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Conferences


ITER Principal Deputy Director-General, Norbert Holtkamp
"Happy New Year to everybody!" was my opening remark at this year's first coordination meeting between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies held on 14 January in Ahmedabad, India. A remark which was immediately corrected as it only held good only for some of the people in the room: Russia's New Year had started just that day, and in China and India it is still to come. So, speaking for myself, it was another lesson learned regarding working for an international project.

This year's first ITER Organization-Domestic Agency meeting was hosted by the Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) in Ahmedabad. The IPR is the home of the Tokamak Aditya and a new superconducting machine, the SST-1, is currently under construction. The meeting focused on the three big topics that will accompany ITER over the next twelve months and beyond: the status of the ITER design together with finalizing the procurement packages, the next round of reviews assessing the schedule and resource estimates of the ITER Organization and Domestic Agencies, and somewhat unique things like the shipment of components with all related legal issues, and the opportunities that will arise should Kazakhstan join the ITER collaboration.

Finishing the ITER design and completing the documentation in order to start the procurement process has the highest priority. For the complex and heavily integrated systems, specially integrated teams consisting of members from the ITER Orgnaization and Domsetic Agencies are now constituted. They will make sure that all interfaces are covered and that sufficient resources are engaged. The Domestic Agencies have summarized where these procurements stand in their industries. As a result, the ITER schedule is always a somewhat contentious topic of discussion and it is not always possible to have the goal aligned with the reality. But it is our job to do exactly that and everybody takes this effort very seriously.

The second major topic is the transport of components once built, the transfer of responsibility, their insurance and storage. Shipment of components from one party to another and finally to the ITER site presents a tremendous logistic challenge. An expert group has been implemented and we are confident now that following the next ITER Organization-Domestic Agency meeting in Korea in March we will be able to present a final proposal to the Council.

The third bullet point is the potential accession of Kazakhstan as a full member to the ITER collaboration. We discussed a proposal that would minimally disturb the present sharing between the Parties and still match the manufacturing capabilities of Kazakhstan. This will be on the agenda again at the next meeting.

Overall, I found this meeting very productive, despite the many difficult topics to be addressed. The ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies are trying to make these meetings effective management tools to successfully execute the project and I am confident that we will get there.

Then, summarizing what else lies ahead, contracts worth approximately EUR 800 million were signed with the Domestic Agencies in 2008 and many more are foreseen for 2009. Buildings, magnets and the vacuum vessel with all its components are high priorities. Construction of the buildings—key to the ITER schedule—should begin this year with the excavation of the Tokamak Building as the next big step. The European Domestic Agency in Barcelona will allocate more than 150 people to the ITER site this year in order to oversee this effort.

At the end of April the preparation for the next ITER Council meetings will get into full swing with the Resource Review, led again by Dr. Frank Briscoe. By then, the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies will have to conclude a detailed work plan defining who does what, from finishing the design, documentation, construction oversight, testing, delivery to, installation and commissioning. The joint meeting is essential in overseeing this process and the groundwork was put down in this meeting. Doing all this work in a most cost efficient manner is a constant concern and various ideas are under discussion.

Alain LeBris, ITER safety officer, and Bruno Coutourier, in charge for the installation of the rotogate on behalf of Agence Iter France, were the first to walk through the new gate today.
Since Monday morning at 10.00 a.m. the whole of ITER is finally at walking distance again. This morning, the "rotogate," the pedestrian access which gives all of us walking access to our colleagues on the other side of the CEA fence, has become operational.

To celebrate the opening of this pedestrian gate, which will reunite the ITER team after almost two months of geographical separation, there will be an Open House at ITER Headquarters on Wednesday 21 January between 12.00 and 14.00.

This will be the opportunity for those of you who have not seen the new building yet, to come and have a look around. It will also be the occasion for all of us to take some time to say hello and have a drink with old and new colleagues.

The rotogate will be open daily from 7.30 to 19.30, so no more driving around to go to meetings or to see your colleagues; all you need is your CEA badge to walk through the gate. But, and this is important, you will have to go to the CEA main entrance (open from 7.30 to 16.30 everyday), to get your badge reprogrammed.

So we are counting on you to come and pay your colleagues a visit at the ITER Headquarters on 21 January. We are looking forward to seeing you between 12.00 and 14.00 to have a drink with us in the corridors of the new Headquarters building.

Representatives from Nippon Steel Engineering symbolically breaking ground during the ceremony.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the ITER jacketing facility was held at the Nippon Steel Engineering Facility in Kokura, Kyushu, Japan last Thursday. A traditional Shinto ceremony took place for the safe and successful construction of the facility in which 25 percent of the ITER toroidal field conductors and all of the central solenoid conductors will be jacketed. The conductors with a current-carrying capacity of 45 kA at 13T and 70 kA at 12T will have a total length of 68 kilometres.

The contract with Nippon Steel Engineering was placed by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). The ceremony was attended by about 40 representatives of Nippon Steel Engineering Group companies, the Japanese Domestic Agency, and the ITER Organization.

The cost of the construction contract is about EUR 30 million. The jacketing facility, to be constructed over the next 12 months, consists of an equipment hall about 80 m by 40 m, that houses welding, inspection, compaction and spooling machines, and a one-kilometre-long double roller bench. There is also a building to hold the pre-assembled empty steel jacket until the superconducting cable is pulled into it.

This is the second conductor fabrication facility being built under the ITER framework. The first, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Hefei, China, is of a comparable size and will be used to jacket about 75 percent of the poloidal and 10 percent of the toroidal field conductors. The civil engineering construction in China is finished and the equipment installation is underway.

Sophie Gourod
If you think ITER has been growing fast in 2008, wait until you see what will happen in 2009. From just over 300 employees at the turn of the year, we may well be close to 500 by the end of 2009.

And to help us recruit and integrate these new employees as efficiently as possible, Sophie Gourod joined ITER on 5 January. She is the responsible officer for the recruitment and training plan within the Human Resources Division. Part of her job will be to coordinate the work of the recruitment team to prepare and manage the upcoming recruitment waves. She will of course work closely with all departments to assess staff needs and to elaborate a recruitment plan. She will also ensure that the new positions are advertised as broadly as possible in order to attract the best candidates.

Sophie also plans to develop a welcome training program for new arrivals to give them global information about the project, as well as practical information on internal rules and regulations, health benefits, retirement plan, and how to use the internal information database IDM, etc.

Setting up a training plan will be her other key mission, and more particularly, developing corporate training sessions on security and safety (in close collaboration with the relevant department) and management training, but also working with departments on setting up specific technical training courses.

Before joining ITER, Sophie worked at the CEA and for recruitment agencies for 10 years. The last three years she was Head of Communication for the Cadarache Centre, but before that she was responsible for training and worked as a consultant in recruitment. So in a way she is coming back to her first love because her background is in occupational psychology and human resources, and that is the field she feels most passionate about.

"I am really thrilled to join ITER in this job," she says. "It is the perfect combination between my background and what I enjoy doing. And doing this job in a project like ITER, where the international aspect adds multiple complexities to finding, integrating and retaining the best people, is an even greater challenge."

The first ITER Staff Committee election in January 2008.
This week is going to be a busy week when it comes to staff events. Most importantly, this week will see the election of a new Staff Committee.

The first Staff Committee was elected in January of last year. Its key mission is to represent the professional interests of all staff, including the aspects of employment, working, safety and welfare conditions of the staff and to act as an intermediate body facilitating communication between the Director-General and the staff on these matters.

The current members of the Committee, who were elected in January 2008, are coming to the end of their mandate and the ITER staff is being asked to elect new staff representatives for the Staff Committee.

Only ITER directly employed and seconded staff is eligible and has the right to vote.

An election committee has been set up to coordinate all the aspects of this election. It is composed of two members from HR and two members from the former Staff Committee:

- Laurence Depois (HR)

- Jeanne Fouliard (HR)

- Bertrand Beaumont (SC)

- Chang Shuk Kim (SC)

Those who want to submit their candidature for the Staff Committee can do so until Monday 19 January at noon by email to the following address: SC2009ElectionCommittee@iter.org.

On Tuesday 20 January the candidates will be asked to present themselves to the rest of the staff during a Staff-only meeting from 13.30 to 15.30 at the Salle Polyvalente.

On Thursday 22 January, ITER staff on the CEA side of the fence will be able to vote from 9.00 to 12.00 and 14.00 to 17.00 in 507/015.

On Friday 23 January, ITER staff in the ITER HQ building will be able to vote from 8.30 to 10.00 and 12.15 to 14.00 in P22.

The staff will be informed on the outcome of these elections as soon as the results are available.


François-Xavier Loizeau, Bishop of the Diocese of Digne, visited ITER on 15 January. He was accompanied by Father Gilbert Marijsse, parish priest of Manosque, and several members of the catholic community. Against an unusual Provencal background of blue sky and white, snow-covered ground, the group visited the ITER site and heard presentations from Thierry Brossseron from Agence Iter France and Neil Calder from the ITER Organization.

A seismic pad—here at the CEA's "STAR" reactor—sandwiched between the upper and the lower concrete basemat.
ITER will be the first tokamak bedded on a soft pillow. In order to assure safe operations at all times, even in the event of an earthquake, ITER will be placed on 560 pads made of elastomer, an elastic polymer, and steel.

According to the Global Seismic Hazard Map, the ITER site is situated in a low to moderate seismic area. It sits on a limestone bedrock close to the confluence of the Durance and the Verdon rivers. Severe earthquakes are rare in the region—yet they have happened: on 11 June 1909, an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter Scale, the strongest ever recorded in metropolitan France, made the earth tremble and destroyed numerous houses in Lambesc, a small village between Aix-en-Provence and Salon—de-Provence. In what was then a sparsely-populated area, 46 people died, another 250 were wounded, and approximately 2,000 buildings were damaged. Geologists later blamed the rupture of the Trévaresse Ridge for the disaster, a WNW-trending, southerly-verging fault-propagation fold developed during late Miocene.

An earthquake of that strength is unlikely to reoccur during the life cycle of the ITER facility. Nevertheless, the ITER Organization as the operator of a nuclear facility has to guarantee safe operation under any circumstance. In order to provide seismic isolation, the ITER Tokamak Complex, including the tokamak building itself, the diagnostic building and the tritium plant, will be seated on a bed made out of 560 spring-like rubber pads or bearings as they are officially called. "The reason to place the whole complex on a single foundation is to minimize any relative displacement of the various pipes, ducts and cooling water supply running between the three buildings in the case of a seismic event," says Laurent Patisson, ITER Section Leader for Nuclear Buildings.

The use of anti-seismic pads is a common technique for damping bridges, tall buildings and some fission reactors. ITER will be the first fusion device sitting on such "cushions." The pads developed for ITER are square shaped and approximately 0.90 x 0.90 m. They form a sort of "sandwich" comprising alternate layers of elastomer and metal plate.

The height of each "sandwich" is approximately 20 centimetres. They will rest on concrete columns each 1.8 metres high. Some 560 of them will be distributed throughout the Tokamak Complex foundation raft so as to best match a uniform vertical load to be supported. An appropriate minimum distance is left around the pads to allow for regular inspection and the possible replacement of bearing pads. In total, a two-metre clearance height is thus provided in the "basement," allowing accessibility for inspection and maintenance. "This is a lesson learned from former projects," says Patisson. "There are cases when there was not enough room provided for maintenance access, so the workers had to roll in the cavern underneath the concrete, lying on their backs looking up."

At the end of 2005, the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) jointly with the Jules Horowitz Reactor, currently under construction on the CEA site in Cadarache, launched a qualification program with a series of tests that were performed throughout 2006 and 2007. The design of the bearings is currently under its final review by the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies. It will then be submitted to the Nuclear Safety Authority in the framework of the licensing process.

Cédric Chaumette and Jürgen Dirnberger watch over the strategic data produced by ITER.
Every night around 11 p.m. hard disks start clicking and whirring in a secure room on the first floor of JWS2. Bit by bit, all the data that has been produced and locally saved by ITER over the past 15 hours embarks on a long night voyage through cyberspace. By early morning all emails, spreadsheets, heavy files from the Design Office and other "strategic data" will have reached their destination. Another rack of hard disks, in another safe room some 550 kilometres further south in Barcelona, at the "Fusion for Energy" Office.

Remote backup, which is operational since the end of December 2008, has been set up by the "Osiatis team"—some ten people within the IT division who are in charge of systems administration and user support.

Remote backup is to ITER what a USB key or a portable disk is to every one of us: a way to make sure that there is always a backup, whatever happens to the original data.

A remote backup though is not just an oversized storage device. It comes with an array of redundant safeguards and controls, both logical and physical, which guarantee that—should a major problem arise here—ITER could be "restarted" from Barcelona and no data would be lost.

With data travelling 60 to 70 times faster than through a standard DSL connection, the whole saving process is usually completed within two to six hours, depending on the amount of data produced over the day.

"Based on experience and projections, we have set up a total storage capacity of 30 terabytes (30,000 gigabytes), with the option to add more disks as ITER grows," says Cedric Chaumette, the Osiatis team leader in charge of the operation.

Want to know what the bottom of the ocean was like in Jurassic time, one hundred and fifty million years ago? Just look at the big rock formation south of the bridge of Mirabeau.

It is made of successive limestone layers which were once sediments accumulated on the ocean floor, explains Jean-Simon Pagès, a geologist at Digne Geological Reservation. As the deposits happened in infrequent cycles, every layer is clearly separated from the other.

By the mid Cretaceous, some 100 million years ago, plate tectonics started pushing Africa toward Europe; large folds appeared on the ocean floor rising higher and higher as tectonic forces exercised more and more pressure.

Out of this process, which lasted tens of millions of years, the mountains of Provence were born and slowly twisted into their present shape—the Luberon, Sainte-Victoire, Lure, each following an east-west direction.

70 million years ago, when they were only mere undulations in a tropical, swampy landscape, they became home to the dominant fauna of the time—the last dinosaurs, whose fossilized eggshells can still be found around Sainte-Victoire.

The rock formation at Mirabeau is one of the most perfect examples of an "anticline"—a convex fold with its oldest beds at its core—and one of France's most famous geological landmarks.

Choong-Seock Chang, a research professor at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, has received a Department of Energy (DOE) award to carry out ultra large-scale computation using the Cray XT supercomputer at the department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The awarded 20 million hours of computing time—roughly equivalent to running a single-processor desktop computer for more than 2,280 years—is among the largest awards given to a single project and will be used to simulate plasma fusion processes.

In his recently published book Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking author Charles Seife argues that the grand hopes put on fusion research push scientists to make unjustified claims of major advances. "But in pursuing the controversies generated by a few isolated individuals, Sun in a Bottle neglects the more important story of the wider fusion community," says Jean Jacquinot who reviewed Seife's book for the magazine Nature.

The next safety training for the new arrivals will take place on Wednesday, 21 January, at 11.00 in room P20 (Headquarters building). Anybody who could not participate previously will be welcome, but should contact Alain Le Bris (alain.leBris@iter.org) beforehand to confirm that there will be space.