Preparations are in full swing for the next meetings of the Scientific and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC), the Management Advisory Committee (MAC), and the Council Preparatory Working Group (CPWG) which prepare the way for the second ITER Council Meeting scheduled for June 2008 in Japan.
Following last year's Design Review the STAC, endorsed by the Council, identified 13 high-priority issues to be addressed in parallel with the schedule and resource estimate that has to be delivered to the next Council meeting. Representatives and experts from the IO and the Domestic Agencies met in Aix-en-Provence last week to discuss solutions to these issues and their integration into the new baseline design with a minimum impact on the Project Schedule.
While many of these tasks could be addressed without a substantial impact on the project, some major decision had to be taken addressing physics questions of ELM control, vertical stability, plasma shaping, cold testing of magnets and the hot cell design. All this while not inflicting significant changes on the recently established, aggressive but realistic Construction Schedule geared to meeting the deadline for the 26 Procurement Arrangements (worth 1.5 Billion Euros) on the agenda for this year.
Amongst the 13 issues tackled in this coordination meeting (see article below), I want to focus on one issue which has drawn a lot of attention recently since it is clearly critical for the Project's success: the mitigation of the Edge Localized Modes or ELMs.
Over recent years, the Scientific Community has found increasing evidence that ELMs are potentially more damaging than originally thought. Port plug mounted coils foreseen during the design review did prove not be capable of mitigating such events and other means of preventing them, are not reliably established as of today. However, with the joint efforts of the International Fusion Community, the DA's and IO's scientific and engineering resources, this effect was characterized in much more detail and a good solution was found. It is of course imperative to minimize any delay to the Vacuum Vessel procurement scheduled for June this year. Among the five different options, all developed in parallel, coils inside the vacuum vessel will be pursued, tackling at the same time at least three of the issues mentioned before. Viability checks are still ongoing and an engineering design is under way.
With the Design Office at the IO overburdened, a plan is being implemented to further outsource complete design packages to the Domestic Agencies. This is the only realistic way to finish designs on 26 Procurement Arrangements during the reminder of the year.
In this context, I want to mention that I visited ITER India the week before last and I was deeply impressed by their progress in building up the Domestic Agency. I also spoke to representatives from several support companies, demonstrating that they could provide work resources on short notice if required especially in areas like design, engineering and CAD.
During this week I would say, that great progress was made towards the finalization of the construction strategy for ITER. I am very pleased with the effective way of working together on these common problems and the ability of this collaboration to come to a realistic plan and being able to implement it.
Between 17 and 20 March 2008, two divertor specialists from the Efremov Institute in St Petersburg, Russia, visited Cadarache to collaborate with the ITER Organization to advance the design of the divertor dome.
"Indeed, the work has progressed in a very effective way, and we advanced more in these few days of joint effort, than in the last several weeks," said Dr Alexey Makhankov, Responsible Officer for the procurement of the divertor dome in the Russian Domestic Agency. "Working together with the Divertor Section of the ITER Organization has been fundamental in reaching mutual understanding of the project requirements and of the manufacturing difficulties."
Dr Makhankov was accompanied by Dr Sergey Mazaev, design expert of the "Plasma-Facing Materials and Components" Laboratory in the Efremov Institute.
The dome is one of the three divertor plasma-facing components (the others being the Inner and Outer Vertical Targets), which is assembled onto the cassette body. It baffles neutral particles and protects the cassette body, while allowing helium and other impurities to be pumped away. It will be procured by the Russian Domestic Agency starting from next year.
Although the dome is not the divertor component subject to the highest heat flux, it is the most controversial from an engineering and physics stand point, as demonstrated by the two Design Change Requests, which are pending on it. Furthermore, a number of diagnostics are accommodated just beneath the dome, making its design even more challenging.
Dr. Mario Merola, Divertor Section Leader of the ITER Organization, declared that "We have been struggling for months to find the right compromise among the physics requirements, the minimization of the thermal and electromagnetic loads, the hydraulic constraints, the needs dictated by the diagnostic integrations and, at the same time, keeping in mind the importance of minimizing the manufacturing risks and costs. Working side-by-side here in Cadarache with our Russian colleagues allowed us to make important steps forward in the finalization of the design. It would have been impossible to obtain the same results in such a short time, should each group be sitting thousands of kilometres away from each other. I am now confident that we can finalize the dome design by end-April 2008, as specified in the divertor detailed plan to procurement. Further studies can then be carried out remotely by the Russian Domestic Agency."
A new bilateral meeting between the ITER Organization and the Russian Domestic Agency is planned on 15-16 April 2008 in St Petersburg to agree on the dome design supporting activities as well as to discuss the qualification of the manufacturing technologies and the procurement specifications of the divertor materials.
Financial transactions regarding contracts, payments, and invoices are part of the many day-to-day activities that enable the ITER project to advance. Alexis Fiorentino joined ITER last October as financial controller in the Finance and Budget Division directed by Hans Spoor. Alexis' main tasks involve the compilation and monitoring of the ITER budget.
The young Belgian has always been interested in finance. After studying accountancy, he obtained a Master's degree in Economy, at Mons University, Belgium. His first steps in professional life were as Administrative Assistant in the Directorate General of External Relations at the European Commission. After this first experience, in 2001, he had the exciting opportunity to join the European Agency for Reconstruction in Thessaloniki to ensure the administrative and budgetary monitoring of the 180 local staff working in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece and Kosovo. Two and a half years later, he moved to Macedonia to become the Head of Finance of the operational centre in Skopje.
After passing the exams to become an EU official in September 2005, he returned to Brussels to resume his duties within the European Data Protection Supervision Institution. He then took over the responsibility of budgetary implementation and evaluation at the European Railway Agency located in Valenciennes, France.
After six years of professional life spent between Belgium and the Balkans, he crossed Europe again to take up his position as Financial Controller in ITER. During the last six months, Alexis' activities have been based on preparing and implementing the ITER administration work flow procedures. The priority of Alexis Fiorentino: "All legal commitments, employment contracts, service contracts, purchase orders, and invoices must be within the annual budget of ITER as allocated to each department."
The road works for the ITER convoys have started. We drove along the 106 kilometers track to find out what is happening.
Read the report here.
On 20 March, a contract was signed between the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom) and the Federal State Enterprise Russian Research Center, the Kurchatov Intitute, acting as ITER Domestic Agency. Within the framework of the ITER Project, Rosatom acts as governmental customer, while the Kurchatov Intitute is responsible for the execution of the government contracts for the Russian in kind contributions.
The contract describes the development, tentative manufacturing and testing of systems elements and specific equipment in order to fulfil Russia's obligations within the ITER project until 2010.
On 18 March, ITER was delighted to welcome a U.S. congressional delegation lead by Representative Rick Boucher from Virginia. Other members of the delegation were Representative Fred Upton from Michigan, Representative Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, Representative Albert Wynn from Maryland, Representative Nick Rahall from West Virginia, and Representative Dan Lungren from California. The Department of Energy was represented by Under Secretary Bud Albright.
Kaname Ikeda, Norbert Holtkamp and Ned Sauthoff from US ITER gave presentations to the delegation followed by questions and discussion on the future of U.S funding. On behalf of the delegation, Congressman Boucher thanked the Director-General for the visit and expressed its support for ITER. After the presentations the group was taken to the ITER worksite. As bulldozers and scrapers went about the work of levelling the huge ITER platform, Jean Michel Bottereau from Agence ITER France gave an overview of the worksite preparation and Jerry Sovka explained the massive effort needed to build the ITER scientific buildings.
On Tuesday 18 March, the ITER France Welcome Office organized the 2nd Welcome Seminar, to provide ITER newcomers with valuable information and tips to help smooth their relocation to the South of France.
To encourage interactivity at the seminar, which is only possible if the groups are not too big, a morning and an afternoon session were organized with about 25 participants each. The seminars were also open to ITER employees who have been here for some time but wanted to catch up on practical information they might not have been aware of.
And if you could not make it this time, the good news is that the next seminar is already in the making for 25 April.
On Tuesday, 18 March, experts from IO and the ITER Member States convened in Aix-en-Provence to discuss how best to proceed with the most important design changes and their integration. The following day, IO representatives met with the Heads of the Domestic Agencies to define the workplan for the coming months and the necessary preparations for the upcoming meetings of STAC, MAC and the ITER Council. (Also see the Director's Corner on this). When Fiona arrived in Paris after a long and exhausting bicycle ride from Oxford, in March 2006 for a local Witney charity Base 33, which supports young people, you bet she was tired but she must have fallen for the charm of France, because she is back, only two years later, and this time she is here to stay!
Fiona has been heading for the sun for quite some time now. Born and raised in Scotland, she started her career in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen, the northern part of the country. Her first step south came in the early nineties, when Fiona began working in Contracts and Procurements for the decommissioning of the Windscale nuclear plant in Cumbria. In 2004 she entered the field of fusion when she joined JET in Culham, yet another step south.
And now she has made a giant leap for the sun to join ITER as Head of Procurement and Contracts Division. In this new role, Fiona will be responsible for in-cash procurements. She and her department will be in charge of all ITER in-cash procurements. Her department also covers customs, tax and insurances. "The ITER project is so challenging because of its scope and its potential impact on the world's future energy supply," says Fiona, "and I am really thrilled to be part of the team that is going to make it happen."