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Fusion world | Breaking ground at IFMIF-DONES

Construction is now underway in Granada, Spain on the IFMIF-DONES project (International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility-Demo Oriented NEutron Source). The facility aims to solve one of the key roadblocks towards harnessing fusion for large-scale electricity production—figuring out which materials are sufficiently resistant to the neutron irradiation that will be present in next-generation fusion reactors. The ITER Newsline spoke with IFMIF-DONES Director Angel Ibarra to learn more. The fast neutron produced in a deuterium-tritium fusion reaction is both a blessing and curse for humanity's ability to harness nuclear fusion for energy. On the one hand, the conversion of the neutron's high kinetic energy into heat as it passes through the walls of the tokamak allows for significant power generation. However those same high-energy neutrons, over a period of sustained bombardment, cause material degradation through the process of transmutation. As the neutron passes through material, it can knock atoms out of their lattices or cause nuclear reactions, causing swelling, creepage, and embrittlement, as well as inducing radioactivity in wall materials. ITER's levels of neutron irradiation, while significant, will be many orders less than that of the next-generation reactors planned after it. Called Demonstration Power Plants (DEMOs), these reactors will sustain long burning plasma pulses on a routine basis to demonstrate electricity production. More burning plasma time means more fusion reactions, which in turn means more free neutrons released to the walls, which in turn means more materials transmutation and activation. The level of neutron irradiation planned for such a reactor has therefore never been tested. In order to build DEMOs out of materials that can withstand such harsh bombardment, developers are looking to neutron sources as a way to mimic fusion conditions for materials testing. Europe's solution to the materials question is the IFMIF-DONES project. This materials testing facility, under construction in Granada, Spain, will simulate DEMO-like conditions for potential structural materials. IFMIF-DONES will use a particle accelerator to produce a continuous-wave deuteron (D+) beam aimed at a target made of a liquid lithium curtain. The interaction between deuterium and lithium will generate enough free neutrons to simulate the planned neutron flux over time of Europe's DEMO, which is being designed by the DEMO Central Team at EUROfusion. Directly behind the lithium target will be the high-flux test module, which will house capsules of material samples for neutron irradiance testing. 'A key use of the IFMIF-DONES facility will be the testing of EUROFER, the reduced activation steel alloy currently intended to serve as DEMO's first wall structural material,' explains facility director Angel Ibarra. 'It is important to do these experiments in a fusion-like environment as soon as possible to validate this material for Europe's DEMO. We'll be testing hundreds of samples of EUROFER and EUROFER-like alloys under varying conditions of neutron and heat flux to gain a fuller understanding of its mechanical properties.' Beyond EUROFER, Director Ibarra clarified that it is not IFMIF-DONES' responsibility to choose what materials to test, but rather to ensure the European fusion community has a proper fusion-like neutron source to test any material sample potentially needed for DEMO use. In essence, IFMIF-DONES will build a database of relevant materials over time. Thus, while ITER is helping Europe to understand how it should build its DEMO machine by providing a proof of concept for burning plasmas with fusion energy gain in a tokamak, IFMIF-DONES will provide answers as to what materials DEMO should be built with.  Areas for collaboration include knowledge management and technology. 'Both success stories and lessons learned from the ITER Project's last fifteen years can help optimize IFMIF-DONES operations as the facility enters its construction phase,' explains Ibarra. 'Also, some technologies already developed for ITER will also be needed in our project, and perhaps the development process can be streamlined.' Furthermore, Mr. Ibarra explained that IFMIF-DONES, once operational, would also be willing to assist ITER's plasma operations by testing ITER materials under a full neutron spectrum. While IFMIF-DONES will validate materials for a European DEMO, in Ibarra's estimation any nation interested in developing a fusion energy source will need a similar facility for materials testing. IFMIF-DONES is currently engaged in discussions with a number of countries, both inside and outside the European Union, about potentially joining the IFMIF-DONES project. However, whether other countries become IFMIF-DONES members, or use lessons learned from the project to build their own materials testing facilities, Director Ibarra feels that the IFMIF-DONES facility is a 'neutron source that could make history' by creating a roadmap to validate materials in a fusion-like environment. In doing so, IFMIF-DONES can help move the worldwide fusion community towards the DEMO stage. For more information on the IFMIF-DONES project click here.

ITER Members | Director-General Barabaschi visits Japan

Japan is a very familiar place for ITER Director-General Pietro Barabaschi. His past position as the Director of the Broader Approach activities at the European Domestic Agency, Fusion for Energy, led him to visit Japan over 180 times. His latest stopover, however, was different—it was the first time he was visiting as Director-General of the ITER Organization. Director-General Barabaschi was welcomed by Minister Moriyama Masahito from Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The Minister spoke of Japan's contributions to ITER through the fabrication of high-tech components and the participation of Japanese staff in the project. Minister Moriyama and Director-General Barabaschi also discussed the importance the JT-60SA tokamak to ITER, as that upgraded experiment prepares to study advanced modes of plasma operation. A meeting with Masuko Hiroshi, Vice Minister for International Affairs and the Head of the Japanese delegation to the ITER Council, also took place. Director-General Barabaschi also attended the STS Forum, a yearly event in Kyoto that brings together over 1,000 scientists and global leaders from around the world to discuss how science and technology can positively impact the future of civilization. Director-General Barabaschi participated in a panel on the prospects and challenges of fusion energy. A visit to the Naka Fusion Institute at the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (QST) rounded out Director-General Barabaschi's visit to Japan. He met the staff of ITER Japan, visited two test facilities participating in ITER procurement, and stopped in at JT-60SA, where he gave encouragement to all the European and Japanese staff members who are currently working on the integrated commissioning of the device. Finally, the Director-General exchanged with QST President Koyasu Shigeo on how to more closely promote the integration between the ITER Organization and ITER Japan and how to attract greater numbers of young staff members to work at ITER.

Tokamak Building | Civil engineering officially complete

On 21 September, the European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy and contractors celebrated an important milestone: the official completion of civil engineering works in the Tokamak Building. In late 2012, the European Domestic Agency signed a major contract (TB03) for the design and construction of 11 ITER buildings. The VFR consortium (Vinci, Ferrovial, Razel-Bec) would be responsible for building the main Tokamak Complex, the Assembly Hall, the Cleaning Facility, the Control Building, and the Radiofrequency Building, as well as a set of smaller auxiliary structures. Ten years and 7,000,000 work hours later, many of the buildings in TB03 scope have been completed and turned over to the ITER Organization for the installation of plant equipment. The central Tokamak Complex—the most demanding project, requiring 100,000 m³ of concrete and approximately 30,000 tonnes of steel reinforcement to complete its three buildings (Tokamak, Tritium and Diagostics)—is being delivered in phases. Since the contract kickoff meeting in 2013, the floors and walls of the impressive seven-storey structure have progressively taken shape. (You can follow progress over the years in this ITER construction gallery.) As part of Tokamak Building construction, the team built a cylindrical concrete bioshield—a 'ring fortress' that completely surrounds the ITER Tokamak to protect workers and the environment from the radiation generated by fusion reactions. After its completion in 2018 it took approximately one year for the VFR consortium to finish the remainder of the building's concrete structure. The consortium and its subcontractors also installed 249 nuclear doors, including the heavy doors that seal off ITER port cells. Fusion for Energy estimates that 900 people were involved over ten years in the execution of the contract. Following the control of the instrumentation of all doors, and other verification, the papers certifying the official completion of the civil engineering works in the Tokamak Building were issued. See the Fusion for Energy website for a full report.

Portfolio | WEST tokamak, inside and out

Someone waking up inside of WEST, the French tokamak located barely one kilometre away from ITER, would think they had been transported into an alien spaceship—and more specifically, into the stranded star-faring vessel in the movie Alien (1979), with its strange ribcage-like walls and dull metal vertebrae. Last week, a (perfectly awake) Newsline reporter was privileged to spend a few hours inside the machine's plasma chamber, where some of the longest plasma shots in fusion history were produced. WEST is more than an upgrade from the quarter-century-old Tore Supra tokamak: it is a reinvented machine that now serves as a test bench and risk-limiter for ITER. Having replaced its previous carbon/carbon fibre limiter with an ITER-grade full-tungsten divertor (hence the 'W' in WEST, for the chemical symbol of tungsten), the tokamak launched its first experimental campaign in 2017 with only a few actively cooled plasma-facing units. Five years later WEST, housed at the French nuclear research centre CEA Cadarache, had a fully operational ITER-grade divertor and had launched its "Phase II" campaign centred on a succession of high-fluence pulses reaching or exceeding 100 seconds. With a new experimental campaign set to begin in November, WEST is presently being conditioned and equipped with new systems and components. A refurbished electron cyclotron resonance heating (ECRH) antenna has been installed, a small proportion of Chinese-procured divertor elements have been replaced with European equivalents, divertor elements are being equipped with ITER-like divertor thermocouples, and various cleaning and analysis operations are being performed. It is into this veteran but completely rejuvenated machine that this reporter crawled last week at the CEA's invitation.

of-interest

Bernard Bigot Researcher Grant winners named

The EUROfusion consortium for the realization of fusion energy has awarded ten Bernard Bigot Researcher Grants (ERG) to talented post-doctoral researchers across Europe. The ERG grants enable early-career researchers to develop innovative ideas and techniques to advance EUROfusion's Roadmap to Fusion Energy. The EUROfusion Bernard Bigot Researcher Grants program, named after the third Director-General of the ITER Organization, supports excellent scientists at the post-doctoral level in their career development. The ERG grants cover part of the salaries of the selected candidates and part of the cost of their research activities and missions for a duration of up to two years. Read all about the ten awardees on this EUROfusion webpage.

Exploring the potential of science diplomacy

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is an intergovernmental organization that brings together 43 countries to strengthen regional cooperation and dialogue through specific projects and initiatives that address inclusive and sustainable development, stability and integration in the Euro-Mediterranean area. On 3 October in Barcelona, Spain, UfM and the European Union co-organized the Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Science Diplomacy, with the aim of highlighting the state of science diplomacy in the Mediterranean as well as obstacles and opportunities. More than 80 people from 22 countries attended, including scientists, diplomats, and research and innovation officials. ITER, as an example of science diplomacy, was invited to take part. The ITER Project was represented by Marc Lachaise, director of Fusion for Energy (the European Union organization managing Europe's contribution to ITER), who participated in a panel discussion on research infrastructure.  See the press release issued after the event here.

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Future of fusion: How UK's JET reactor paved the way for ITER (video 4'57")

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Civil engineering works officially over in ITER Tokamak Building