ITER Newsline / 15 November 2017

A note to our readers: Newsline will not be published again until Monday 19 March.

COP 23
Placing ITER on the global scene

On the western bank of the Rhine and not far from the seat of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, world leaders are discussing how to push ahead for international joint action to tackle climate change and implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. In complete silence, Fijian warriors walk into the assembly hall at the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP23. They perform their traditional welcome ceremony of preparing and sharing the Kava drink made from the root of a local Fijian plant. The recipient is Barbara Hendricks, German Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. Looking very impressive even on a public display screen, it was a highly unusual opening for an international conference. But it drove home the message of urgency. As a Pacific island nation Fiji is extremely vulnerable to the impact of climate change; it is fitting indeed that Fiji is presiding over this conference, held from 6 to 17 November in the German city of Bonn. 'We are all sitting in the same canoe,' said Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, at the opening ceremony. 'So let's make the hard decisions that have to be made for the sake of ourselves and the generations to come.' A few kilometers from the high-level political discussions is the Bonn Zone, where the global relevance of climate change is also visible. Countless meetings, discussions and workshops take place in side rooms, at exhibition stands, over coffee or in the halls. It is here where government offices, civil society activists, scientists, youth organizations, industry as well as several international organizations present their ideas, initiatives and actions to deal with the consequences of climate change. With its quest for carbon-free, safe and abundant energy, ITER fits right into this vibrant and buzzing atmosphere. The ITER stand hosts a constant stream of visitors wanting to know more about the process of nuclear fusion, the progress with the building of the research reactor, or the scientific and technological challenges this ambitious project is facing. Most visitors, having never heard of the project, are impressed. A German police officer compares the ambitious endeavor with the TV series Star Trek. A visitor from Canada, after taking a virtual tour of construction, feels that the work on site alone is futuristic. The ITER stand attracts younger people in particular as they realize the advantages, hopefully in their lifetime, of a new source of clean energy. They are also particularly receptive to ITER's collaborative model—35 nations joining efforts across continents and borders—as a way of addressing important global issues. As COP23 enters its second week expectations are high. It is hoped that the conference—with its 25,000 participants from all around the globe—will find a common understanding on practical actions and solutions to the many climate-change-related problems. There is agreement among all on one issue: time is short. As Frank Bainimarama said at the opening: 'Let's get this job done.'

Japan's MEXT Minister
Seeing is believing

On 4 November, ITER received Yoshimasa Hayashi, the Japanese Minister of MEXT—the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology with oversight responsibility for Japan's participation in the ITER Project. Minister Hayashi, who was appointed to his position last August, had met with Director-General Bernard Bigot during his visit to Japan last month. At the Director-General's invitation, he took the first available opportunity to see the ITER site for himself. Historically, Japan has been a member of the ITER Project from the earliest days—as one of the four original partners involved in the conceptual design phase, and host to one of the three Joint Work Sites established in 1992 for subsequent engineering design activities. Japan is contributing a broad array of technical components to the project, including toroidal field magnets and magnet structures; conductors for the central solenoid conductors; power supply components for the ITER neutral beam program; the blanket remote handling system; the divertor outer targets; and the atmosphere detritiation system of the Tritium Plant. The status of these contributions formed a focal point for interactions between the Minister and the ITER Director-General, framed against the physical backdrop of the ITER worksite and visits to specific facilities, including the very centre of construction in the Tokamak Pit. During the lunch meeting that followed, discussions centered on the remaining challenges of cooperation among the seven ITER Members—from complex budgetary issues to the way in which collaboration between Europe, Korea, Japan and the ITER Organization is leading to structured, predictable progress on the fabrication of toroidal field coils and vacuum vessel sectors. The two leaders also brainstormed on specific measures that could stimulate the further participation of qualified engineers from Japan. On his departure, Minister Hayashi reaffirmed what many other high-level visitors have remarked: that whatever one has heard about ITER from afar, nothing quite delivers the scope and ambition of the project like an in-person visit.

Architect Engineer
ENGAGE receives prestigious award

Since 2006, the French 'Grand Prix de l'Ingénierie' has recognized engineering projects and/or teams that are remarkable in terms of scope, innovation, complexity, and in their susceptibility to redesign the future. The 11th edition on 19 October singled out ITER's Architect/Engineering consortium, ENGAGE, for its Industry and Technology Consulting Prize (Prix Industrie & Conseil en Technologies 2017). ENGAGE—composed of the French firms Egis and Assystem, Atkins (Great Britain), and Empresarios Agrupados (Spain)—was selected in 2010 by the European Domestic Agency as Architect/Engineer for the elaboration and design of the ITER scientific facility (buildings and infrastructure). The ENGAGE team of 230 on site has surmounted a number of technical challenges: developing a numerical 3D model of the buildings with all interfaces identified; designing a one-of-a-kind anti-seismic system for the Tokamak Complex; positioning thousands of embedded plates; and creating concrete formulations for specific zones. ENGAGE has also built a database in order to trace the progress of the project, generate indicators and download detailed documentation. Every month more than 70,000 connections to the database are recorded and more than 10,000 documents published. The 'Grand Prix de l'Ingénierie' was designed and created by the French Federation of Engineering Firms (Syntec-Engineering) and is awarded annually in partnership with France's Ministry of Ecology (Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire), the Directorate General for Enterprise (Direction Générale des Entreprises, Ministère de l'Économie et des Finances), and Groupe Moniteur. For further information see the article on the European Domestic Agency website and the Syntec-Engineering video on the work of the ENGAGE consortium for ITER.

Sub-assembly tools
One foot inside

The twin Korean giants already have a foot inside the Assembly Hall—literally. The foot—or 'bottom inboard column' in ITER parlance—is a 4.4-metre-long steel cylinder that weighs 11 tonnes. It is one of the four segments that, once stacked, will form the central column (and the rotation axis) of the first sector sub-assembly tool (SSAT-1) Formidable handling machines, twin SSAT tools towering 22 metres above ground will be used to pre-assemble vacuum vessel sectors with toroidal field coils and thermal shield segments. Preparation for the erection of the first tool began two months ago, with the installation of the base plates for the rail tracks. The rails were temporarily put into position a few days ago to check the interfaces with the plates and to make sure that the bolt holes in both components are perfectly aligned. Beginning next week installation will begin in earnest and last approximately four months. In March 2018, operational tests, including a load test of 310 tonnes, will be performed on SSAT-1. By that time, the second tool (under fabrication now in Korea) will have been delivered and the first assembly activities initiated.


Fusion passion

Fourteen authors and one illustrator share their passion for fusion in special October issue of Fusion in Europe. The issue contains a variety of topics ranging from ITER, JET, Brexit, material science, the Lawson Criterion, plasma turbulence and the history of fusion research in Mexico. What is also special about the issue is that most of the authors are students or young researchers from around the world. The newsletter is thus a window onto the views of the next generation of fusion professionals and enthusiasts. Click here to view the full October issue of Fusion in Europe.

Improving plasma stability in KSTAR

A major challenge in the development of fusion energy is maintaining the ultra-hot plasma of a fusion device in a steady state, or stable form. While superconductors can allow a fusion reactor to operate indefinitely, controlling the plasma with superconductors presents a challenge because engineering constraints limit their response time compared to the more energy consuming copper coils. The slower pace makes it difficult to operate a stable discharge with the large plasma volume or extended vertical height required for producing fusion power. Exploration of this issue in a current superconducting device is particularly helpful for ITER, which will be operational in 2025. At the leading edge of this control challenge is the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) device, one of the largest superconducting tokamaks in the world. Its superconductors are made of niobium and tin, the same conductor that is planned for use in ITER. A team of US and Korean researchers, led by physicist Dennis Mueller (photo) of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has now sharply improved the stability of the elongated plasma in KSTAR, setting an example for how to address similar issues in other superconducting devices such as ITER. The successful control method, demonstrated this summer by Mueller and physicists from the National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) in South Korea, which operates the tokamak, and General Atomics in San Diego, caps years of effort to control the vertical instability, which had allowed the plasma to bounce up and down in the 11-foot-high vacuum vessel. See how they did it in the full article on the PPPL website.

Just like the sun? Not quite ...

It is inscribed in bold letters on the large poster that is affixed to the ITER Assembly Hall: harnessing fusion energy is akin to "bringing the power of the Sun to Earth." And it is true: like the Sun, the ITER Tokamak will produce energy by fusing hydrogen nuclei into helium. The fusion reaction in our machine, however, is not like that which occurs in Sun-like stars. Although the end product (helium) and the ingredients (hydrogen isotopes in one case, hydrogen in the other) are the same, the nature of the process is profoundly different. In a recent article on the Forbes website astrophysicist Ethan Siegel explains how "hydrogen-fusing-into-helium makes up less than half of all nuclear reactions in our Sun," and how the nuclear physics in stellar bodies abounds in "strange, unearthly phenomena." The inscription on the Assembly Hall remains nonetheless true. ITER is indeed "bringing the power of the Sun to Earth." It's just that stars and tokamaks have different ways of obtaining a similar result. Click here to read the full article.

A note to our readers: not all the press clippings that appeared in the media on ITER in the last seven days can be listed here. Please see this page for a more exhaustive list.

Texas A&M University

Channeling helium: material with helium "veins"


Optimism in Bonn about fusion reactor, despite Brexit

The Agility Effect

ITER prepares the replacement of fossil fuels


JET: Picture perfect!

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