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Of Interest

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Francois Gauché, director of the Agence Iter France.
Last week, the north entrance of the ITER construction site was officially opened including the necessary security infrastructure. Currently we have about 300 people on site, but at peak construction time it will be almost 3000. Therefore defined safety and security procedures on entry to the site are important.

In regards to the site preparation, the area called "Company Area Number 1" is finished and fully operational. It has a capacity of 400 and we will reach this level by the end of the year. If needed, it can be extended to 800. Currently there are two major users of these facilities: the company Valerian who is in charge of the site levelling works and in a few weeks from now CARI will move in starting on the hydraulic network.

The works for the modular office building of the Joint Worksite 2 for the ITER staff are on-going, the foundations for these new provisional office buildings can already be seen. Work is on schedule and we will be ready to deliver the new offices holding 300 people by October. Also we are working on the 15 kV line, the temporary power supply loop for the company area and the work site. In a few weeks, in June, we will also deliver the temporary Training and Visitor's Centre to the ITER Organization. Also widely visible, of course, are the site levelling activities which have increased in pace. We are currently working in two shifts, starting at 4:00 am and ending 10:00 pm. For the rocks we now use explosives, first tests began last week, with further mining continuing until the end of September.

Why are we doing all this? During the French candidature for ITER, France committed to provide the site with the facility installed, to build an International School in Manosque and to provide a special itinerary for the transport of the very large componenents. Europe too made its commitments. The tokamak platform for example is 15 % French and 85 % European commitment. Because there were obvious synergies, the European Commission, now Fusion for Energy (F4E), decided to delegate these works to us.

Our goal is to hand over a developed site to the IO over the next two or three years, beginning with the area around JWS2 with a separate entrance. This will be followed by the platform once the levelling is finished, and by 2010-2011, the annex buildings that will include the ITER Headquarters.

But we do not only develop the site for ITER, we also help with the French administration and regulation. We can provide valuable help, as recently done with the Construction Permit, the submission of the Safety files, or as we have been doing with the visa ITER, an accelerated visa service provided by the Welcome Office for ITER staff or visiting researchers to ITER. Summarizing, our motto is quite simple: We try to help ITER as much as possible.

François Gauché is the Director of the Agence Iter France (AIF). He started his career as an engineer in a European environment, first at the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology in Hamburg, then for BMW in Munich in the Division of Large Engine Development, before joining the ALSTOM Train Services Group in Preston (1997/1999). He next joined the Regional Direction of Industry, Research and Environment in Alsace (2000) as Head of the local Nuclear Safety Authority Division. In 2004, he went on to lead the Accelerator Project for research in radio-chemistry and oncology (Arronax) at the Subatech Laboratory (a joint partnership between the CNRS, the University of Nantes and the Ecole des Mines de Nantes, France). In October 2006, he became the Director of the Agence ITER France.

After the signing of the Procurement Arrangement for ITER's Toroidal Field Superconductors: Kaname Ikeda and Gyung- Su Lee.
The procurement and thus the manufacturing of the ITER magnets took a big leap forward on 7 May, when Kaname Ikeda, Director-General of the ITER Organization, and Gyung- Su Lee, Head of the Korean Domestic Agency established by the Korean government in September 2007, signed the Procurement Arrangement (PA) for the superconductors—the essential part of ITER's superconducting Toroidal Field magnets.

Most of the components that will make up ITER are to be manufactured by each of the seven participating countries and contributed in-kind through their Domestic Agencies. ITER Korea is the fourth Domestic Agency following Japan, Europe and the Russian Federation to have signed the Procurement Arrangement for the TF conductors. ITER Korea is responsible for 20.18 % of the total scope of the TF conductors. Today, 84.67 % of the total scope for the ITER TF conductors (about EUR 273 million) has been allocated.

"For ITER Korea, the TF Conductor PA is the first Procurement Arrangement signed," Gyung- Su Lee explained. "Therefore it has very important symbolic meaning as with this the Korean ITER project is entering the construction phase."

The signing ceremony was received by many fusion scientists and engineers here in Korea as a very significant event because of the successful testing of the KSTAR TF magnet systems last week with ITER-like Nb3Sn superconducting cables demonstrating the quality of the Korean-produced Nb3Sn superconducting technology to the world."

The members of the latest Diagnostic Meeting in Lausanne.
Measuring plasma properties like temperature, density and radiation losses inside the vacuum vessel is one of the most challenging aspects of fusion research. In April, specialists on fusion diagnostics from all over Europe met in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss the requirements for plasma measurements on ITER and the ITER diagnostic system following the Design Review. The executive summary of this meeting can be downloaded.

"ITER is exciting, important, and well worth the investment": Ray Fonck, US Department of Energy.
After several months in the role of Associate Director of Fusion Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Dr. Raymond Fonck has become accustomed to the concept of "fusing" the fusion community into a new phase of energy. Fonck cited several challenges that he feels ready to face, including the introduction of the ITER project to others in the fusion community. "The whole field is going to step up to a new realm of operation, a new realm of physics," Fonck said. "Some of it is known; some is unknown. But this means the 'state of the science' takes a step up."

Fonck — who was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before joining DOE last year — previously had served as director of the U.S. Burning Plasma Organization and chief scientist for the USIPO. He has published more than 180 scientific articles and was awarded the 1999 APS Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research and the Fusion Power Associates 2004 Fusion Leadership Award.

When considering how the ITER effort will evolve, Fonck said it is important to define the current state of fusion research. Because it can be difficult to understand the importance of a task whose goal is far in the future, he suggests better communication about intermediate goals with the fusion community, helping to create more cohesion. "I think what brought me here was the hope that I can help better define what we are doing in the mid-term and long-term," he said. "I also hope to help the community develop a new strategic plan that's relevant to the time and era of ITER.

"The real opportunity," Fonck continued, "is that we have the American Competitiveness Initiative and the America COMPETES Act guiding the funding of physical sciences and the federal structure. This gives fusion and plasma science projects such as ITER a chance to compete." He added that the Fusion Energy Sciences Program has a dual nature: supporting magnetic fusion energy sciences and basic plasma physics. A priority for Fonck is to define a narrative of nurturing both these areas and helping to "fuse" the community's thoughts. The goal is to have the community organize around these ideas and come up with a "way" or path that everyone can follow.

All this "fusing" can be challenging but enjoyable, Fonck said, adding that the fusion community is filled with "dedicated and passionate" scientists and engineers. "If you don't enjoy doing something like this, you'll go crazy," Fonck said. "We all find our niches."

One of those niches for fusion folks is at the US ITER Project Office in Oak Ridge. "They are doing a phenomenal job in their work to put the project together and help with the plans to build the facility," Fonck said. He added that it can be difficult when building a large facility to involve the research community if the actual facility is elsewhere. He said he thinks ITER is becoming a proactive project through informational and outreach activities and that this should enhance abilities to "fuse" the community.

When asked why the general public should care about ITER and the U.S. role in the project, Fonck responded, "It's an easy call in the sense that ITER is the linchpin of our strategy to demonstrate that we can create a new source of energy for the world and for our nation. However, this is not the only answer; it is part of a portfolio of energy technologies and capabilities that researchers should be developing. But fusion — with its challenges — has fantastic promise as a virtually unlimited source of energy with attractive inherent safety and environmental features. "ITER is the cornerstone," Fonck concluded. "This project is exciting, important, and well worth the investment."

Following the interview, the following addendum was provided concerning the FY 2008 budget situation for ITER: It is important to note that the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill eliminates nearly all funding for the U.S. Contributions to the ITER Project (U.S. ITER Project). Although the U.S. will maintain operation of its core project team activities of the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences and the U.S. ITER Project Office and will provide continued support for the U.S. secondees in Cadarache, France, it is necessary to postpone until further notice the U.S. contributions to ITER including cash, procurements and R&D. The U.S. will maintain its participation and involvement on the Management and Science and Technology Advisory Committees, including activities leading to resolution of the key outstanding issues related to the design review conducted in 2007. The Department is pursuing all possible avenues for obtaining restored funding for ITER in FY 2008 and anticipates full funding in FY 2009, which was included in the President's FY2009 Budget Request

Based in Céreste at the foot of the Luberon, TLP-Television is a local station that also cares for its international audience. On 28 March TLP came on site to shoot the international ITER team being introduced to aïoli and the game of pétanque. The footage of this now famous I.T.O.T.H (Iter Top Of The Hill) party was broadcasted twice a day from 13-19 April and can still be accessed on the Internet at the following address: There, go to the Archives section; roll down Catégorie and click on ITER; and click on Rechercher.

"Sous le soleil d'Iter" was a big hit when it was aired over the Manosque and Forcalquier area, and an even bigger one when posted on the Internet: it almost instantly shot to "Most watched program" in the history of the station's web site, with an average of 750 daily connections for two weeks running. Says Sébastien Galaup, TLP Program Director: "People in this area are craving for information about ITER. The program was an opportunity to find out about what was happening on the site, how many people were already at work, and, even more important, to see the "ITER people" and hear them talk about their job... with passion and in French. I do hope we'll be able to do that again."

In its 3 February,1958 issue, Life Magazine published an article about Shirley Temple launching a new TV series and the first public audience article on fusion energy.
Fifty years ago, in its February 3,1958 issue, the Life Magazine published a cover story on Shirley Temple launching a new TV series. Also in this issue was a long article on the Russian Revolution, another one on Americans on the move, countless (almost forgotten) ads for cigarettes - and a double page on fusion energy.

For the story, not only the Harwell Laboratories opened their doors, where the British had been operating the famous Zeta machine (Zero Energy Thermonuclear Assembly) since 1954. They were also allowed to Los Alamos to get a glimpse of the Perhapstron — a so called "pinch" machine, that magnetically squeezes the plasma to a point where fusion reactions would occur.

It was the first time an article on fusion research appeared in a general audience magazine and there was good reason for it : A week before, a "restrainedly jubilant announcement" had been issued by Harwell and Los Alamos laboratories announcing to the world that a plasma temperature "up to 5 million degrees" had been attained in both machines and "with them, scientists cautiously believe(d), brief fusion".

The article described the fundamentals of fusion physics, its perspective and challenges: harnessing fusion, "the same energy that keeps the sun's fires burning", would provide "unlimited power from an inexhaustible source". But "final control of this energy might still be a lifetime away". In 1958, the word "tokamak" was yet unknown to scientists and reporters in the Western world. If fusion was to be achieved, it would be by way of the "doughnut method"...

Fifty years ago, British and US fusion scientists had indeed made "H-power gains", but the "jubilant announcements", however restrained, where quite premature : the neutrons emissions which had been detected were real but, as more experiments, cross-checking and calculations were soon to demonstrate, they had nothing to do with actual fusion. The disappointment was particularly cruel for the British, who had hailed "the mighty Zeta" as "greater than Sputnik". Still, for the decade to follow, and until the Soviets unveiled the scope of their own research at the famous Novosibirsk conference in August of 1968, the Harwell machine was to prove one of most effective research installation in the already prolific field of fusion research.

The Korean superconducting tokamak KSTAR.
The state-run National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) successfully carried out experiments to drop the temperature of the superconducting magnets of its Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) device to absolute zero or minus 268 degrees Celsius.

ITER will attempt to reproduce on Earth the nuclear reactions that power the Sun and other stars. To test whether this is possible, plasma turbulence simulation and modelling tools are being developed, but these require a huge amount of computing power to process data. This is where EUFORIA, a EUR 3.65 million EU-funded project, comes in. It aims to link computers from all over Europe and harmonize the simulations made in various areas of fusion.

Click here to read more.