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"Our world is in danger. We as a species must make a decision," former US Vice-President Al Gore appealed to scientists at this year's AAAS Assembly in Chicago. © Colella Photography, 2009
Chicago, the "windy city," was once again living up to its name. Temperatures near freezing forced the amblers in Millennium Park to pull their bonnets down over their ears and their scarves across their faces. Vapour steaming out of chimneys high above the city was clearly outlined against the crisp blue sky. No cloud troubled the view that Saturday morning. Not outside, anyway!

A few minutes' walk north to the majestic Hyatt Regency Hotel, however, and grim clouds overshadowed this year's assembly of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In the Grand Ballroom, Stanford researcher Christopher Field was reporting that greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 to 2007 had been underestimated. "There is a real risk that human-caused climate change will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide from forest and tundra ecosystems, which have been storing a lot of carbon for thousands of years." Professor Field, one of the authors of a 2007 landmark report on climate change, said future temperatures "will be beyond anything predicted."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had underestimated the rate of change, Field stated. The report predicted temperature rises between 1.1 °C and 6.4 °C over the next century. He said fresh data showed greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2007 increased far more rapidly than expected. "We are basically looking now at a future climate that is beyond anything that we've considered seriously in climate policy."

Most scientists view what is happening now in the Arctic as a harbinger of things to come. Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. Arctic ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. Images from NASA satellites show that the area of permanent ice cover is contracting at a rate of 9 percent each decade. If this trend continues, summers in the Arctic could soon become ice-free. How soon this will happen is the question dividing the scientific community. But all agree that the Arctic summer ice shield will disappear before the end of the century.

"We haven't got much time left; we have to act now," Field urged. His appeal was reiterated by Al Gore later the same day. Gore called on scientists to help convey a sense of urgency about climate change to policy makers and the public. "Our world is in danger. We need you!"

On 21-22 January, the CODAC group organized a face-to-face meeting at the ITER site with representatives from the Domestic Agencies in Russia, India, Korea, Japan, United States and Europe. The current development status, as well as a roadmap for future work, was presented. Finally, the members of the CODAC Project Management Working Group (PMWG) witnessed the demonstration of the plant system host "proof-of-concept." The plant system host is, together with high performance networks, the single interface between central CODAC and all local plant system instrumentation and control (I&C). It is a standard component, provided by the ITER Organization, and customized by means of configuration for each plant system. The plant system host is a key component in order to achieve a fully integrated ITER control system.

Close cooperation: ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda with Bernard Bigot ...
Bernard Bigot, the French High Commissioner for Atomic Energy since 2003, has been appointed CEA Administrator-General. He succeeds Alain Bugat, whose second three-year term at the head of CEA ended in January.

A physicist by training, Bernard Bigot was Director-General at the French Ministry of Research from 1998 to 2000 and Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Research in 2002. He will retain his function as High Commissioner and National French Coordinator for ITER.

As CEA Administrator-General, he has appointed Robert Aymar as his special adviser for ITER matters. Aymar was CERN Director-General from 2003 to 2008. As ITER Engineering Design Activities (EDA) Director in 1994 and ITER International Team Leader in 2001, Robert Aymar has been closely associated with the ITER Project for many years. A pioneer in fusion research, Aymar directed the Tore Supra project from its conceptual design in 1977 through its construction and into operation in 1988.

Each year in February, students from French graduate universities within a federation called "Education for Fusion Sciences" regroup at Cadarache to follow advanced courses on frontline science and technology related to magnetic fusion. The master course aims to provide interdisciplinary knowledge and skills preparing scientists and engineers from France and foreign countries that are keen on studying in energy and fusion research programs, specifically within the framework of large projects, both in national or private laboratories.

Last week, ITER Principal Deputy Director-General Norbert Holtkamp welcomed the students and described the project's boundary conditions. This was followed by an informal address given by ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda. Speaking for the professors and the organizers of the fusion Master's course, Jean Jacquinot said he was "very grateful to the director of ITER for his enthusiastic support and for the strong involvement of key ITER staff, including the Principal Deputy Director-General himself for providing high-level lectures during this gathering and for offering three internships for master thesis work." The senior management of the ITER Organization has recently decided to offer three students a 5-6 month internship starting this year.

John Holdren, President Barack Obama's designated Science Advisor and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), underwent his Senate confirmation hearing on 12 February. In his prepared remarks, Holdren said, "The cost and complexity of cutting-edge accelerators, telescopes, and certain experimental energy technologies (such as the ITER fusion experiment) are good reason in themselves for sharing the costs and risks internationally. I have been involved in international cooperation on fusion and other energy technologies since 1971, and if confirmed by the Senate I will be most eager to put the insights derived from that experience to good use in OSTP."

Helen Henderson Hinton, new technical coordination assistant for the ITER Project, visited the United States ITER Project Office (USIPO) earlier this month to meet some of the staff members with whom she will regularly interface and coordinate. Helen (centre) is shown with USIPO staff (from left) Jama Hill, Business Manager; Bonnie Hébert, Human Resources and Communications Manager; Karen Andrews, Document Control Center Manager; and Tonia McPeters, Executive Assistant.

Bernice C. Rogers has been appointed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Manager for the US ITER Tokamak exhaust processing system. In this capacity, she reports to Ned R. Sauthoff, US ITER Project Manager, and to Benjamin J. Cross, Manager, Nuclear Energy Programs, Savannah River National Laboratory. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University.

The control room of COMPASS opened its doors to the media on 19 February to record the first shots of plasma operations, less than two years after its move from the UK to the Czech Republic capital.

COMPASS, mothballed after its career as one of the key fusion experiments in the UK in the 1990s, was "sold" to the Institute of Plasma Physics for a token sum of £1 to start a second life as a focus for the expanding Czech fusion program. It will be the smallest tokamak with a clear H-mode and ITER-relevant geometry.

The Czechs' amazing achievement in starting operations in this very short time, already achieving shots of 100 kA for 30 milliseconds, was acknowledged by Yvan Capouet, Head of the European Commission's Research Unit J4 Fusion Agreements, who spoke at a short ceremony. He said that the IPP's previous experience with the CASTOR experiment and international teams were driving factors for success. Congratulating the team, he invited them to go to work, as there was much work to be done to prepare for ITER and the future of fusion energy. The current President of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic echoed his words, wishing good luck to his young colleagues, including participants coming from abroad.

Speaking by video link from the previous home of COMPASS, William Morris, Head of the Experiments Department at UKAEA Culham, congratulated the team on the speed and efficiency with which the machine had been moved and re-commissioned. It had been an astonishing feat that was an example to the whole fusion community.

Anatoli Krasilnikov, Head of ITER Russian Domestic Agency (left), and Victor Vdovin, a radio frequency specialist from the Kurchatov Institute, Moscow (right), were welcomed to JET by Jef Ongena on Wednesday 18 February. They gave a seminar on ITER-relevant ion cyclotron resonance heating (ICRH) regimes at JET. (Photo: Jennifer Hay, JET)

Director-General Kaname Ikeda meets Alain Bouyssie, President of the ASCEA; Serge Durand, Director of the CEA; and the presidents of the all the different ASCEA sports sections, to celebrate the signing of the agreement that allows ITER employees to become member of the ASCEA and benefit from their facilities and conditions.

Power Supply welcomes their new colleagues from Korea: Joel Hourtoule, Yong-Hwan Kim, Suksoon Chae, Jonghyo Jeong, Ivone Benfatto and (guest starring) Günter Janeschitz.
ITER makes the world shrink. Early February this year, Suksoon Chae and Jonghyo Jeong, two electrical engineers from the Korean Company KOPEC, packed up their families and belongings to move to southern France where they will live and work for the ITER Project for the next twelve months. Suksoon and Jonghyo are amongst the first commercial contractors to arrive on site. The power plant electrical engineers will support the Electrical Division and help prepare the Procurement Arrangement for the engineering design of ITER's AC/DC power supply system. While they do so, their children are also connecting to "la vie en France": They are enrolled at the International School of Manosque.

In order to cope with the extreme electromagnetic forces, pre-compression rings (red) will be installed.
ITER will be the biggest tokamak built so far. The electromagnetic forces acting on the machine structure during operation will be huge—to the order of several hundred meganewtons (MN). In order to cope with the out-of-plane forces caused by electromagnetic interaction between the toroidal field coil current and the magnetic field generated by the poloidal field coils, pre-compression rings will be installed to pre-compress the poloidal keys at the top and bottom of the inner straight leg of the toroidal field coils with a centripetal force of 32MN. This will suppress any gap opening and greatly reduce any cyclic fatigue stresses.

But what material would hamper the induced currents and withstand the high loads? A thorough study of possible alternatives was carried out at the Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente (ENEA) in Frascati, Italy, and the most suitable material turned out to be S2 glass-fiber/epoxy composite. More recently, a mockup compression ring one fifth the original size was manufactured following vacuum pressure impregnation techniques. By using this technique, it is possible to reach over 60 percent glass content in the composite which results in a stiffness of over 50 gigapascale (GPa): four times lower than that of steel which would accommodate machine settling effects.

On 28 January this year, a rupture test was carried out reaching an amazing 1400 Megapascal (MPa) before breaking in a testing facility specifically prepared with this aim. This is more than a factor of three higher than the ITER design value of 440MPa. A large-scale testing facility is now foreseen to be built for the qualification of the final rings. The Procurement Arrangement is scheduled to be signed this year.

Deep in the Manosque countryside, a subterranean realm as monumental as it is inconspicuous. © Geostock/Geosel
This is the national equivalent of a domestic oil tank: France's largest and most secure strategic oil reserve is housed deep in the salt substratum of the Luberon mountains, some 10 kilometres north of Manosque, with 26 underground cavities, each of them as high as the Eiffel Tower and as wide as the Jefferson Monument.

Created forty years ago, this underground installation known as "Geosel" stores more than six million cubic metres of crude oil, gasoline and fuel. In the case of a crisis, this reserve would cover the needs of the French population for three weeks.

Geosel is connected to the petroleum installations on the Etang de Berre by way of a pipeline network. Should a major shortage occur, oil could be pumped out of the caves into the refineries, and gasoline and diesel directly into the storage tanks at Shell or Total. No such shortage has occurred since Geosel was created in 1969, however, and the facility has been used mainly to accommodate the industry's storage needs.

Work on the Geosel installations started in 1965 and was completed four years later. How does one create such a mammoth underground facility? "Salt is easily dissolved by water," explains Alain Herfray, Geosel installation chief. "Using oil industry techniques, a well was drilled for each of the 26 projected cavities. Drilling went through the roof of the salt dome and kept going until it reached a depth of 500 to 1,000 metres. Pressurized water was then injected, which caused the salt to slowly dissolve. Two to three years into this process, and bottle-shaped, water-tight cavities were born and available to store from 100,000 to 500,000 cubic metres of fuel..."

Since the cavities have to remain filled to the rim at all times, there is a constant flux of oil and brine in and out of the Geosel. Close to the installation two artificial ponds, each with a capacity of 100,000 cubic metres, act as buffers to retain the brine, which is then flushed into two lakes in the vicinity of Istres, close to the Fos-sur-Mer harbour.

Geosel is as monumental as it is inconspicuous: an ordinary administrative building, an array of pipes and choke manifolds are the only telling signs of this strange and amazing subterranean realm.

Alessandro Tessini, K.K. Gotewal, Magali Benchikhoune, R. Subramanian and V. Chaudhari (left to right).
With the support of the Institute for Plasma Research (IPR) in Gujarat, India, and the ITER Indian Domestic Agency, representatives of the ITER Hot Cell and Remote Handling divisions recently visited the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbay and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Chennai. The goal was to gather information and to discuss possible cooperation in the area of Hot Cell design and remote handling. "The discussions were extremely fruitful," Magali Benchikhoune and Alessandro Tessini, responsible officers for the ITER Hot Cell and ITER remote handling, summarized their mission. "India might become an important partner for the development of concepts and technologies required for the maintenance of the ITER machine," Tessini said.

This morning in Beijing: DG Ikeda meets the Vice Minister of MOST, Cao Jianlin...
In preparation for the next ITER Council meeting to take place in Japan from 17-18 June, ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda has embarked on a mission leading him to most of the ITER Member States. Last Friday, Ikeda together with the Principal Deputy Director-General Norbert Holtkamp flew to Moscow; today Ikeda arrived in Beijing where he met the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Jianlin Cao, and the Head of the Chinese Domestic Agency, Jinpei Cheng. Within the next days, Kaname Ikeda will continue his diplomatic tour to Japan and Korea.

Ibercivis, a volunteer computing project based in Spain, will aid ITER in its computational load. Ibercivis allows computer users to donate unused computing time from their personal computers to scientific research. While the Ibercivis resource broker and its storage elements are in Spain, project participants come from all over the world. The number of people donating their desktop resources for scientific computing has risen steadily, and is currently at about 20,000.

Physicist Professor Brian Cox has looked at the different strategies now being pursued to make nuclear fusion a reality. His personal assessment is presented on BBC Horizon.