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Of Interest

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The 45th annual meeting of the "hot laboratories and remote handling working group was held in Kendal, England, 22-23 September. The working group was set up in 1963 to encourage and stimulate collaboration between the various European nuclear facilities in order to reach and preserve the high quality of their key competencies. More recently, the Working Group expanded its objectives to other nuclear countries such as Korea, Japan, Canada, the Russia Federation and Australia (

Even though initially fission issues oriented, some items are relevant for fusion issues such as confinement, shielding and remote handling. It was therefore a welcome opportunity for Magali Benchikhoune and her ITER Hot Cell team to present the ITER project and the ITER hot cell facility at this year's event. "The questions and discussions with the attendees about tritium confinement, transfer casks and procurement were very interesting", the Section Leader summarized.

This year's meeting aimed at exchanging experience on analytical methods, their implementation in hot cells, the methodologies used and their application in nuclear materials research. The working group also worked out solutions for safe, economic national and international transportation, licensing and regulation issues.

The annual meeting was concluded with a visit to the Sellafield nuclear facilities and the recently opened National Nuclear Laboratory visited.

The Sellafield laboratory is not yet fully commissioned, thus it was possible for the ITER team to access the future hot cells. "These are R&D hot cells composed on removable stainless steel boxes about 18 cubic meters each, Magali Benchikhoune explains. "After each experiment, the boxes are decontaminated and refurbished in order to perform new studies. The floors of some levels in the buildings have a specific epoxy coating for the use of the air cushion transfer flask."

After Sellafield, a visit of the Dounreay site, located in northern Scotland, was organized for the IO team. There they had the chance to visit several types of hot cell facilities (one in dismantling phase, one in operation, one just commissioned), to discuss about the "lessons learnt" and also to analyze some of the main common drivers in the design of nuclear facilities. This exchange was very helpful as the Dounreay team has more than 50 years of experience.

We work next to it and we can hear the constant scraping, the hammering and sometimes even the explosions that are necessary to remove the rocks. But we cannot see it: the ITER construction site.

Last week, ITER Communications together with Agence ITER France thus organized a full day site shuttle tour for ITER and the neighboring Tore Supra staff. Most of the employees took the opportunity to climb up to the newly opened visitor centre to see the impressive site first hand.

One of Wendelstein's magnet modules being moved onto the assembly rig.
One of Wendelstein's magnet modules being moved onto the assembly rig.The assembly of the stellarator "Wendelstein 7-X" is taking shape in Greifswald, Germany. The first of five modules have moved to the assembly rigs. In parallel, the first half shells of the cryostat vessel have been delivered to an offsite facility in Lubmin, where experts from MAN DWE will apply the thermal insulation to the shells.

Seven roundabouts have already been altered along the 100 km itinerary that the ITER components will take, such as the three roundabouts recently changed on the D952 near CEA Cadarache. In order to enable the very large loads to get round the roundabouts, different solutions have been adopted for the twenty of these on the itinerary from Berre and the ITER site. Like the three roundabouts mentioned above, the edges of the roads to be used by the convoys will be widened and concreted and sets of removable signals will be installed to clear the way for each motorized platforms or trailer convoy. Depending on how sharply the convoys will have to turn, some of the roundabouts will be crossed straight over, like the one outside the ITER site entrance or they will just be lowered on an angle either on the side on the central part.

A lady with a mission: Juliette Chokroun, Mission ITER
For the first time since its official inauguration - and now with the new logo (!) - the ITER Organization presented itself at the Foire de Marseille. Since its opening on Friday, the biggest fare in the region attracted many hundred visitors to the ITER stand, curious to learn about the project, employment prospects, the road works and fusion in general. The Foire de Marseille (Parc Chanot) is open until next Sunday, 5 October.

The Cassette Multifunctional Mover undergoing proof load testing
At the beginning of August, the Divertor Remote Handling (RH) Program achieved a major milestone with the completion of the factory acceptance tests for the prototype Cassette Multi-functional Mover (CMM). The CMM prototype will be the centre piece of a full scale remote handling test facility, called the Divertor Test Platform 2 (or DTP2 for short), being developed by the European Domestic Agency in Finland for the demonstration of the RH cassette replacement processes planned for ITER.

In ITER, the Cassette Mover will be required to transport divertor cassettes weighing 9 to10 tonnes along a complex trajectory in order to negotiate the path along the divertor access duct from the transfer cask to the plasma chamber. This process must be executed with pinpoint accuracy since the access route is such that delicate plasma facing elements of the 3.5m long x 2.5m high cassette have to pass within a few centimetres of the vacuum vessel surfaces.

The detailed design and manufacture of the Cassette Mover prototype was carried out by the Spanish company Telstar Tecnologia Mecanica S.L. at its works in Terrassa, near Barcelona. At the same time, in the opposite corner of Europe, Finnish engineers from VTT and Tampere University of Technology (members of the Finnish Fusion association Tekes) have been constructing a massive mock-up facility to replicate a section of the ITER divertor region. This 20m long, 65 tonne structure comprises elements manufactured by companies in Finland (TP-Konepajat Oy) and Luxembourg (Gradel S.A.).

In addition, the Finnish Team has been preparing the control and operational infrastructure for the Divertor Test Platform 2 facility. By taking advantage of today's virtual prototyping techniques, software engineers from Tampere University of Technology have been developing and testing the software necessary to control the CMM while it was still being designed and constructed in Spain. This was achieved by linking the control hardware (supplied by Procon Systems S.A., Spain) to a virtual model of the CMM which not only replicates its kinematics, but also its dynamic characteristics (like servo valve response, hydraulic fluid properties etc).

The next milestone for this project will be the arrival of the Cassette Mover prototype in Tampere, which is planned for during the coming month. At that point all these various Teststand elements, sourced throughout Europe, will be brought together as a whole and the job of carefully scrutinising the ITER divertor replacement approach can begin.

For rational minds, it is just natural - water trickling down the hills for millions of years, patiently carving vaguely human shapes into the uneven rocky substratum.

But rational minds sometimes miss the point - or the poetry. The "Penitents", the spectacular rock formation that rises over the village of Les Mees, some 25 miles upriver from Cadarache, owes nothing to geology. They bear witness to an event long past, when the "Saracens", that is the Arabs who had conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the early 8th century, were still occupying Provence.

The time was just before the turn of the first millennium and local lords were constantly skirmishing with Saracen emirs. One day, having raided a Saracen's stronghold in the Jabron valley, near Sisteron, the lord of Les Mees - whose family was to own the estate of Cadarache in the 1450's - was bringing home the spoils of the battle: Seven young, beautiful Moorish women whom he intended to lock in his castle.

On his way home, the lord and his men met a procession of hooded monks from the nearby Saint Donat monastery. The Moorish ladies were so beautiful that the monks forgot about their prayers, hymns and vows. They stared at the prisoners, transfixed, harbouring thoughts that were not all pious.

The manes of Saint Donat - or was it God himself? - took offence, and the monks were instantly changed into stone. One can still see today, on the highest of the Penitents - 114 metres - the pectoral cross the Abbot was wearing at the time of the encounter. It is made of two large wooden beams, some three metres long, which seem to guard the entrance to a small cave.

The first mention of this puzzling cross appears in a book published in 1636. The rock is so friable that no one, mountain climber or archaeologist, has ever been able to explore the place. To this day, no one can explain how these two large beams got there.

The account of how the monks of Saint Donat were petrified may be a legend. But the presence of the "Abbot's Cross" definitely isn't.

Not carrying a safety vest will now be fined.

As from 1 July this year, all French cars were obliged to carry a safety triangle and high visibility vest on board. In order to give people a chance to equip themselves the police did not fine drivers that did not carry the vest in case of an accident or breakdown. But this week, 1 October, the law will enter into force and thus driving without the appropriate vest and triangle can be fined with up to €135. The vest must be carried inside the car, and not in the trunk!

Some of the bigger supermarkets and petrol stations will sell these security kits and you can also buy them on-line at for about €12.