you're currently reading the news digest published from 02 Jul 2018 to 09 Jul 2018



Worksite photos | The view one never tires of

For the past three-and a half years, ITER Communication has been documenting construction progress from the top of the tallest crane on the ITER worksite. Although shooting the same place from the same viewpoint might be considered repetitive and boring, in this case it never is: the ITER worksite is an ever-changing landscape one never tires of. See the gallery below for a new series of images, the first since April. More filming and photographing is scheduled for later this month.

Question of the week | Will fusion run out of fuel?

One of the paradoxes of fusion, the virtually inexhaustible energy of the future, is that it relies on an element that does not exist—or just barely. Tritium, one of the two hydrogen isotopes implemented in ITER and in future fusion reactors, is only present in nature in trace amounts. The only source of readily available tritium comes from heavy-water fission reactors such as the CANDU type (developed by Canada in the 1950-60s, and adopted since in Romania, South Korea, and India). However, the tritium generated by these reactors is just a by-product and quantities remain relatively small. Tritium production from CANDU reactors worldwide is on the order of 20 kilos per year—not much, but enough to fuel ITER for the planned fifteen years of its deuterium-tritium operation phase. Operating an industrial electricity-producing fusion plant, by contrast, will require an average of 70 kilos of tritium per gigawatt of thermal power (per year at full power). And if all goes well, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of fusion plants operating in the early decades of the 22nd century. Hence the question: where will all this tritium comes from? Nature, as if anticipating the challenge, offers a solution that combines elegance and efficiency—the fusion reaction itself will produce the tritium that, in turn, will continue to fuel the reaction. What's more, the process will take place within the vacuum vessel in a safe, continuous, closed cycle. The key to this process is isotope 6 of lithium (Li-6) which, when impacted by neutrons, generates tritium. ITER will test different concepts of 'tritium breeding modules,' each one unique in its architecture and cooling system, as well as in its structural materials, the form of lithium-compound involved, and the manner in which it will be extracted. Whether liquid or solid, compounds will consist of enriched lithium with a proportion of Li-6 in the 50 percent range. Hence a second question: will there be enough lithium to sustain tritium production and make true on the promise of providing virtual unlimited energy for the centuries to come? Jaap van der Laan, a nuclear engineer in ITER's Tritium Breeding Blanket Systems Section, has a simple and quick answer. 'Lithium availability will not be an issue for let's say the next thousand years ...' His confidence is rooted in a few basic figures and extrapolations. 'There are approximately 50 million tonnes of proven lithium reserves in the world¹, which means about 3 million tonnes of Li-6.' Like most minerals, lithium is also present in seawater. At a concentration of 0.1 part per million, the mass of lithium contained in the oceans of the planet is estimated at 250 billion tonnes. Innovative, low-energy extraction processes are being developed, particularly at Japan's Rokkasho Fusion Energy Centre. Fusion will not be the only avid consumer of lithium. The ever-growing lithium-ion battery market for laptops, mobile phones, cordless power tools (and of course electrical vehicles) will claim its share. This market already gobbles 40 percent of the world's lithium production² and its appetite will keep growing as electric cars gain in popularity. 'But I don't see this market as competitive in terms of physical resources any time soon,' says Jaap. Now let's imagine a future where 10,000 industrial fusion plants are operating worldwide—a far-fetched projection, perhaps, but one Jaap likes to use for his demonstration. It takes 140 kilos of Li-6 to obtain the 70 kilos of tritium necessary to producing one gigawatt of thermal power for one year. Assuming an availability of 80 percent and a conversion efficiency from thermal to electrical power of 30 percent, the production of one gigawatt of electrical power (the estimated size of an average fusion reactor) will require approximately 500 kilos of Li-6 per year, which would bring the total requirement for 10,000 reactors to 5,000 tonnes annually. Obtaining 5,000 tonnes of the precious isotope will require processing (by way of well-established isotope separation techniques) approximately 70,000 tonnes of 'regular' lithium ... still a very small fraction of available resources. Fusion specialists generally consider that, in a world where all energy would be produced by fusion, the quantity of lithium ore present in landmass would be sufficient to provide the required tritium for several thousand years. As for lithium present in oceans, it could last us millions of years. By that time, however, mankind will probably look at deuterium-tritium fusion the way we look at peat fires today—a most primitive technique based on a particularly low-yield fuel ... ¹ It is generally considered that half of the world's reserve lays in brine deposits, the other half in rocks. ² Lithium is used for batteries (40 percent of the total production), glass manufacturing (24 percent), lubricants (12 percent), refrigeration (4 percent) metallurgy, (3 percent), etc.

Managing data | Setting up a robust process

Are the ITER systems and processes robust enough to manage the technical and project data for a program of ITER's complexity? Will quality information be made available to the assembly contractors on time? Is a system in place for resolving issues and implementing complex changes? These questions and more will be asked by an expert panel meeting at the end of the summer on ITER configuration management. Since the introduction of the new ITER schedule (part of the 2016 Baseline) the ITER Council has mandated a number of focused reviews of ITER management performance and progress. These are conducted by the ITER Council Management Advisory Committee (MAC), with additional experts if necessary. Following an in-depth independent review on risk management in June 2017 and a second on the freezing of interfaces for First Plasma systems, structures and components last November, the MAC is now planning to review ITER configuration management. Configuration management describes the processes, activities, tools and methods that are used to manage the full lifecycle of a project. Through this systems engineering process all functional characteristics are documented, consistency is maintained, and the project's deliverables are protected from unauthorized change. The fundamentals of the project's configuration management process were laid down even before the ITER Agreement was signed, when the report from the ITER Engineering Design Activities was issued by the ITER Council in 2001. In 2007 a global design review was organized to confirm the technical objectives and key design choices—an effort that resulted in the 2010 Baseline. In parallel, the framework to control the configuration was established as the ITER Configuration Management Implementation Plan. However during an internal assessment of ITER system design maturity in the last years, shortcomings were identified. The lack of resources, state-of-the-art tools, and specific competences for the effective implementation of systems engineering and configuration management were creating serious risk for the ITER Project. The Council also recognized the importance of having a single and central platform to manage the engineering data, documents and drawings. To this end, a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system was adopted in 2015 to support the management of the newly established baseline. Since then work on the PLM tool has advanced and—after a series of trainings delivered to most of the ITER Organization staff and key users from the Domestic Agencies—the tool is about to be deployed in full. The release will implement all basic functions needed to manage and evaluate proposed changes, track the status of changes, and maintain an inventory of system and support documents (for example, engineering dossiers). The PLM tool will allow project managers to have a global view of the four operating configurations, or 'phases,' that will punctuate the progressive commissioning of the machine. The in-depth independent review on configuration management—to be held in the second half of 2018—will assess where ITER is now and if a clear plan exists for the resolution of remaining issues. Staff members from the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies are participating in a joint preparatory group in order to prepare for this review in the best possible way. Some of the existing processes are being revised to adapt them to international standards and to better take into account the unique challenges of this first-of-a-kind project, the progressive commissioning of the machine (the 'staged approach'), and the large volume of design and construction activities that are proceeding in parallel. Weekly meetings, bilateral preparations, several half-day discussions held remotely, and two in-person workshops are some of the many activities carried out by the preparatory group in the last six months. This work culminated last week with a workshop that gave all participants the chance to confirm common views, verify alignment between ITER and Domestic Agency processes, and to finalize a configuration management plan for the future. From this month, the MAC review panel will begin analyzing the information provided by the ITER Organization. The panel will make an on-site visit in late August, before preparing a report with recommendations for the MAC and ITER Council this autumn.

Image of the week | Bullseye

Two perfectly circular structures, looking a lot like archery targets, have been installed on the west-facing wall of the Tokamak Complex. They are not for shooting, however. The target-like structures mark what will be openings in the concrete for high voltage transmission lines to feed power to the neutral beam injectors. Injecting high-energy neutral particles into the plasma is the most powerful way to heat it. ITER will be equipped with two heating neutral beam injectors (with a provision for a third) and a neutral beam line for diagnostic purposes. Neutral beam injectors are massive devices, as large as a school bus, that require considerable electrical power to operate. The transmission lines that will go through the circular opening (one for each injector) will carry extremely high voltage (1 megavolt¹) that requires specific electrical insulation. A set of dedicated buildings nearby will host the multistage conversion process of the electrical current coming from the 400 kV switchyard—first from AC to DC, then to AC again in order ensure stability, and finally to DC again. The transmission lines will range from 80 to 150 metres in length, depending on the location of the circular openings. Once they pass through the concrete wall of the Tokamak Building, they will take a 90-degree turn to plunge down to the injectors (see drawing). The ITER neutral beam injection system will be able to deliver approximately one-third of the total heating power needed to bring the plasma to fusion temperature. ¹One megavolt is more than twice the capacity of high-voltage overhead power lines.

Art and science | Seeking new perspectives on fusion

Standing in the middle of the Tokamak Building, sound artist Julian Weaver positions his 3D microphone near one of the openings of the bioshield to record the soundscape created by the activities below. Just a few metres away his associate, researcher Jol Thomson, captures the corresponding visuals ... Weaver and Thomson were on site late in June as part of a project called In The Future Perfect—one of five commissions from the London-based Royal Holloway Centre for the GeoHumanities¹ under the overall theme 'Creating Earth Futures.' Traditionally, art and science have been two different ways for humans to understand the world and communicate that understanding. Weaver and Thomson aim at a multidimensional understanding of what clean and unlimited fusion energy could mean for the future of society, the economy and the global environment. Going beyond the boundaries of science, they employ methods drawn from the humanities and the arts to arrive at new insights. 'We hoped to capture in video and sound some of the atmosphere and energy of the site as it is taking shape,' said Weaver. During their tour at ITER, Weaver and Thomson gained first-hand impressions of the large ring-shaped magnets, the elaborate structure of the cryostat, and the complexity of construction—recording sights and sounds all along the way. They also had the opportunity to follow up with physicists on issues related to plasma physics and fusion science, in particular on the material and physical limits of fusion. For Weaver and Thomson, the visit paid off. 'Speaking intimately with physicists and experiencing the density of detail in the immense construction of the tokamak and the cryostat on site has definitely reoriented our perspectives on a fusion future as well as the inherent question of social responsibility in the age of climate change.' Projects like In the Future Perfect will draw new audiences into the world of fusion. ¹ GeoHumanities is an interdisciplinary field that allows creative interaction between the sciences, the humanities and the arts to develop the knowledge needed to face today's global challenges.


ELISE test rig contributes to ITER neutral beam heating

At the core of ITER's neutral beam heating system is a novel high-frequency ion source that has been under development for years at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Garching, Germany. In recent results that are significant for ITER, IPP's ELISE test rig has achieved the ion current required by ITER in hydrogen for 1,000 seconds. Neutral beam injection relies on high-speed, high energy atoms that penetrate deep into the plasma and transfer their energy to plasma particles by means of collision. The large plasma volume at ITER will impose new requirements on this proven method of injection: the particles will have to move three to four times faster than in previous systems in order to penetrate far enough into the plasma, and at these higher rates the positively-charged ions become difficult to neutralize. At ITER, for the first time, a negatively-charged ion source has been selected, based on the development of several generations of prototype negative ion sources at IPP. Since 2009 IPP's ELISE test rig—half the size of what is projected for ITER—has been a valuable source of experimental data as it has advanced step by step to new orders of magnitude. In the most recent report, ELISE was able to produce a stable, homogenous negative ion beam for 1,000 seconds at ITER current strength. In addition to further work on ELISE, IPP will be collaborating with teams at ITER's Neutral Beam Test Facility, where the full-scale ITER-scale negative ion source SPIDER was commissioned earlier this year. Read the full report on the website of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics.


First coil case structure for integration in Japan


The mysterious fourth state of matter

European Master of Science Nuclear Fusion and Engineering Physics topranked by El Mundo

Дорога к Солнцу

El simulador de partículas, declarado de interés estratégico para Europa

Бернар Биго: волшебное действие ИТЭР

ELISE erreicht erstes ITER-Ziel

Nuclear Fusion Reactor in France 55 Percent Complete

Printing the parts for nuclear fusion

Granada podrá contar con fondos europeos para el proyecto IFMIF-Dones

Amy Wendt envisions a bright renewable energy future for burning plasma

10 Questions for Steven Cowley, New Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory