ITER Newsline / 17 May 2018


Component logistics
Consistency "from the cradle to the grave"

There's a fun and easy way to demonstrate the importance of having all ITER parts properly tagged and identified in storage—organize a workshop and ask four competing teams to build a pipe assembly with items retrieved from a makeshift warehouse. Teams each have a drawing and 20 minutes to complete the work, and penalties are inflicted for leftover items, return trips to the warehouse and, of course, incorrect or incomplete construction. Unbeknownst to the participants, the competition is rigged—except for Group 1, all groups have to deal with information that is either missing, incomplete or not consistent. Of course Group 1 wins, completing the work in less than 12 minutes. Group 2 (with one part unlabelled) and Group 3 (with identifier discrepancies) both need an extra six minutes to figure things out. Group 4 is still puzzling over its scattered pipe sections, elbows, supports and connexions when the referee calls the end of the game. 'Just think of the consequences when you have to deal with millions of parts,' smiles Aaron Shaw, ITER Materials Management Officer and workshop organizer. Every day the main ITER warehouse receives dozens of components, large and small, for the machine and plant systems. Based on a numbering system established in 2007, every single item delivered—from individual screws to complete electrical transformers—is supposed to carry an identifier that originates in the drawing and is replicated on the bill of material, the goods themselves, the packing list and the installation manual. 'What we are building is unique,' explains Aaron, 'but the process of managing components and issuing them to construction is the same as in any industry.' But the complexity, the sheer amount of components to assemble, and the multiplicity of providers on three continents all make for a particularly daunting task at ITER. 'On very large projects, one can at best achieve 95 percent accuracy in identifying and tracking all the components,' explained participant James McGee, who works for ITER's Construction Management-as-Agent contractor MOMENTUM. For the moment at ITER the percentage is significantly lower—which explains why Aaron Shaw is running workshops for a number of ITER divisions and why he will be extending this approach to all seven Domestic Agencies involved in the project. The competition he organized recently for the Tokamak Engineering Department perfectly mirrors some of the situations that are actually encountered. 'There can be no material flow without proper data flow,' says Aaron. 'Missing or inconsistent data on a component triggers a sequence of events that ultimately harms the project. Eventually, we end up with lost time, extra work hours, and an obvious impact on schedule and budget. It's a butterfly effect ...' One of the slides presented during the workshop showed that a manual sequence, triggered by an item with no part number, was over twice as time-consuming (2.5x) than the available 'system-to-system' process that is designed to accompany an item all the way from design to construction—the "cradle-to-grave" approach for the complete supply chain. In ITER's largest on-site warehouse, just about a quarter of storage space is occupied by 'quarantined' items that have no or incorrect identification. 'If an item is delivered to ITER without a part number, it simply cannot be 'received' into our integrated data flow,' says Aaron. System owners or technical responsible officers may know what the item is and where it is supposed to fit but in order to access it they need to go through the warehouse staff, who does not necessarily have the technical knowledge. The situation, however, can be fixed. 'The butterfly effect works both ways,' says Aaron. 'We are looking at possible improvements for data flow; organizing pilot operations with Domestic Agencies, refining the ITER numbering system with additional data for interfaces, etc.' And of course there are the competitions—although they are unfair to some of the contenders, they astutely illustrate the necessity of attaching clear and consistent information to each and every item involved in ITER construction.

How does the ITER cryoplant work?

Cold is essential to ITER—10,000 tonnes of superconducting magnets, the thermal shield that surrounds the machine, the cryopumps that achieve the high vacuum inside the vacuum vessel ... all need to be brought down to extremely low temperatures (between minus 193 °C and minus 269 °C). In order to deliver the cooling fluids to the machine, a large cooling plant has been built at ITER that ranks as the most powerful single-platform cryoplant in the world. Designed and manufactured by Air Liquide, the ITER cryoplant includes three helium refrigeration units, two nitrogen refrigeration units and 1.6 kilometres of cryogenic lines connecting the plant to the Tokamak Building. Installation activities are underway now. The complex workings of the ITER cryoplant are explained in this video, produced by Air Liquide. For more on Air Liquide's contribution to ITER cryogenics, visit this page.

Image of the week
Brewing storm

In Provence, one gets tired of blue skies... so when the opportunity arises to capture the ITER site plunged in the darkness of an approaching storm, we rush to the windows and shoot. But because photography is not always about realism, we indulged in a bit of colour tweaking in order to render the strange and ominous atmosphere of the moment.

Toroidal field coils
First cold test in Europe

The first ITER toroidal field coil winding pack has spent nearly 20 days in a specially conceived cryostat at minus 193 °C (80 K), in a cold testing operation that confirmed the integrity of the insulation system. The first cold testing operation of the European toroidal field coil program was successfully carried out by European contractor SIMIC near Venice, Italy, last month. Cold testing, which involves submitting the coil winding pack to a thermal cycle between room temperature and 80 K, is the penultimate step in the toroidal field coil fabrication process—intervening before the magnet inner core is inserted into a structural case. The first toroidal field winding pack produced in Europe was shipped from its manufacturing location last November. Reception teams at SIMIC first performed a series of dimensional and electrical inspection tests, before lifting the component into a specially constructed cryostat, where the winding pack was cooled to 80 K (193 °C) for nearly 20 days using a combined cycle of nitrogen and helium. Electrical connections placed at the exits of the chamber were tested with a current of 1000 amps. Cold testing allows the magnet teams to ensure that the coil insulation is robust and that the component can be cooled to superconducting temperatures without cracks forming. The winding pack will now be inspected again through dimensional and electrical tests, before transfer to the assembly rig for insertion. The final industrial operation for ITER's toroidal field coils is the insertion of the winding pack into a structural steel coil case. The case elements will be fitted over the winding pack with millimetric precision, before closure welds of up to 12 centimetres in thickness are realized. Each weld will be verified through ultrasonic testing, and the gap between the inner core and the case will be filled with reinforced resin to ensure the mechanical continuity of the coil. At SIMIC the cooling chamber, the specialized tooling and the laser measuring equipment took almost one year to assemble, explains the company's commercial manager Marianna Ginola. '... We have invested in the infrastructure of our plant, collaborated extensively with our subcontractors, and trained our workforces for the delicate operations that we will have to carry out.' SIMIC is collaborating with subcontractor Babcock Noell GmbH for some of the tooling and technologies. Japan is procuring all coil cases, as well as nine of the toroidal field winding packs. Europe is procuring the other nine toroidal field winding packs plus a tenth, as a spare. The ITER magnet procurement program—six participating Domestic Agencies, four superconducting magnets systems—has been the longest-lead and most international of all ITER procurement packages. Read the full report on the European Domestic Agency website.

Central solenoid
All conductor received

Officials from the US and Japanese fusion energy programs were at General Atomics' Magnet Technologies Center in California in early May to celebrate the delivery of the final spool of central solenoid conductor. The ITER central solenoid—five stories, 1,000 tonnes—will be the largest pulsed superconducting magnet in the world. From its position at the centre of the ITER machine it will drive more than 15 million amperes of current in the plasma, contributing to maintaining long plasma pulses and to shaping the plasma. On 3 May, a ceremony was held to mark the delivery by Japan of the 51st and final spool of niobium-tin conductor—the material that General Atomics is using to fabricate the ITER central solenoid. 'This is an event worth celebrating, as we now have all of the superconductor needed to complete the ITER central solenoid modules,' said John Smith, who manages the central solenoid manufacturing program for General Atomics. 'Japan's QST and industrial partners were able to manufacture and deliver more than 25 miles [43 kilometres] of this precisely manufactured conductor, which is no small feat.' The US is responsible for central solenoid fabrication and assembly—scope which includes design, R&D, module fabrication (from conductor supplied by Japan), associated structure fabrication, assembly tooling, bus extensions, and cooling connections. Japan's National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST)—which is overseeing the procurement of ITER components allocated to Japan—has been responsible for the procurement of all central solenoid conductor, including spares. Manufacture of the conductor involved more than 150 employees working for over five years at multiple companies in Japan and Korea. The strand and cable was manufactured by Japan Superconductor Technology, Furukawa Electric and Kiswire Advanced Technology with e-Energy and the stainless steel jacket was made by KOBELCO Steel Tube. Nippon Steel and Sumikin Engineering then combined the cable and jacket into the conductor that was delivered to General Atomics. To transform the conductor, General Atomics has developed an innovative winding process that coils approximately 5 kilometres of conductor into a central solenoid module. Each module is made up of 40 layers of conductor with 14 turns in each layer. Six of the 110-tonne modules will be stacked into an 18-metre-tall assembly, with a seventh module serving as a spare. Once wound, each module goes through a five-week heating process in which the modules are heated to 650 °C in a convection oven to convert the niobium-tin wire into the superconducting material. General Atomics currently has five modules in different states of fabrication. More about General Atomics' contributions to ITER here. More about QST here.

ITER and beyond
Charting the international roadmap to DEMO

More than 60 top fusion scientists and engineers from around the world gathered at the 5th IAEA DEMO Programme Workshop in Daejeon, South Korea, from 7 to 10 May, to discuss critical issues and next steps on the road to the realization of fusion energy. While science and technology issues for fusion power are broadly agreed upon, upscaling the technology to commercial electricity generation is still decades away. This workshop aimed to help experts define the facilities and activities that can lead to the resolution of some of the key scientific and technological challenges to developing a demonstration fusion power plant (DEMO). DEMO would show that controlled nuclear fusion can generate net electrical power and mark the final step before the construction of a commercial fusion power plant. DEMO is the machine that would explore continuous or near-continuous (steady-state) operation, tritium fuel self-sufficiency, and the large-scale production of energy and its conversion to electricity. The ITER Members are exploring different routes: China has made significant progress in planning for a device called China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR) that would bridge the gaps between ITER and DEMO. Construction of the CFETR could start at around 2020 and be followed by construction of a DEMO in the 2030s. The European Union and Japan are jointly building a powerful tokamak called JT-60SA in Naka, Japan, as a complement to ITER on a privileged partnership called the Broader Approach. In addition to constructing the JT-60SA, the joint program consists of two other projects, the Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities for the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF/EVEDA), and the International Fusion Energy Research Centre (IFERC). This partnership represents a well-integrated approach to support ITER and to prepare to undertake the engineering design and construction of a subsequent DEMO. (More information on the European roadmap to fusion electricity, including the Broader Approach, can be found here.) India has announced plans to begin building a device called SST-2 to develop components for a DEMO around 2027, and then start construction of a DEMO in 2037. South Korea initiated a conceptual design study for a K-DEMO in 2012 targeting the construction by 2037 with potential for electricity generation starting in 2050. In its first phase (2037-2050), K-DEMO will develop and test components and then utilize these components in the second phase after 2050 to demonstrate net electricity generation. Russia plans the development of a fusion-fission hybrid facility called DEMO fusion neutron source (FNS), a reactor that would harvest the fusion-produced neutrons to turn uranium into nuclear fuel and destroy radioactive waste. The DEMO-FNS is planned to be built by 2023, and is part of Russia's fast-track strategy to a fusion power plant by 2050. The United States of America is considering an intermediate step called Fusion Nuclear Science Facility (FNSF) to be used for the development and testing of fusion materials and components for a DEMO-type reactor. Plans call for operation to start after 2030, and construction of a DEMO after 2050. The IAEA is providing a platform for information sharing and exchange in order to facilitate nuclear fusion research and the development of technology. This is a role the IAEA has continuously played over the years—acting as a central hub for collaboration among countries working first on the INTOR project, then ITER, and now DEMO. Main findings and discussions from the IAEA DEMO Programme Workshop series can be found here. Follow this link to the original article, which was published on the IAEA website on 11 May.

ITER's biggest partner pledges full support

Earlier this month, the ITER Project received a giant boost from its largest partner and host member, the European Union (EU). On 2 May, the European Commission issued its budget proposal for 2021-2027, referred to as the 'Multiannual Financial Framework'. The proposal gives ITER its unequivocal support, both in the commitment of EUR 6.07 billion over the next seven-year budget cycle, and in the supporting narrative. The key sentence is relatively simple: 'The EU budget will ... continue to fund Europe's contribution to the development of the ... ITER project to develop a viable source of safe and environmentally friendly energy for the future.' But reading through the full document (see the Communication here, and the Annex here), three additional aspects of the proposal are especially striking. First, the Commission considers ITER to be on track for success. In some ways, this could be anticipated based on the April 2017 endorsement by the European Commission's Energy Directorate, and more recently by the April 2018 statement issued by the Council of Ministers. But to see the endorsement of the full budget, in black-and-white, is still more reassuring. Second, the Commission considers ITER to be a sound investment. In the Annex, the following quote appears regarding ITER: Achieving and exploiting fusion is a long-term objective, but the project is already bringing important benefits to the EU industry and research in the procurement and construction phases. More than three hundreds companies—including small businesses—from 20 Member States and Switzerland, and around sixty research organisations are engaged in cutting-edge research and innovation to provide components, offering them a chance to develop spin-off products in other sectors (energy, medical, aviation, high-tech). (Page 6) And later: The programme not only contributes to achieving a resilient Energy Union with a forward looking climate policy. It also fosters job creation and growth by offering European high-tech industries and small companies a valuable opportunity to innovate and develop products outside fusion. (Page 6) Third, the Commission sees ITER as dovetailing nicely with the EU's overall research and innovation outlook. The ITER Project is placed under the same budget category as the EU's flagship program, 'Horizon Europe'—under which an even EUR 100 billion is centred on three pillars: Open Science, Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness, and Open Innovation. While ITER is a separate budget line, the proposal articulates how ITER is complementary to and synergistic with these goals. Now that the Commission has proposed the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027, the European Council and the European Parliament will have time for debate. The timeline for those discussions can vary; there is no clear final deadline for the budget decision. But since Europe is both ITER's host and its biggest partner, contributing 45 percent of the project's funding, the Commission's proposal as issued represents the strongest endorsement of ITER to date.



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