Last week, the ITER Council, the governing body of the ITER Organization, convened in Cadarache for its third meeting. The two-day conference brought together representatives from the governments of the seven ITER Members: China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. Strengthening coordination and better integrating the work of the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies was clearly a focal point on many elements of the agenda.
Another important issue was the outcome of the Briscoe Review Panel, an expert group on project management set up by the last ITER Council. The Panel had made recommendations for the establishment of a well-founded cost and schedule baseline as well as effective management systems. It recommended a detailed estimate based on a more integrated approach involving stronger cooperation between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies. This higher level of integration is seen as a crucial step for moving the project forward, streamlining management and containing costs. "To keep momentum, ITER needs the collective efforts and continued support from its Members, laying the foundations for a new model of global scientific collaboration," the Director-General of the ITER Organization, Kaname Ikeda, said.
Implementing "integrated product teams" staffed by the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies, and transforming the regular conferences between the ITER management and the Domestic Agencies into an empowered Project Board were the two pillars of the idea. This step would allow it to take timely decisions in order to proceed with a cost conscious design and managing the distributed procurement process. In the recent Meeting of the Management Advisory Committee (MAC), the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies had jointly proposed the implementation of this scheme, rallying support from the members. So far the Council agreed to launch a trial phase with three integrated product teams, one each for the vacuum vessel, the blanket and the power supplies, and anticipates seeing the benefits before taking any further steps.
Progress was also made in regards to procuring critical parts of the ITER machine. At the meeting, five Procurement Arrangements totalling EUR 414.5 million were signed, involving the European, Japanese and Korean Domestic Agencies. "These signatures are essential milestones for the project and mark a substantial step forward towards construction," Ikeda stressed.
The Procurement Arrangements include the agreement to build two sections of the vacuum vessel and its equatorial and lower ports in Korea (see article below). The vacuum vessel agreement was signed by ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda and the Director of the Korean Domestic Agency, Kijung Jung. Together with the Director of the Japanese Domestic Agency, Toshihide Tsunematsu, Ikeda then signed the procurement contracts for the manufacturing of 9 out of 19 toroidal field magnet windings and nine out of 19 toroidal field magnet structures in Japan. The agreement further allows for the construction of a winding facility for five of the six poloidal field coils on the ITER site. The coil winding building, financed by the European Union, was subject to another Procurement Arrangement countersigned by Didier Gambier, Director of the European Domestic Agency. Meanwhile the ITER Organization, the Domestic Agencies and the Members are working feverishly to finalize more in order to meet the target of 24 for this year.
The Council also approved the implementation of the Test Blanket Module Program into the ITER Agreement. These modules will allow testing of concepts for achieving self-sufficiency in tritium supply for future fusion power plants. The Council further accepted the ITER budget for the year 2009 and the staffing plan proposed by the ITER Organization, as well as the proposed changes to the staff regulations. For the first time, following the Cooperation Agreement between the ITER Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in October, Natesan Ramamoorthy, Director of the Divison of Physical and Chemical sciences at the IAEA, attended the ITER Council meeting as an Observer.
The Council re-elected Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith as the Chair and Academician Evgeny Velikhov as the Vice-Chair of the ITER Council, and reappointed Predhiman Kaw as the Chair and Yuanxi Wan as the Vice-Chair of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC), and Robert Iotti as the Chair and Gyung-Su Lee as the Vice-Chair of the Management Advisory Committee (MAC), to serve until the end of the calendar year 2009.
To view photos from the ITER Council, click here.
The world needs to know
Extract from the opening address of Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, Chairman of the ITER Council:
I think that we all understand why the world needs to know whether fusion power is viable. Fossil fuels will not be with us forever. Oil and gas will be exhausted first. It is often said that there is enough coal for at least 200 years—but that is at the present rate of use. The current growth rate in coal use (which will presumably increase as oil and gas become increasingly scarce) turns 200 years into 50 years (and there is a growing school that thinks that the 200 years figure is an overestimate). We can argue about whether fossil fuels, which have been accumulated over some 100 million years, will last 50, 100, or even 150 years—but in any case the fossil fuel era will be a very brief episode in the history of our planet. When it is over, there will be precious few options available to sustain the world's population, which is expected to continue growing for some decades. Developing fusion as an option must be a very high priority, even if success is not 100 percent certain.
Click here to read the European Commission Press Release.
Friday evening, 21 November, in the historical amphitheatre of the "Sciences Naturelles" at Saint-Charles campus, Marseille: the president of the Université de Provence, Jean-Paul Caverni, attaches the "ermine sash" to Director-General Kaname Ikeda's purple toga symbolizing the accolade of one of the most prestigious French academic distinctions—the title of Docteur Honoris Causa.
The title and tradition date back to medieval times, when the first French universities were established. "Honoris Causa" doctorates are now bestowed upon foreign personalities chosen for their high level of scientific expertise and their contribution to the advancement of international academic relations.
Université de Provence, with a student body of 25,000 and a faculty of 800, is one of three public universities in the Aix-Marseille area. A "science university" with an emphasis on mathematics, biotechnologies, energy and environment, and astrophysics, it has been involved with fusion science for the past 20 years.
In his acceptance speech, which he pronounced in French, Kaname Ikeda acknowledged this contribution and expressed his appreciation for the University's "constant interest in the ITER Project." ITER and the academic world, said the recipient, "have important tasks to undertake—tasks which have a deep meaning for the future of mankind."
Over the last months we witnessed it being built, bit by bit, and we anticipated the moment we would move in. Then, on Thursday, the day had finally come: together with representatives of the Region and the local communities, the ITER Organization celebrated the inauguration of its new Headquarters which will be the new "home" for many ITER employees over the next three years until the concrete offices take shape.
"This building is the result of true cooperation of different actors," Didier Gambier, Director of the European Domestic Agency pointed out in his address. "Built with EUR 5.6 million of financial support from the European Union, on a site that has been levelled and prepared by Agence Iter France, it will from now on host 300 staff of the ITER Organization, amongst them the Director-General."
Celebrating the inauguration of the new ITER Headquarters was clearly a remarkable day in the progress of the project and fully deserved to be celebrated with champagne and a delicious cake. But, as the Director of Agence Iter France, François Gauche, said, "the work does not stop here." More than 250 people, mostly from the Provence-Alpes Côte d'Azur (PACA) region are currently engaged in finalizing the site levelling works which are expected to be completed at the beginning of 2009. This will be followed by the excavation for the Tokamak Complex and the laying of the first foundations for the annex buildings expected to take place at the end of 2009.
The vacuum vessel is the central part of the ITER machine: a double-walled steel container in which the plasma is contained by means of magnetic fields. Last week, the ITER Organization and the Korean Domestic Agency signed two Procurement Arrangements for the supply of two of the nine sectors of the vacuum vessel and the equatorial and lower ports for all nine sectors. The Procurement Arrangement was signed by the Director-General of the ITER Organization, Kaname Ikeda, and the Director General of the Korean Domestic Agency, Kijung Jung, on the occasion of the third meeting of the ITER Council. The total credit value of these two Procurement Arrangements is ~EUR 116 million.
The ITER vacuum vessel will be the biggest fusion furnace ever built. It will be twice as large and 16 times as heavy as any previously manufactured fusion vessel: each of the nine torus shaped sectors will weigh about 450 tonnes. When all the shielding and port structures are included, this adds up to a total of 5,116 tonnes. Its external diameter will measure 19.4 metre, and the internal diametre: 6.5 m. Once assembled, the whole structure will be 11.3 m high.
The primary function of the vacuum vessel is to provide a hermetically sealed plasma container. Its main components are the main vessel, the port structures and the supporting system. The main vessel is a double walled structure with poloidal and toroidal stiffening ribs between 60 mm thick shells to reinforce the vessel structure. These ribs also form the flow passages for the cooling water. The space between the double walls will be filled with shield structures made of austenitic stainless steel which is corrosion resistant and does not conduct heat well.
The inner surfaces of the vessel will be covered with blanket modules. These modules will provide shielding from the high-energy neutrons produced by the fusion reactions and some will also be used for tritium breeding concepts.
The vacuum vessel has 18 upper, 17 equatorial and 9 lower ports that will be used for remote handling operations, diagnostic systems, neutral beam injections and—last but not least—for vacuum pumping.
The remaining seven sectors of the vacuum vessel will be provided by the European Union according to the ITER principle of baseline procurement sharing. The signature with Europe is anticipated at a later date.
A Cray XT high-performance computing system at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the world's fastest supercomputer for science. The new machine called Jaguar has a peak performance of 1.64 petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations, or calculations) per second, incorporating 1.382 petaflops XT5 and 266 teraflops XT4 systems. The DOE's Office of Science makes Jaguar available to scientists in academia, industry and government to tackle the world's most complicated projects such as studying the impact on climate resulting from energy use and reactions in fusion reactors.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle ... Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi ... Et le vent du nord les emporte ... Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
The song written by the French poet Jacques Prévert and interpreted by Yves Montand remind us: autumn leaves are beautiful and nice to look at, but the wet leaves can make surfaces slippery—both for people and vehicles. This makes starts and stops difficult and it can also lead to slips and falls. Leaves can also hide road markings, branches and rocks.
The all-staff pictures taken last week can now be downloaded here.
Also, read the article published in La Provence.
Prior to starting the construction of the divertor plasma-facing components, each Domestic Agency concerned must first "qualify" by demonstrating its technical capability to carry out the procurement with the required quality, and in a timely manner. This is achieved via the successful manufacturing of medium-size qualification prototypes, which are then subject to high heat flux performance tests in the electron beam facility "Tsefey-M" located at the Efremov Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. The qualification prototypes are about half a metre long, and include all the most technically challenging features of the corresponding ITER divertor design.
The Japanese Domestic Agency has been allocated the procurement of the outer vertical target component of the ITER divertor, which is the in-vessel component subject to the highest heat load. It consists of a lower straight section, protected by carbon monoblocks, an upper curved section with tungsten monoblocks, and a steel support structure.
As planned, the Japanese prototype completed its performance tests in November 2008, after 1,000 cycles at 3 MW/m² and 1,000 cycles at 5 MW/m² on the tungsten armoured region, plus 1,000 cycles at 10 MW/m² and 1,000 cycles at 20 MW/m² on the carbon region. This latter result represents a number of cycles that is more than three times higher than the design target of 300 cycles.
In a letter to his Japanese counterpart Satoshi Suzuki, the ITER Divertor Section Leader, Mario Merola, congratulated Suzuki and his team, as well as the industry involved, "for this important achievement and for the dedicated effort which was instrumental in making this goal a reality." "This is a very important accomplishment for the project," remarked Gary Johnson, ITER Deputy Director-General responsible for the Tokamak Department.
The comment of Masato Akiba, head of the Division of Fusion Energy Technology at the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), was particularly touching. "From the bottom of my heart, as former group leader of the ITER divertor at JAEA, I would like to express my deep appreciation to all the concerned ITER colleagues as well as the colleagues from Russia. I believe that we, the ITER Organization and all parties, are an excellent team, and today's success has been achieved by the results of this 'team,' not only by the Japanese Domestic Agency."
The start of the construction of the ITER divertor is planned early next year and is due to be completed in 2016.
Knowing that over the past year every ITER employee has accumulated an average of two cubic metres of files, folders, notebooks, brochures, pencils, computer spare parts and personal belongings, how long would it take to move 120 of them from Building 519 to the new Headquarters?
Alain Le Bris, the Safety and Security Supervisor for ITER buildings, and his two "logistics men" Éric Benoît and Nicolas Pons had made some rough calculations: doing it in one weekend would require some coordination—and energy.
As early as 7 o'clock on Saturday morning, the three men were on deck, along with seven men from the local removing company "Manosque Déménagement." Christine Chantoin, assistant to the Director-General, Sylvain Duparchy, and Stéphane Marco—both Security Officers—were also on hand to move Director-General Ikeda's office.
Several years ago, CEA had built a "security gate" at the back of what are now buildings 525 A, B and C. This "Porte de la Verrerie," which CEA accepted to open for the weekend, came in handy. "It saved us some eight kilometres per every round trip," says Alain Lebris. "And round trips, we did a certain number over the week-end ..."
While trucks were going back and forth through the gate, the personnel of the computer specialists "Osiatis" was busy re-plugging computers and telephones in the new building. On Monday morning, when everyone was back to work, mission was accomplished. "Well, not quite," says Lebris. "We still had to move about 10 people, which we did between 7 and 10 o' clock..."
The Director-General wanted the operation to be "transparent," and transparent it was. After some time spent comparing office sizes, window views, as well as distances to the printers and coffee machines, work could resume as on any ordinary Monday.
To view many more photos of the move, click here.
Last weekend, the annual French Science Show "Fête de la Science" took place in Marseille where various scientific projects, amongst them the ITER Project, were presented. The Fête is traditionally a very good occasion for school groups and the general public to learn more about science. So this event was a welcome opportunity to learn about the ITER Project and the stakes of fusion energy.
During his career Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, retired head of the UK fusion program and Chair of the ITER Council, moved from theoretical physicist to energy guru. Llewellyn Smith thinks that his newcomer status has given him a good grounding for the job and so he finds himself in the position of explaining fusion to others. "I understand what it is that people don't understand," he says in an article in Chemistry World.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned in its last report that the current investment decline in the energy sector as a result of the global credit squeeze could push oil prices to a new high in the long run. And that could further slow the eventual economic recovery. Affected by weakening demand, international oil prices plunged from a record $147 in July to $55 on Monday. But the IEA says the slump won't last long. In its latest report on the World Energy Outlook, the IEA predicts oil prices could rebound and top $200/barrel by 2030 as supplies grow tight again when world energy demand picks back up.
To read the full report, click here.