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Of Interest

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The ITER Project, which Director-General Motojima presented as "innovation itself," was the focus of strong interest last weekend at the Rencontres Economiques in Aix-en-Provence.
One Prime Minister (Italy's Mario Monti); one former French President (Valéry Giscard d'Estaing); a US Supreme Court Justice (Stephen Breyer); a European Commissioner (Michel Barnier); several World Bank executives; high-profile university professors; a number of international CEOs; the Director-General of ITER ... all were gathered in Aix-en-Provence last weekend to participate in the Rencontres Économiques, an international forum aiming to promote a better understanding of global economic challenges and "to reflect on the actions that will influence the future of human society."

One of the main themes discussed this year: Innovation. What creates favourable conditions for innovation? Which innovations are most likely to succeed? Can society impulse innovation? The ITER Project, which Director-General Osamu Motojima presented as "innovation itself," was quite naturally the focus of strong interest from the participants.

As explained in the documentation distributed to the audience, fusion research in general and ITER in particular have been a major booster for innovation. The complexity of the ITER design has already pushed a whole range of leading-edge technologies to new limits. Time and again, innovative technological solutions have been developed to address specific ITER challenges, solutions that have found applications well beyond the bounds of fusion technology.

There are already numerous examples of fusion spin-offs that are providing concrete solutions to real and current problems.
Already, superconductor R&D has led to significant spin-offs in magnetic resonance imaging; diagnostics developed for the study of plasma turbulence have found applications in advanced satellite thrusters; innovative techniques to bond carbon-fibre composites originally developed for tokamaks are now used in aerospace... even the clothing industry has benefitted from fusion spin-offs: the electronic looms that produce high added-value cloth and fabrics from computer-generated design owe much of their performance and reliability to the very micro-actuators that were developed for tokamak components.

One of the most valuable innovations of ITER however, does not belong to the realm of science or technology. The collaboration between 34 nations in pursuit of one goal, Director-General Motojima stressed, "is creating a new culture standard." The ITER project is a strong testimony to human creativity and resourcefulness; it demonstrates daily that nations—when confronted with a global challenge—can pull together to establish a completely new model for international cooperation.

Click here to view DG Motojima's interview.
Another brochure about fusion spin-offs here.

Eleven-metre-deep trenches now crisscross the platform to accommodate 1.6 kilometres of concrete piping. Maximum diameter: 2.2 metres.
There was a time when the 42-hectare ITER platform was as flat as a pancake. Now, as work progress on the deep underground drainage network, the landscape is in some areas reminiscent of a World War I battlefield.

Eleven-metre-deep trenches now crisscross the platform to accommodate 1.6 km of concrete piping. These pipes, measuring up to 2.2 metres in diameter, will collect rainwater from the platform buildings, roads and trenches.

A branch of the underground network has been designed to evacuate the overflow of a "centennial rain" — extreme rainfall that, statistically, occurs only once every century, but that can lead to water flow estimated at 17.8 m³ per second.

Based on this estimate, a safety margin of approximately 20 percent has been applied to the calculation of ITER's underground rainwater network, which has been dimensioned for a flow of 21.5 m³ per second.

The whole network connects to the storm basins located at the southwest corner of the site through an underground network that was put in place by Agence Iter France during the site preparation phase.

This giant plumbing operation, which necessitated the removal of 50,000 m³ of earth, began in March and will be completed in November.

As an international organization—and one applying for nuclear licensing in France—ITER is required to have a well-documented management system, with approved procedures describing the process flow for every area of the project.

Since 2008, the Quality Assurance Division has been developing the Management and Quality Program (MQP), a process-based system that organizes ITER's management documents into a structure governing relations, procedures, and working instructions.

"The written procedures contained in the MQP program basically instruct end users how to do their work," says Florence Tadjer, who joined the Division in April. "But of course it is not enough that these documents exist: they must also be well understood and applied throughout the project."

As MQP Liaison Officer for the Administration and Plasma Operation Directorates, Florence will work in an advisory role with process "owners" on management documents, ensuring that the proper rules are followed to write documents, and deciding whether the document contains the type of guidelines that should be incorporated into the MQP framework or not. "In fact, not every departmental document needs to be part of the MQP," says Florence. "On the other hand, it is also my role to identify those documents that should be incorporated."

Florence comes to ITER from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where she was a quality manager in the laboratory responsible for analyzing safeguard samples from nuclear facilities. It was her responsibility to maintain the laboratory's quality certification by updating the quality management system and conducting regular audits in order to make sure that the quality system was well implemented in all areas of the laboratory.

"Training and auditing are part of the quality manager's job," insists Florence. At ITER, the team of Liaison Officers will work to improve the MQP documentation, and expend a lot of effort to communicate about the program and make sure that training is offered on the implementation of the system.

"ITER is a young organization and things are still evolving. A lot remains to be done and I know I'll enjoy the lack of routine!"

At Oxford Superconducting Technology in Carteret, New Jersey (USA), two contracts for ITER have the company creating jobs, investing in new equipment, expanding its production capacity, and operating three shifts a day.

Oxford Superconducting will produce nearly 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) superconducting wire for the ITER Project as part of contracts signed with the European and the US ITER Domestic Agencies. The company has increased its production to 30 tonnes per year, up from just a few tonnes previously.

The ITER contracts have pushed the company to strengthen its design and manufacturing processes. "The ITER quality requirements are quite rigorous, so we've had to increase our expertise in that area," says Jeffrey Parrell, vice president and general manager of the company. "These improved skills will be with us after the project is over, and we've already applied them to other areas of business as well."

Amidst a forest of microphones and TV cameras, Mr Guérini, president of the Bouches-du-Rhône Council, communicated his enthusiasm for the ITER Project.
Ten years ago, as Cadarache was considering an early bid to host ITER, the local governments of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur (PACA) region proposed to participate in the financing of the project. The Regional Council PACA, the six départements that form the Region, and the Greater Aix-en-Provence Community agreed to allocate in total EUR 467 million to the construction of ITER over a period of ten years.

Jean-Noël Guérini, president then and now of the Bouches-du-Rhône Council (Conseil général), was among the local politicians who believed ITER was, in his own words, "a unique opportunity to boost the economic development of our region." In 2002, the assembly he presided voted an envelope of EUR 152 million for the construction of the ITER Project.

The trigger for this decision was an address by René Pellat, French Commissioner to Atomic Energy at the time, to the Bouches-du-Rhône Council on 22 June 2002 in Marseille. "Without you," he told Mr Guérini and the assembled councilmen, "we won't be able to have ITER."

On the occasion of Mr Guérini's visit to ITER on Friday 13 July, Director-General Motojima chose to feature a picture of the 2002 meeting in the presentation he gave to the president, the 17 councilmen that accompanied him and a party of some twenty journalists.

For Mr Guérini, it was a charged moment emotionally. Ten years have passed but his commitment to ITER remains as strong as it was then. And the figures of the economic benefits for the Region that Jérôme Pamela, director of Agence Iter France, presented to him confirmed the accuracy of his conviction: since work began on the ITER site in 2007, companies based in the Bouches-du-Rhône département have been awarded EUR 454 million worth of contracts—a serious boost, as Mr Guérini had anticipated, to the local economy.

As the visitors stood in the Tokamak Seismic Pic amidst a forest of microphones and TV cameras, Mr Guérini strongly expressed his enthusiasm for the project. "I know you are working for the benefit of the future generations and I hope that the media that have gathered here will be able to convey this message. As for me, I will continue to support your fantastic project as I have done, tirelessly, for the past ten years."

Specialists at VNIIKP in Podolsk, Russia have produced a 760-metre niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) cable—the second product of this kind manufactured in Russia.
Manufacturing the toroidal field conductors for the ITER magnet system is a sophisticated, multistage process. Early this year, specialists at the All-Russian Cable Scientific Research and Development Institute (VNIIKP) in Podolsk, Russia twisted supraconductor strands into a 760-metre niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) cable—the second product of this kind manufactured in Russia. 

At the end of February, at the High Energy Physics Institute in Protvino, this cable was pulled through a stainless steel jacket that had been assembled on site. The process involved the most advanced Russian technology and knowhow. The jacket itself—reaching nearly a kilometre in length and composed of more than 70 tubes welded together by gas tungsten-arc welding technology—was exposed to triple testing of the weld seams' quality and reliability.

During the next stage in the process, the jacketed cable, called a conductor, was compacted and spooled into a solenoid measuring four metres in diameter. Following vacuum and hydraulic tests at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, the conductor will be shipped to Europe.

Follow this link to a 10-minute video in English that will bring you inside the Russian factories involved with toroidal field conductor manufacturing for ITER.

Click here to see the video in Russian.

Fusion: The Energy of the Universe (G. McCracken, P. Stott), originally published in 2005, has been updated to include a completely new chapter on the ITER program; a new chapter on inertial confinement programs with discussions on the National Ignition Facility (NIF, US), Laser Mégajoule (LMJ, France), Fast Ignition Realization EXperiment (FIREX, Japan), and the High Power laser Energy Research facility (HiPER, proposed, Europe); and an enlarged chapter on fusion power plants including descriptions of the projected designs of the demonstration fusion power plant DEMO and the Laser Initial Fusion Energy project, LIFE.

Fusion: The Energy of the Universe, is an essential reference that covers the basic principles of fusion energy, its history, and the the issues and realities progressing from the present day energy crisis. The book provides detailed developments and applications for researchers entering the field of fusion energy research.

The book is available as a paperback or as a Kindle version either from the Amazon site or from Elsevier directly at: