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A collaborative success: The ITER vacuum team poses in the basement storage room in Headquarters where the leak detection devices shipped in from the US are piling up.
In constructing ITER, one of the key challenges is to ensure a leak-free machine. The US Domestic Agency has recently completed the bulk of delivery for the test equipment required to confirm the vacuum leak-tightness of components as they arrive on site and during the construction of the machine. At right,  vacuum team members are pictured with some of the leak detection tools-of-the-trade: helium spray guns and highly sensitive mass spectrometer-based detectors.

"This procurement is the very first US ITER procurement to be delivered to the ITER site," rejoices Mike Hechler, the responsible officer within the US vacuum team. "Hence it should be celebrated as a real success. Being first we were like guinea pigs having to sort out how to deal with transport, VAT charges, customs, CE marking. It was not easy, but opens up the way for future US deliveries."

"The basic method of leak detection is simple," explains Liam Worth, member of the ITER vacuum team  and responsible for the test program. "You evacuate your vacuum vessel, surround it with helium gas, and then use the leak detector to look for helium leaking in—these instruments can detect in the minutest quantities." However the size, complexity and number of the ITER vacuum systems make this a far from simple task. "We estimate that from acceptance to the final commissioning of the machine, no fewer than 94 man-years of vacuum testing will have to be performed."


On 22 March, the EDIPO magnet, the core of the EDIPO facility, reached a magnetic field of 12.5 Tesla.
If we are truly committed to the idea of a sustainable energy mix—with fusion as one of the elements—then we need to invest in facilities that will bring us a step closer to the realization of commercial fusion by helping us test the technology and the components of current and future fusion devices.

This is precisely the purpose of the European Dipole project (EDIPO) launched in 2005, whose mission is to manufacture a high field magnet that would ultimately be used to test ITER cable-in-conduit conductors with current up to 100 kA. Switzerland's Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), at the Centre of Research in Physics and Plasma (CRPP), is hosting this facility that was built thanks to a collaboration between CRPP, BNG (Babcock Nöll), the European Domestic Agency for ITER, and the European Commission.

The stakes for EDIPO were high from the very start because it had to meet two important conditions. First, it had to offer the fusion community the possibility to test short sample conductors in a magnetic field up to 12.5 Tesla—an unprecedented level for this type of facility—in order to mimic the ITER environment. Second, the conductors had to be tested at this level of magnetic field over a length equivalent to about 800 mm, which is roughly two times the high field length of the conductors currently tested in SULTAN.
Read more in the Fusion for Energy Newsletter.

ITER will provide a unique opportunity to test mockups of breeding blankets, called Test Blanket Modules (TBM), in a real fusion environment. The ninth TBM Program Committee convened from April 25-26 to review the implementation of the TBM program.
The ninth meeting of the ITER Council Test Blanket Module (TBM) Program Committee took place on 25-26 April.

The TBM Program Committee meets twice a year to review the implementation of TBM program—including the Members' Test Blanket Systems and the ITER Organization's TBM integration activities—and to report to the ITER Council. The Program Committee reviews the status of the TBM-related activities within the ITER Organization, TBM design and R&D progress within the ITER Members, and the status of corresponding milestones.

The main objectives of this ninth meeting were to define the short-term steps that need to be performed in order to keep to the present Baseline schedule for the TBM Program as well as possible corrective actions which should be pursued in case of delays. Participants noted that the TBM Program schedule is closely linked to that of several ITER components (e.g., nuclear buildings); therefore, the coherence of the schedules needs to be continuously monitored.

Among the key milestones for the TBM Program are the signing of the six specific TBM Arrangements (TBMAs) that correspond to the formal implementation of each Test Blanket System in ITER. Following the endorsement of the generic TBM Arrangement by the ITER Council at its last meeting in June 2012, each ITER Member with responsibility for a TBM System (denoted a "TBM Leader") has started the preparation of the draft of the corresponding specific TBMA and evaluated a realistic date for its signature by the Director-General and the designated ITER Member representative. These dates, ranging from January to December 2014, were reviewed and noted by the Committee.

The first component delivery associated with the TBM Program is expected as early as 2016: the Test Blanket System connection pipes will connect the components located in the TBM equatorial port cell to the components located in other rooms of the Tokamak Complex via the corresponding shaft and/or the corridor. These connection pipes belong to the six Test Blanket Systems and should therefore be procured by the relevant ITER Members. The TBM Program Committee agreed, in principle, to transfer responsibility for this procurement to the ITER Organization since it is advantageous to implement a common and unique procurement. The corresponding scope of the compensation, in terms of finance and human resources, was also agreed.

The TBM Program Committee also took note of the status of the activities of the Test Blanket Program Working Group (TBP-WG) on Radwaste Management. Its Chair, PK Wattal, reported on the work performed by the ITER Members to evaluate the expected volume and characteristics of the radwaste and on the corresponding classification performed by Agence ITER France, the official entity which the Host State has charged with the future management of ITER radwaste. Issues associated with the transporting of irradiated TBMs to the owner countries were also addressed.

The outcomes of this ninth meeting of the Test Blanket Module (TBM) Program Committee will reported to the ITER Council meeting in June.