Last week, the members of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) convened in Cadarache for the fifth time since the implementation of the independent panel. As it is written down in the Terms of Reference, the TAG's purpose is to advise the ITER management on procurement and construction aspects of the project and to provide an independent assessment on the status of the design. TAG is chaired by Michel Huguet; its members are renowned experts on science and technology, and also on management and safety issues.
Besides looking at the ITER Organization's structure and the overall procurement and management progress, the members focused on technical issues such as the ITER Hot Cell, the design of the vacuum vessel including ELM coils, and blanket and remote handling activities. A preliminary summary was presented to the ITER management at the end of the meeting and a more comprehensive report will be prepared within the next weeks.
Honey bees can be trained to sniff out explosives such as TNT, so why not use them for localizing leaks within the ITER vacuum system? Or how about tiny flying robots that take off to explore the intestines of the system? Of course, there are also less fancy but nevertheless very efficient methods such as visible spectroscopy to detect the micron-sized (one millionth of a metre) leak in the system that could shut down the whole machine.
A number of technologies and ideas on how to localize leaks were presented in the recently held brainstorm meeting organized by the ITER Vacuum Group in collaboration with the European Domestic Agency. More than 65 participants from industry and science labs all over the world convened for a three-day "think tank" near Orange, France, to assess what technology exists and what will be required for ITER. "We saw and heard about many very promising technologies," explains Robert Pearce, Vacuum Pumping Section Leader. "But the key issue of ITER is its complexity and restricted accessibility. That makes it different from, and more challenging than, all the working systems we know of today."
The workshop was organized as an intense three-and-a-half day event which alternated between presentations and brainstorming in small working groups. Many of the delegates became so captivated by the issues that some discussions continued until the small hours of the morning. ITER Leak Technical Engineer and Deputy Working Group Chair Liam Worth explains. "The intensive working group format was an excellent way to brainstorm, with the discussions bearing more fruit as the group members began to understand the complexities of ITER systems and the challenge of leak localization."
Soon, the assessment reports from the five working groups will be presented. The next step then will be to define the road ahead, including designs to optimize and technology to investigate further.
The ITER Organization has always had a powerful brain, but until January, it was detached from its main body. Waiting for the Headquarters Building and a proper server room to be completed, its neurons and synapses were hosted by CEA in Tore Supra building. Then, on 9 March, the server was migrated and so ITER's brain finally rejoined ITER's body.
The ITER server, located on the ground floor of the Headquarters building, is composed of no less than 84 physical machines and more than 180 virtual servers. "This is the Operational Centre of the Organization," explains Jürgen Dirnberger, who coordinated the migration. "Everything goes through these servers: IP telephone system, mail, the management of videoconferences, IDM, data from the Design Office, everything ..."
In order to work properly, the server has to be kept cool at all times. Chips, motherboards, hard disks and power supplies all generate considerable heat. Maintaining the temperature in the server room under 18 °C requires an air conditioning system 30 times more powerful than an average home installation. And safety requires two such systems, amounting to a total of 200 kW of cooling power. This makes the server room a very cool and very noisy place.
Such a precious resource must be treated with great care. Every night, all the data produced in the previous 15 hours is automatically saved on a "remote backup" located at Fusion For Energy in Barcelona (see Newsline #65). Here at ITER, redundant safety systems guarantee that, no matter what, servers will keep serving. In case one air cooling system fails, the second one takes over. What if power fails? It can't! There is a 100 KW uninterruptible power supply (UPS) ready to take over at any time. ITER's UPS is a room-sized battery with 30 minutes of autonomy, soon to be supplemented with a second one which will bring the autonomy to a full hour. "Someone is always on call and half an hour is more than we need to start the diesel generator," says Jürgen.
OK, but what happens if a fire breaks out? Well, it wouldn't burn for long. The first plumes of smoke would almost instantly activate two giant argon canisters, and all the oxygen in the room would be neutralized—no oxygen, no fire.
"The system is young, and we're presently busy tuning it," says Cedric Chaumette, the Osiatis team leader, in charge of server room operations within the Department of CODAC and Information Technology (IT).
Last week, a delegation from the Power Supply and Design Integration divisions set off for Switzerland. It wasn't the country's famous ski slopes that the group was heading for, but another Swiss highlight: the CERN Laboratory and one of its biggest attractions, the ATLAS detector.
The ATLAS experiment is very similar to ITER in terms of its size and complexity, and with regard to its design integration work. The goal of the visit was to exchange methodology and experience in the management of digital mockups called configuration management models, and to benefit from CERN's experience in the application of cable management software in order to select software for the ITER Project.
On 1 April, the ITER Organization welcomed 15 new staff members, thus increasing the total number to 337 staff: 240 professional and 97 technical support. And the team will continue to grow. A second wave of recruitment has recently been launched with 74 positions published on the ITER website.
Click here to view latest jobs...
To have or not to have envelopes—that was one of the questions the Election Committee had to deal with when planning and preparing for the first Fusion For Energy (F4E) staff elections held last week.
The contenders represented a healthy mix of F4E "old-timers" and newer faces that were canvassing to be elected for a three-year period. Nationality-wise, Spaniards and Italians led the pack, with four contenders respectively.
Campaigning was a pretty homogeneous affair—candidates were bound by rules to present their manifestos in designated areas of F4E, in the kitchens and by the exit doors on each floor, and on the F4E-net (which served as the tool to collect and communicate all information related to the staff elections). Although the importance given to the different themes varied, issues such as schools, lunch tickets, flexi-time, and parking featured more or less in all campaign programs. Certain candidates used the fusion process as a catalyst for communicating their ideas, while others turned to Obama for inspiration: Yes We Can!
ITER is moving into the public spotlight. In 2008, Agence Iter France (AIF) and the ITER Organization welcomed about 4,000 visitors. With the activities on the construction site increasing, public attention will increase as well. "Since the beginning of this year, about 300 people have come to visit the site each week," says Sylvie André, in charge of Communications for AIF. "We are expecting to welcome about 8,000 visitors by the end of the year. And this is only the beginning!"
Last week special visits were organized all day Tuesday for CEA staff.
|It is going to be the biggest fusion furnace ever built—the ITER Tokamak. Last week, Gary Johnson, Deputy Director-General of the ITER Tokamak Department, introduced the main features of the ITER machine to the staff during the second internal "Inside ITER" presentation. "Inside ITER" was introduced in March this year as a way to inform the growing numbers of ITER staff members—a large percentage of whom are non-scientists—about what is happening in ITER.
Click here to see a short video clip of the talk ...
Click here to see part one of the "Inside ITER" series: "Introduction to Fusion" by David Campbell, Assistant Deputy Director-General for Fusion Science and Technology.
In the August 2008 issue of the ITER Newsline, we reported on efforts in the Design Office to streamline design activities between ITER Organization and the seven Domestic Agencies in order to meet Procurement Arrangement schedules in the timeliest manner.
"The ideal," says Eric Martin, Design Office Head, "is to have a global design office." That is, dedicated design teams from the Domestic Agencies able to work in real time on the same projects as their ITER colleagues. Excellent progress has been made toward this goal, with the launching of the first pilot database sharing tool last November at the US Domestic Agency in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
In the past—for distances of under 1,500 km, and depending on the network—it was possible to work live on design solutions from two different offices. For distances exceeding 1,500 km, however, the process was slow and best suited to clearly defined projects only. It was necessary to copy and export the design files, and simultaneous work on the same file was not possible. Today, the ITER Design Office is on the verge of promoting a new tool.
The Computer-Aided Design (CAD) data is saved and managed in a database called ENOVIA, very much in the same way that all-ITER saves its files in IDM. Database updates will be made regularly by ITER and the Domestic Agencies over a powerful collaborative network that works across very large distances, keeping all parties abreast of even the smallest change.
The need for such a tool is obvious. The ITER design includes some 10 million individual parts—half for the Tokamak alone. Interactions between these parts make the technology very complex. Without a high-performance CAD tool that allows the active participation of the Domestic Agencies, design work would be impossible. "Especially when you take into account all the frequent changes and iterations," says Eric.
About 90 contract designers have recently been hired from four different companies. Work is currently focusing on the ITER cryostat, but there will be a great need for outsourcing work for other machine components, and deployment of ENOVIA to all seven Domestic Agencies is a priority. To this end, a CAD Collaboration Team has been formed, led by Eric Thomas on the ITER side and Dave Williamson, Daniel Ciarlette and Ron Sheldon on the US ITER side.
"The interest in the Domestic Agencies is great, and we are going to help all we can by sharing the experience acquired in the pilot US program. In the future, design collaboration will be like a huge tree, with each agency managing its own CAD design staff, as well as outside contractors," predicts Eric.
Only ten months after the groundbreaking ceremony (anzenkigansai), the International Fusion Energy Research Centre (IFERC)—also called the Broader Approach site—was opened at Rokkasho, Japan on 30 March. About 50 people from the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and from the IFMIF/EVEDA Project Team moved to this new site.
The International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) and related Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (EVEDA) are part of the Broader Approach Agreement between the European Union and Japan. IFMIF will be an accelerator-based neutron irradiation facility that will focus on developing and characterizing fusion reactor materials.
The official inauguration of the IFERC will be held on 10 April, in the presence of the Governor of the Aomori prefecture, Mr. Mimura; the Mayor of Rokkasho, Mr. Furukawa; a representative of Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT); and the president of JAEA, Mr. Okazaki. The ITER Director-General, Kaname Ikeda, will send a video message on this occasion. The other buildings such as the supercomputer and remote experiment building, the DEMO R&D building, and accelerator prototype building will become available in March 2010.
The 2009 Education Exhibition of Catalonia, Spain, opened its doors 18-22 March to welcome more than 80,000 students at the crossroads of some serious decision making: which degree? Which university? what career?
The annual event brings together universities, vocational training schools, occupational training centres, language schools and baccalaureate programs. This year's feature was the creation of a new science/technology area in order to stimulate the interest of young people and promote scientific careers.
The European Domestic Agency "Fusion For Energy" was asked by the Fundació Catalana per a la Recerca i la Innovació (FCRI) to participate in the science and technology area in order to explain the basics about fusion energy, the objectives of the ITER Project and the types of career linked to this project.
We deployed troops from the technical, human resources and communication departments to respond to the different types of questions raised by our young citizens, which defied all standard clichés. We were confronted with an opinionated and critical young generation that expressed its hopes and fears about the energy crisis, the need for sustainable solutions and the challenge to bring the energy of the sun to earth. Most students were impressed with the size of the reactor and the small quantity of fusion fuel that we need to generate electricity. Their favourite questions were about plasma temperatures, magnetic confinement and sustainability. Our favourite question was "When will you join us?"
Sergei Putvinski was born and raised in Leningrad, and began his professional career at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. In 1991, he left what was still the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to join JET and later the ITER Joint Work Site in San Diego. "Although all these years I've kept strong scientific connections with the Russian fusion program, I haven't spent much time in what is now the Russian Federation. But I do feel privileged to have experienced two completely different systems applied to the same country."
There are other things, rather unusual for a physicist, which Sergei has also experienced—like being a partner in a start-up company: "starting from scratch, developing and demonstrating a new concept for nuclear waste processing" and ending up with a working prototype but no clients. "A very rewarding experience," despite the commercial failure.
Sergei went into private industry in 1999 when the ITER site in San Diego closed following the US withdrawal from the program. "My sons were still in high school in the US, so I decided to stay."
A plasma specialist, Sergei joined the Japanese-born scientist Tihiro Ohkawa in a privately-funded nuclear waste plasma processing venture. "The process was based on mass separation. In two years, we were able to build a full-scale prototype and we demonstrated that the technology worked. I spent eight years on that project and learned a lot."
Sergei is a man of two worlds, and he brings that experience to ITER, which he joined less than two months ago as Senior Scientific Officer for energetic particle physics. In his Soviet Union days, he had worked on T-10 and T-15 and had been involved in the design of T-14, a very high-field machine designed to be tritium-compatible. His time in America familiarized him with the industrial and financial challenges in a science project. He knows what it takes "to make it happen."
For all new arrivals who wonder why we frequently hear sirens on the CEA site, here are the answers. Every Thursday at 13h00 there is a general alert test for the CEA Centre that starts with an intermittent sound and ends with a continuous alarm. In case of an emergency, you should stay indoors or enter the nearest building; close all windows and doors; and follow the instructions given over the loudspeakers. If required, take out the emergency mask and suit provided at the entrance of each building and put them on. If there are newcomers or visitors around, please help them. Use the telephone for safety purposes only.
So far, so good. If it's not Thursday but Wednesday and you hear a siren at midday, do not worry!! This is another test alarm that is turned on precisely at noon every first Wednesday of the month. It's part of the Particular Intervention Plan (PPI) to alert the people living in the neighbourhood of Cadarache in the event of a nuclear accident at the CEA Centre.
Some fresh air for the dynamic gas flow experts: The ITER Vacuum Group showing the construction site to their guests from US ITER, to Professor Felix Sharipov from Brazil, and to Professor Irina Graur from the University in Marseille.