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ITER NEWSLINE 247
Tough luck: six months after Carlo Sborchia submitted his thesis on "Thermo-mechanical behaviour of fuel rods in case of a loss of coolant accident in Pressurized Water Reactors," Chernobyl's Reactor #4 went up in a cloud of radioactive smoke. As a consequence, Italy decided to halt its four operating nuclear plants and to phase out two projects already well underway.
For the young nuclear engineer, job prospects at home looked rather bleak. However, like for many other Italian nuclear engineers Chernobyl was Carlo's luck: while fission energy was becoming a thing of the past in Italy, other ventures elsewhere could make use of his skills. For Carlo of course, this meant leaving his native Tuscany— something which, with the exception of a couple of trips to Rome, he had never done in his life.
As if to compensate for the 26 years he had spent in and near Piombino, the small town that faces the island of Elba (of Napoleonic fame), Carlo commenced a nomad's existence in 1986, never to come back to Italy: CERN first, then one and a half years at the Sultan group in PSI Villigen, Switzerland and a first encounter with fusion through the NET project; five years at JET as a structural analyst, where he was recruited by Euratom; six and a half years with the ITER joint central team at Naka in Japan, then with EFDA in Garching, Germany; two and a half years in Greifswald as Head of the Superconducting Group of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator; a first one-year stint at ITER in Cadarache in 2007; followed by five years with Fusion for Energy in Barcelona as Head of the Magnet Group, responsible for 25 percent of the ITER magnet system procurement.
Over the course of his peregrinations—almost three decades' worth—the young engineer who specialized originally in structural analysis graduated along the way to become an expert in magnets, accumulating experience in mockup design and manufacturing, procurement management, installation and, perhaps most important of all, learning to drive and motivate a team in times of success and in times of crisis.
Carlo's story is a perfect illustration of what the "worldwide fusion family" is all about: the recently appointed head of the ITER Vacuum Vessel Division has worked with most of the people that are part of ITER today, people who were his neighbours, colleagues and friends in Culham, Naka, Garching or Greifswald.
How will a "magnet man" deal with the complex issues facing the ITER vacuum vessel? "A vacuum vessel is not a foreign object to me," explains Carlo. "I've actually spent six months inside JET's vacuum vessel—not many people have had that experience. Sure, I've been a 'magnet man' for the best part of my career but, in reality, by taking on this responsibility at ITER I'm going back to my original calling which is nuclear engineering. A vacuum vessel is about just that: structure, welding, loads ..."
Although he talks fast and at length, Carlo knows the importance of listening. "I've been here three days," he said last week, "and what I basically did during that time was listen. You can't motivate your people if you don't listen to them, if you're not present, if you don't develop a personal relationship with them. And in the years to come, we'll need a highly motivated team to tackle the technical challenges ahead."
Every day ITER accumulates megabyte upon megabyte of data that must be safely stored, organized and made accessible to thousands of users.
As a consequence, ITER needs the equivalent of a very powerful computer equipped with a very large and fast hard disk.
Early last week the barebones of this computer were delivered to the Headquarters building, consisting of 25 tonnes (nine truckloads!) of racks, cooling units, power distribution modules and batteries that will host the hundreds of disks and processing units of the ITER Data Centre.
Because of space and budget constraints a lot of technical creativity had to go into the design of this new Data Centre. "An early plan was to have an 800-square-metre room, later reduced to 300, and to equip it with EUR 3.5 million worth of hardware," explains IT System Administration Expert Cédric Chaumette who managed the project.
Two years after the original plans were drafted, the Data Centre's surface has shrunk to 120 square metres and its budget to EUR 1 million. However, even within these reduced parameters, IT managed to design a more efficient, "greener" and scalable installation that will serve ITER for the whole duration of its construction life cycle.
How did they do it? Implementing a standard architecture—characterized by low-density racks and in-room cooling—was impossible. "The space constraint was very high. There was no way we could evacuate the heat generated by the 300 KW of IT power the installation requires. Rack cooling was a major problem."
Racks must be cooled because, beyond a certain temperature, processors and hard disks are at risk. In the case of standard architecture, cooling is achieved by circulating cool air from below a raised floor and dissipating it throughout the room. This only works, however, when the available space permits a low rack density—not the case for ITER's 120-square metre Data Centre.
The solution Cédric and IT came up with is an innovative design called "hot aisle containment," where cooling devices are interspaced with computer racks ("in-row cooling") and cool air is forced throughout the whole height of the racks. In this new medium-to-high rack density arrangement, the cost is divided by three and the storage and processing capacity becomes scalable to the ever-growing needs of ITER.
The new ITER Data Centre is scheduled to be operational in March 2013.
Click here to view an animation of the ITER Data Centre floor plan.
In terms of the number of individuals devoting their time and energy to the realization of ITER, there are of course the employees and contractors of the ITER Organization, currently estimated at 900 people. But this nucleus is surrounded by concentric circles of support without which the project couldn't succeed: the ITER Members; the ITER Council and its advisory bodies; the Domestic Agency teams and their manufacturing partners; and finally fusion associations all over the world.
A representative of this last category visited ITER last week as a guest lecturer for the Inside ITER seminar series. Dr. Rudolf Neu from the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) is known as "Mr. Tungsten" in the fusion world. Closely involved with the ASDEX wall upgrade and the JET ITER-like wall, Mr. Neu is currently in charge of EFDA's ITER Physics Department where he coordinates the research program in preparation for ITER's experimentation phase.
"EFDA activities are strongly aligned with ITER needs," said Dr. Neu. "Our fusion associations pool resources and share results ... results which are then extrapolated for ITER." Thirty fusion associations are part of the EFDA family, with responsibility for 14 fusion experiments that are currently operating or under construction.
Among the exciting projects going on in Europe is JET's ITER-like wall experiment: "This is an experiment that uses the ITER material mix for the first time in a tokamak. We have already had manifold unexpected results from this experiment that we hope will give us new physics insights. This is truly an important experiment for ITER."
Dr. Neu also updated the audience on the Fusion Roadmap which draws out the step-by-step aims of Europe's fusion program, with the final goal of fusion electricity by 2050. "The European Fusion Roadmap sees ITER as the key facility for the development of fusion energy."
The benefit is mutual, according to lTER Director-General Osamu Motojima: "The European Union's high-level domestic program in fusion is very important for the ITER project. Having such support is very encouraging for us all."
The heart of the ITER facility will be the Tokamak Complex, comprising the Tokamak Building, the Diagnostic Building, and the Tritium Plant.
The seven-storey Complex measuring 118 by 80 metres and towering 57 metres above the platform will contain more than 30 different plant systems including cooling systems and electrical power supplies, all having physical as well as functional interfaces. As you can tell from the configuration drawing there won't be much extra room for manoeuvring. The house is pretty busy!
In order to make sure that all the necessary pipes, ducts, structures, cable trays and penetrations are correctly defined before the pouring of the concrete, a Building Integration Task Force was created in April last year to go through the building floor by floor. All the required documentation has now been delivered for the basement level (B2), the lower level (B1) and the equatorial level (L1) according to the agreed schedule with the European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy and the Architect Engineer ENGAGE. The upper level (L2) has also been reviewed and the data files will be handed over by the end of this month.
The configuration for each level was reviewed in compliance with the safety files and the installation and assembly feasibility of the systems and components. The design also respects the requirements on the civil works such as radiation shielding, fire protection and sectorization, and confinement leak tightness.
For the Level B2 slab, the detailed design of the rebar arrangement will be completed by F4E's designer Engage by December followed by the review of all the embedded steel plates that will be cast into the concrete to support the heavy loads.
About 55,000 such plates have been identified and tagged in the floors, walls and ceilings of the Tokamak Complex. The review will focus on the exact position of each plate with respect to the concrete rebar grid. Furthermore, for each plate the plate type and anchoring system need to be confirmed. Following the finalization of the design in March 2013, pouring will begin on the B2 slab. This process will continue for the remaining levels of the Tokamak Complex.
From November 6-9, scientists and students from China and Germany gathered in Dalian City, China for the third Sino-German workshop on Plasma-Wall Interactions (PWI), co-organized by Luo Guangnan, ASIPP, and Karl Krieger, IPP. Participants introduced their plasma wall interactions research programs, shared research results, and discussed bilateral cooperation projects.
After the welcome warmly extended by Zhao Miaogen, deputy director on the German end of the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion, the Director of China's Institute for Plasma Physics (ASIPP) Li Jiangang gave a talk on recent experimental progress in the EAST Tokamak.
Discussions were then devoted to talks on six topics: sputtering, erosion and deposition; fuel retention and wall conditioning; particle and energy control; PWI and wall surface diagnostics; SOL transport and simulation; and plasma-facing materials and components. On the last day, the participants visited the laboratories of Dalian University.
Although the workshop has been held annually since 2009, rotating between China and Germany, scientists from both sides have decided that the workshop be held every other year from next 2013. "This will not diminish research cooperation and personal exchanges, however," stressed Luo Guangnan. "We will see more intensive exchanges in the next three or four years with financial support from the Sino-German Center."
This past September, the Center approved four joint Sino-German research projects in the field of plasma-wall interactions, providing approximately Yuan 4 million (EUR 495,000) to this three-year bilateral cooperation.
The Sino-German Center for Research Promotion was founded as a joint venture supported by Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). Its aim is to promote scientific cooperation between Germany and China in the fields of natural sciences, life sciences, management and engineering. This is the third consecutive PWI workshop sponsored by the Center.