On 17-18 June, the ITER Council, the governing body of the ITER Organization, convened for its fourth meeting. The two-day meeting in Mito, Japan brought together representatives from the seven ITER Members: China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.
The ITER Council endorsed as a working basis for development of the project baseline the phased approach to the completion of ITER construction and the target date for First Plasma by the end of 2018, maintaining operation with deuterium and tritium fuels in 2026. The Council also requested the finalization of a realistic schedule with the resources needed to complete ITER construction. In order to substantially reduce overall risk the primary components of the ITER machine will be assembled and tested together before the progressive installation of in-vessel components continues. A similar approach has been adopted during the construction of all major tokamaks. "Council recognized that this is a responsible way to build ITER", said ITER Council chair Prof. Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith. "Agreement on this approach was a key milestone towards the planned adoption of the baseline at the next meeting in November."
The Director-General of the ITER Organization, Kaname Ikeda, reported on progress since the third meeting of the ITER Council in November 2008. He thanked the governments of the ITER Members for their ongoing support, saying "We are creating a new model of global collaboration and the world is watching our progress. We have come together to catalyze the next stage of development of ITER and I hope and trust that the 4th ITER Council meeting will be a memorable event on the way to the demonstration of fusion as a safe, limitless, energy source."
The Council reviewed the reports from the various committees and working groups, showing progress on establishing the policies and procedures of this new global collaboration.
The ITER Council appointed an assessor to carry out the Management Assessment, which according to the ITER Agreement, must be undertaken at least every two years, and established a Steering Committee for the Assessment.
Read the full press release here (English)...
Read the full press release here (French)...
The European Commission welcomed the outcome of the Council meeting.
"The outcome of today's Council is an important step in the right direction", the EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, said in a press release, "but a number of conditions still have to be met to reach this goal. Together with our international partners, we will intensify our work to obtain credible costs assessment, including means to contain them and to find ways to further improve the efficiency of the project's management at international and EU level."
On 15 and 16 June, the third annual PREFIT workshop (Preparation of Remote Handling Engineers for ITER - http://www.prefit.eu/) hosted by the CEA. The workshop was attended by approximately 40 engineers from 17 organizations and 6 countries. The six PREFIT PhD researchers presented their work and eight invited specialists presented various topical aspects of remote handling research from various application sectors. The participants were also given the opportunity to see and participate in demonstrations of remote handling work being done at CEA List.
PREFIT is in the third year of its four-year program funded by the European Commission under the European Fusion Training Scheme (EFTS) initiative. The PREFIT training is delivered by four partners: Oxford Technologies Ltd, CEA, Tampere University of Technology and VTT Technical Research Centre. Over the next year, this collaboration will produce six PhD-level qualified engineers able to work on ITER remote handling challenges. Previous workshops were hosted by Oxford Technologies Ltd in the UK and TUT/VTT in Finland.
The PREFIT researchers have over the past three years conducted ITER-relevant research and participated in on-the-job training at partner sites for six-month periods. The annual two-day workshop is held immediately following an annual two-week PREFIT Summer School at which the PREFIT researchers participate in intensive classroom/lab type training in the areas of specialization by each partner.
The PREFIT scheme will cease to exist in its present form when the EFTS contract expires in 2010, but discussions are ongoing for a new scheme under the Goal Oriented Training Scheme (GOTS) initiative.
Recent distinguished visitors to the US ITER Project Office included several members of Japan's Domestic Agency, who were in Oak Ridge to help coordinate central solenoid conductor supply and coil manufacture activities. Shown with USIPO managers Carl Strawbridge (second from left) and John Miller (far right) are Ryuji Yoshino, Kiyoshi Okuno, Yoshikazu Takahashi, and Kazuya Hamada. The Korean Domestic Agency has entirely redesigned its website. You'll find detailed information about the Korean in-kind contributions to ITER and the ITER Project in general, presented in a colourful and dynamic fashion and fully translated into English. It was time to say goodby on Tuesday, when the Max-Planck-Institute for Plasmaphysics (IPP) in Garching, Germany, officially said farewell to its two former directors, Alexander Bradshaw and Karl Tichmann. Bradshaw, Commander of the British Empire and a Fellow of the Royal Society, had been the scientific director of the institute from 1999 until 2008 and as such played an important role during the early phases of the ITER Project whose European team was based at the IPP. Karl Tichmann was the fusion lab's administrative director from 1996 until 2009 and his role in the history of the institute and the funding of fusion research in Germany in general "shall not be underestimated," stressed Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolf, in charge of fusion research within the German government (click here to read the speech). "More than once Karl Tichmann managed to manoeuvre the lurching ship back on course."
The new faces in the upper floor of the IPP are Günther Hasinger and Christina Wenninger-Mrozek.
Read the IPP press releases on this issue here:
Read the press release on Günther Hasinger...
Read the press release on Wenninger-Mrozek...
Titled "Work site, International School, ITER Itinerary: The Reassuring Figures," the French newspaper La Provence published the third part of its series on the ITER Project this week.
Read the article (in French)
"Work pace is accelerating at International School" was the headline of another article on the construction progress of the new building for the International School of Manosque.
Read the article here (in French)...
This week, at the ITER Council meeting in Mito, Japan, Procurement Arrangements for the divertor outer target and the Tokamak cooling water system were signed. The outer target will be delivered by Japan; the Tokamak cooling water system by the United States. US ITER also signed the Procurement for its share of the conductors for ITER's toroidal field coils. Today, Norbert Holtkamp, ITER Principal Deputy Director-General and Didier Gambier, Director-General of the European Domestic Agency also signed the contract for ITER's polodial field magnets number 2 to 6. That moves the score of Procurement Arrangements signed up to 23.
Located at the very bottom of the vacuum vessel, the ITER divertor is made up of 54 remotely-removable cassettes, each holding three plasma-facing components, or targets. These are the dome and the inner and the outer vertical targets. All three plasma-facing units are coated with tungsten-carbon fibre composite, a high-refractory material. The targets are situated at the intersection of magnetic field lines where the high-energy plasma particles strike the components. Their kinetic energy is transformed into heat; the heat flux received by these components is extremely intense and requires active water cooling.
The Tokamak cooling water system (TCWS) consists of four systems: the primary heat transfer systems, the chemical and volume control systems, the drain and refilling systems, and the srying aystem.
The heat transfer system shall provide the cooling water for the heat removal during plasma operations for the main in-vessel components: the vacuum vessel, the first wall of the blanket, the divertor, and the neutral beam injectors. It has to maintain the coolant temperatures, pressures and flow rates to ensure component temperatures and thermal margins during the operating campaign. It also provides the cooling water to client systems for heat removal after the plasma shut down, the baking for the vacuum vessel and the in-vessel components.
The chemical and volume control systems mainly provide purification of the coolant to minimize the corrosion of the steel and the water volume control for the primary heat transfer systems; the drain and refilling systems provide storage capacity for draining the vacuum vessel and its in-vessel components to permit maintenance; the drying system is a gas circuit that provides nitrogen to blow out the residual water from the in-vessel components, after their draining, also drying them out by evaporation to support the procedure to detect and to localize possible water leaks inside the vacuum vessel. This system shall also provide hot gas (nitrogen or helium) for baking the divertor cassettes at 350 °C permitting the outgassing and removal of hydrogen isotopes from dusts deposited on their surfaces.
The total value of the procurement is about EUR 96 million.
The third procurement signed in Mito this week was the US share on the manufacturing of the toroidal field conductors, which represents 7.82 percent of the total package. ITER's toroidal magnet system is made up of 18 coils plus one spare. The toroidal field coil conductor is a cable-in-conduit conductor (CICC) made up of superconducting, niobium-tin (Nb3Sn)-based strands mixed with pure copper strands. The strands are assembled in a multi-stage cable around an open central spiral. The cable and its spiral are then inserted inside a stainless steel jacket. The jacket provides the helium confinement and must conform to the leak tightness standard defined herein. The copper and Nb3Sn-based strands are chromium plated to prevent sintering during heat treatment and control strand-to-strand contact resistances.
Last but not least, Didier Gambier signed the Procurement Arrangement for ITER's poloidal field coils 2 to 6 on behalf of Europe. Poloidal field coil number one will be manufactured by Russia.
The poloidal field magnets pinch the plasma away from the walls and contribute in this way to maintaining the plasma's shape and stability. The poloidal field is induced both by the magnets and by the current drive in the plasma itself.
The poloidal field coil system consists of six horizontal coils placed outside the toroidal magnet structure. Due to their size, the actual winding of five of the six poloidal field coils will take place in a dedicated, 250-metre long coil winding building on the ITER site in Cadarache. The smallest of the poloidal field coils will be manufactured offsite and delivered finished.
The ITER poloidal field coils are also made of cable-in-conduit conductors. Two different types of strands are used according to operating requirements, each displaying differences in high-current and high-temperature behaviour.
The total value of this procurement is worth about EUR 63 million.
This Wednesday, 24 June, Sir Chris Llewellyn-Smith, Chairman of the ITER Council, will be talking to the ITER staff about the outcome of the ITER Council meeting which took place in Japan this week. The all-staff meeting will take place from 10.00 to 10.45. After a short break from 10.45 to 11.00, this all-staff meeting will be followed by an "Inside ITER" seminar about "The Energy Challenge," also by Sir Chris Llewellyn-Smith from 11.00 to 12.00.
And, to take advantage of most of the staff being there, we have moved forward our end-of-June "Happy Friday" to that same day. Exceptionally we will have a "Happy Wednesday", right after the Inside ITER seminar.
To accommodate the whole ITER team, an increasingly big crowd, none of the meeting rooms we generally use is big enough and so for this occasion we will put up a tent on the parking area next to the Headquarters building.
So do not miss these two talks: the first about the progress of ITER; the second about its broader context ... the need for energy. We look forward to seeing you there!
Fusion science has been a matter of progressive understanding, painstaking work and patient but continuous progress. Once the fundamentals of magnetic confinement had been established in the early 1950s and the tokamak became the dominant concept in the 1970s, major advances were made but few actual "discoveries."
One of these momentous events, probably one of the most important in the history of fusion research, occurred on 4 February 1982. Experimenting on the ASDEX tokamak at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Garching, Germany, the German scientist Fritz Wagner was confronted by a totally unexpected "transition" in the neutral beam heating experiment he was conducting. "It came out of nothing," recalled the recently retired 65-year old physicist during a visit to ITER. "It wasn't predicted, it just happened..."
What was soon to be known as the "H-mode" (H for High) appeared first as "a strong and sudden change in plasma characteristics." As the plasma in ASDEX was exposed to intense heating by the neutral beam, its confinement suddenly improved by a factor of two and the turbulences at the plasma edge all but disappeared.
This discovery was highly important for mastering fusion power at an industrial scale. But was it too good to be true? "A new type of instabilities, which were later called Edge Localized Mode or ELMs, had appeared along with the high confinement. At first glance, some of the senior people in the lab confused them with an effect of the core instability that was familiar to them—the so-called 'saw-teeth,' and consequently they didn't think much of it. But I was fairly new to fusion and without much experience, I found it extremely exciting. I spent a whole weekend analyzing the data. On the following Monday it was clear: the 'high confinement' was for real."
It took some time, though, for the "H-Mode" to be accepted internationally. Fritz Wagner remembers an international conference in Baltimore, soon after that fateful February, where he "was grilled for hours" by his colleagues during an evening session. Key to scientific acceptance was being able to reproduce the circumstances which had lead to H-mode ... and this wasn't easy at the beginning. But soon, says Wagner, "we were able to get H-mode whenever we wanted it. Now once in a while we'd like not to have it, but it's difficult to get rid of..."
In the following years, H-mode was observed in the American machines PDX and DIII-D, the Joint European Torus (JET) and the Japanese JT-60, then on several other tokamaks. In 1993, H-mode was also achieved in the German W7-AS stellarator, thus demonstrating it was a "generic feature" of all toroidal configurations.
A quarter century after its discovery, the understanding of the physics behind the H-mode "is still incomplete." But its value is unquestioned: H-mode is what "makes the goals of fusion possible." All tokamaks today are designed to operate in H-Mode and without it, ITER would have needed to be twice as large and, consequently, twice as expensive.
In a 2007 paper, reflecting on "A quarter-century of H-mode studies" and the circumstances of H-mode discovery, Fritz Wagner wrote, quoting Nietzsche: "The essence of any discovery is in the coincidence, but most people never encounter this coincidence."(1)
(1) "Das Wesentliche an jeder Erfindung tut der Zufall,
aber den meisten Menschen begegnet dieser Zufall nicht."
Doug Loesser, an engineer at the US Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has been appointed Blanket Integrated Product Team Leader for ITER. Loesser directly serves the ITER Organization, coordinating the efforts of the blanket team.
"A blanket module is basically a block of actively-cooled stainless steel with a copper heat sink and beryllium layer facing the plasma. Its function is to absorb heat from the plasma and provide nuclear shielding," says Loesser, who began his role as team leader in December. Plasma is a hot, gaseous state of matter used as the fuel to produce fusion energy—the power source of the stars.
"I'm responsible for this large component, totaling about 2 million pounds of stainless steel. It has close to 460 modules—each weighing 4 metric tons. The approximate cost to the project is about $500 million," he says. There are 440 wall-mounted modules and about 20 port-mounted modules. The blanket team jointly designs the component and splits the tasks. Its fabrication members each build a piece of the component.
The blanket team includes six of the seven ITER Members—China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S. The seventh ITER Member is India, which is not involved in the blankets. Loesser's team includes about 30 engineers and 30 designers, half working at the ITER site in France. "My job is to make sure that the work going on in each Domestic Agency and the Blanket Section of the ITER Organization is all organized toward a common goal," says Loesser, who has 30 years of experience in engineering fusion-related components, reports to Gary Johnson, a former DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory employee who is now ITER's Deputy Director-General for the Tokamak Department. Loesser will spend half his time at the ITER site and half at PPPL working on the project. One thing makes his job easy: "I like all the people I'm working with."
Students from the International School of Manosque and exchange students from the European School of Parma—52 students in all—visited the ITER site on 10 June. They were given a guided tour lead by the Director of Agence Iter France, François Gauché; Ivone Benfatto from ITER also gave some explanations in Italian. This site visit was succeeded by a Tore Supra visit. Two researchers from Institut de Recherche en Fusion Magnétique, Stéphane Vartanian and Gloria Falchetto gave them an introduction on the tokamak and the basics of fusion.