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ITER NEWSLINE 70
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!"
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.