the completion of manufacturing design late 2011, cutting has begun on the ITER-grade stainless steel plate for the vacuum vessel.
On 13 February, in the presence of quality assurance experts and engineers from the Korean Domestic Agency, the first cutting operation for vacuum vessel sector #6 was performed by HHI subcontractor Busan Waterjet.

The Director-General of the Korean Domestic Agency, Kijung Jung, stated: "I feel very great satisfaction that the Korean Domestic Agency has initiated the fabrication of this vacuum vessel sector, which is a key procurement item for the ITER project. We will do our best so that all Korean procurement items are consistently within schedule."

The accomplishment of this milestone is the result of extensive pre-fabrication works including practical experience on three full-scale mockups. Issues related to regulator and safety requirements remain to be resolved before vacuum vessel fabrication activity can accelerate.

Following agreement from the ITER Organization, HHI is working with an expert from the Agreed Notified Body (ANB)—a private company authorized by the French Nuclear Regulator to assess conformity of components in the category of Nuclear Pressure Equipment. The expert will work with HHI for five months.

The workshop, hosted by ITER's Electrical Engineering Division's Coil Power Supply Section, reunited more than 40 participants.
High-voltage current from the French grid will be delivered to ITER's door by the tall pylons that descend, arms outstretched, from the hills of the CEA Cadarache research facility.

ITER's coil power supply system will convert the 400 kV grid voltage from these lines into controlled direct current in ITER's 22 magnet coils. The high voltage must be transformed down to a much lower voltage so it can be rectified and delivered at very high current through a huge busbar system to the magnet feeders.

A joint workshop was held at ITER from 27-28 February to discuss the instrumentation and control (I&C) for the coil power supply system; it was the first multilateral face-to-face meeting on this topic with all procurement stakeholders present: the Domestic Agencies from China, Korea and Russia and their suppliers, and ITER experts from the CODAC and Electrical Engineering Divisions—more than 40 participants in all.

The I&C system's role will be to configure the plant and allow it to be driven by the plasma control system to produce and maintain a plasma discharge. The system will also monitor and protect the plant and interconnect to the central interlock system, as well as protect personnel and the toroidal field coils from safety hazards by interconnection with the central safety system. The coil power supply system has many other interfaces, for example the pulsed power electrical network and cooling water systems.

The coordinator of this week's workshop, Jeremy Goff, likens the coil power supply system to the heart of ITER, pumping "lifeblood" through the ITER coils. "If the current does not flow there can be no plasma. The coil power supply system will be a huge installation and it must be very reliable. Some plant components will run continuously for weeks at a time ..."

Although the procurement for the system is shared, providing the coordinating "top layer" of the I&C system—the master control system—is the responsibility of Korean Domestic Agency.

The workshop met most of its aims: it brought together all those involved around one table, design proposals were shared, and further work identified to bring all the systems together into one. The participation of CODAC experts was highly beneficial and the next steps towards a common final design can now be taken.

Srikumar Banerjee, the chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (right), and ITER Deputy Director-General Dhiraj Bora, talking to Indian staff members.
Srikumar Banerjee, the chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, together with Sandip Kumar Mazumder, scientific advisor at the Indian Embassy in Paris, came to visit ITER this Friday. After a tour around the construction site and an intensive discussion with ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, the representatives of the Indian state met two dozen Indian staff members working for the ITER project in France.

"ITER is a challenging project," Srikumar Banerjee said, "no doubt about that. There are big challenges all around. The exposure to such a task is something you do not get every day."

Monday's ceremony was held in the experimental hall of the Consorzio-RFX fusion experiment.
A ceremony was held in Padua, Italy on Monday 27 February for the launching of the PRIMA Neutral Beam Test Facility (NBTF).

In order to heat fuel to the 200-300 million °C temperature range required for fusion, ITER will be equipped with three powerful heating systems: 33 MW of neutral beams; 20 MW of electron cyclotron; and 20 MW of ion cyclotron. These are the systems that will "light the fusion fire."

The neutral beam system represents such an advance in all its parameters over present-day systems that it was decided some years ago to build the Neutral Beam Test Facility at Padua. This facility comprises two test-stands: SPIDER, which will test full-sized ion sources, and MITICA, which is a full-scale test of the ITER heating system.

Whilst the design and some early procurement were being made, negotiations were under way for bilateral agreements between the ITER Organization and the European Domestic Energy Fusion for Energy, and between Fusion for Energy/Consorzio-RFX, Padua. These agreements were signed in December 2011 and were followed shortly by the signature of Procurement Arrangements with Japan for the high voltage power supplies and the high voltage bushing for MITICA. The Indian Domestic Agency will also be supplying components for SPIDER.

Monday's ceremony was held in the experimental hall of the Consorzio-RFX fusion experiment in the presence of ITER Director-General Motojima and Fusion for Energy Director Frank Briscoe. Guests to the event included the current and former presidents of Consorzio RFX; representatives from the EU Commission; and members of regional and town governments, and university. The region is particularly proud and pleased to host the NBTF facility, which puts Padua firmly on the scientific and technical map and provides economic opportunities.

The firm in charge of building construction—Cooperativa Ravennate Interventi sul Territorio - Società ITER—will begin work on the NBTF facility in April. The "ITER" in this company's name is completely coincidental, which can only be a good omen!

While the earth has not yet moved at Padua, a fire has been lit that will contribute greatly to the success of ITER.

Click here for further reading.

President Bianco (left) looks at ITER from both a global and local perspective. He is seen here in Director-General Motojima's office with Deputy Director-General Carlos Alejaldre, Head of ODG Takayuki Shirao and Head of Communication Michel Claessens.
From the behaviour of the Sun's neutrinos to the benefits of the ITER project for the local economy ... conversation between Director-General Motojima and president of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département Jean-Louis Bianco, on Thursday 1 March, covered a broad scope of issues and prospects.

A member of the French Parliament and département president since 1998, Mr Bianco was also Secretary General of the Presidency for nearly ten years (1982-1991) under President Mitterrand and, in that role, his closest advisor.

His interest in ITER, which he expressed very strongly during his half-day visit here, stems from both a global and a local perspective. As a respected policy-maker, he is convinced of the importance of developing fusion energy for the benefit of future generations.

As head of a vast but sparsely populated départment—largely dependent on tourism (40 percent of GDP)—he was particularly interested in the latest figures on the local economic impact of ITER that were presented by Agence Iter France director Jérôme Paméla.

The Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département contributes EUR 10 million of the EUR 467 million that local governments allocate to the ITER project. As of 31 December 2011, EUR 29 million in industrial contracts from the ITER Organization, Agence Iter France and Fusion For Energy have already been awarded to companies based in Mr Bianco's département.

For Mr Bianco, this story was as captivating as the one about the Sun's neutrinos. 

This picture of a sika deer was recently taken on CEA-Cadarache site, close to the newly installed 400 kV powerline pylons. © Guis-CEA
Wildlife is thriving in the forests of Cadarache. Wild boars, mouflon goats and deer freely roam the vast CEA enclosure (900 hectares) and the smaller National Forestry Commission reserve (200 hectares) located opposite the future ITER Headquarters.

Boars have always been at home in Cadarache. In 1964, archaeologists digging a Bronze Age necropolis within CEA premises came up with a most exceptional find: a tomb containing the remains of a large wild boar, two copper rings and a serpentine ritual axe-head. Wild boars were considered as sacred then and, although they are not anymore, CEA-Cadarache has adopted them as its totem.

The history of the mouflon goats is more recent—and tragic. The present herd of 150 (plus 80 in the Commission reserve) descends from two males and one female that were intended as a gift for poor King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, who was unfortunately assassinated upon his arrival in Marseille on the occasion of his state visit to France in 1934.

A lesser-known story of Cadarache wildlife is that of the sika deer that gracefully roam the land—one hundred heads in the CEA enclosure and 20 in the National Forestry Commission reserve. Four of these timid and elegant animals were offered to French president Sadi Carnot (1837-1894) by the 122nd Emperor of Japan Mutsuhito, the "Meiji Emperor" (1852-1912) considered as the founder of modern Japan.

In the 1860s, Japan and France had established diplomatic, economic and even military relations. At the 1867 Paris World Fair (Exposition Universelle) the works exhibited at the Japan Pavilion caused a sensation, triggering an artistic movement called japonisme that was to have a major influence on French impressionist painting.

In 1890, in order to strengthen the relationship between the two heads of state, the Meiji Emperor decided to offer his French republican counterpart a personal gift in the form of four deer of the "sika" species (cervus nippon), one male and three females. The animals were no ordinary deer: they came from the park in Nara, once the capital of Japan, and were considered as sacred messengers of the gods.

Upon their arrival in the spring of 1890, the four sika deer were released in the Presidential Hunting Reserve in Marly (near Paris) to grow and multiply and ... be hunted on special occasions. Eight years later, when the original four had grown into a small herd of seven stags and eleven does, they were moved to a larger enclosure in Rambouillet, also part of the Presidential Domain.

The deer numbered 42 in 1919 (an equal number had been hunted during the war to provide meat to the local hospitals) and 76 in 1924, the year Gaston Doumergue was elected to the presidency. President Doumergue took a fancy to the beautiful creatures and forbid any further hunting. In order to regulate their population, he ordered instead that the animals be divided among various national parks and wildlife reservations, among them Cadarache.

The first pair of sika deer arrived here in February 1928, followed shortly by another pair. In 1939, a National Forestry Commission Inspector noted that the herd, now numbering 25 head, could be found "close to the Durance and Verdon riverbeds where, even during the hottest summer months, they could benefit from a cool environment, and find water and food."

More than eighty years have passed. The Emperor's deer are still here. They can be spotted grazing in the early morning hours, both inside the National Forestry Commission's reserve and within the CEA-Cadarache enclosure. If disturbed, they will look at you for a short moment, a tinge of reproach in their eyes.

Then they will turn and walk away slowly and gravely, as befits a messenger of the gods.