06 Nov 2023 to 20 Nov 2023
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33rd ITER Council | Making progress, preparing an updated baseline
Like clockwork, the life of the ITER Project is punctuated by biannual ITER Council meetings in June and November every year. Months in advance, reports are produced and reviewed by relevant specialists at the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies, before being circulated to the ITER Members, their delegations and experts. By the time the Council meets for two intensive days on site at ITER, participants have all the status information they need for constructive dialogue and discussion. The Thirty-Third Meeting of the ITER Council this week was no exception. At the Thirty-Third Meeting of the ITER Council on 16-17 November 2023, ITER Director-General Pietro Barabaschi reported on the progress of the ITER Project, reflecting the efforts of the ITER Organization and Domestic Agencies to position the project for success and strengthen its central position in global efforts to deploy a cleaner, reliable and abundant energy source. Intensive work is underway to update the 2016 project baseline. This work, which will be presented to the ITER Council in 2024, takes into consideration recovery from past delays incurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic and technical challenges of completing first-of-a-kind components, as well as enhanced testing of components such as toroidal field coils in order to offset future risks. A critical aspect is better assembly sequencing, in order to achieve the fastest path to the start of ITER nuclear operation. Also important is the dialogue underway with the French nuclear safety authority, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), to create a strategy to address ITER's first-of-a-kind regulatory needs. The Council noted the progress achieved on repairs to key components—the vacuum vessel bevel joints and thermal shield cooling pipes—as well as ongoing manufacturing, assembly, and installation milestones. Council Members re-emphasized the strong value of the ITER mission and resolved to work together to find solutions to facilitate ITER's success. They also expressed their support for ITER's commitment to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion principles into hiring actions, work culture, and the cultivation of the next generation of the fusion workforce. The Council noted the ongoing challenges facing the project and expressed appreciation that all ITER Members are continuing to meet their in-kind and in-cash commitments to support project success. Read the full press release in English and French here.
Fusion world | Toward public-private synergies
In recent years, the private fusion industry has seen massive growth. The companies involved vary in technology, strategies, and levels of funding, but all move the global fusion community a step closer towards a shared goal with the ITER project: the development of fusion as a viable energy source. Until quite recently, the fusion private sector was relatively small, with a dearth of available investments for private companies in the field. However, in recent years, the private fusion landscape has seen a drastic increase in both companies and investments. The Fusion Industry Association reports that since just 2019, total private fusion entities have more than doubled in number to 43 overall, and total private investment in the fusion sector has surpassed $6 billion. This newfound private interest in fusion has been attributed to a multitude of factors, including: efforts to develop enabling materials and new approaches that could make fusion devices more realistic at smaller scale or with different designs; the path paved by ITER in designing, fabricating, delivering, and assembling components; recent successes at public laboratory test centres around the world; and the sense of urgency globally to identify alternative sources of clean power. The ascendance of these private fusion companies creates the possibility of public-private synergies. Public projects are largely oriented towards proving the scientific and industrial feasibility of fusion. Private companies, by their nature, are specifically concerned with the economic viability of harnessing fusion power for energy. However, for the global fusion community to achieve the shared goal of harnessing fusion power for electricity generation, scientific, industrial, and economic feasibility are ultimately each indispensable factors. Thus, the essential question for the fusion community over the coming years is, 'how can these two sectors' specific strengths be combined to accelerate humanity's race towards harnessing fusion energy?' The achievement of ITER's principal project specification—producing burning plasmas with a power amplification ratio across the plasma of Q>10—will demonstrate that magnetic confinement fusion can be a scientifically viable method of net energy gain, paving the way for both next-generation DEMO reactors and private efforts to deliver fusion power to the grid. Equally, ITER's first-of-a-kind diagnostic capacity will provide essential data on burning plasma behaviour in long-pulse scenarios, optimized confinement techniques, and the management of heat exhaust, among other factors. Such information is needed not only for tokamak designs, but for magnetic confinement designs as a whole, and is therefore relevant for a breadth of private sector initiatives. Moreover, the construction and assembly of the ITER Tokamak is driving industrial capabilities that benefit the international fusion ecosystem; this includes insights aligned with ITER's second main objective, which is the integration of all the technologies needed to support the operation of an industrial-scale fusion device. ITER is providing practical experience in designing, fabricating, and assembling a fusion facility and— importantly— it is the first fusion facility to go through the process of nuclear licensing. ITER's complex multinational procurement structure has also resulted in the development of fusion technology supply chains, and is contributing to the creation of a diverse, global, and experienced fusion workforce. The private sector has already begun to utilize these linkages in constructing their fusion devices, and if successful, will continue to do so at larger scales as they build more and more complex machines. Crucially, in order for fusion to function as an important carbon-free baseload power source in the future, its associated Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) must be competitive with other energy sources. In essence, for a future commercial fleet of fusion reactors to be a realistic possibility, the cost of producing a megawatt of electricity by fusion power must drastically decrease over the coming decades. This is not the goal of a first-of-a-kind machine like ITER; before one tries to decrease or even define the cost per megawatt produced, the scientific and technological viability of fusion must first be proven. However, the private sector is already beginning to test materials and concepts that could lower help to fusion's potential LCOE, once its viability is established. As an example, some private sector companies have begun testing the use of high temperature superconductors to create stronger magnetic fields, potentially allowing for a more compact tokamak design. Developing such compact reactors could make commercial fusion a more viable endeavor—but only if correspondingly advanced first-wall materials were to be developed, capable of withstanding the associated greater concentration of power. Others are building reactors with differing design concepts, such as spherical tokamaks, stellarators, Z-pinch, and reversed field configurations. Some of these innovations are higher risk and will likely fail; others may become relevant over time in the design choices of commercial reactors. Such material and conceptual tests, among many others, will provide valuable new data points to the worldwide fusion community for future magnetic confinement fusion designs. Attempts are being made across the fusion community to formalize these synergies into partnerships. The Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy, launched in the US in 2022, makes $50 million available in grants to private fusion initiatives, which will collaborate with national labs towards creating a first pilot plant. The UK's Fusion Industry Program just launched its Challenge program, which aims to engage the private sector to overcome specific fusion technical challenges. In Germany, the Pulsed Light Technologies GmbH subsidiary will invest up to 90 million euros in private sector inertial confinement initiatives. Japan, meanwhile, is launching the Fusion Industry Council to support and promote private sector engagement in the domestic fusion industry. At the international level, the IAEA recently announced the creation of the World Fusion Energy Group, an initiative to encourage cross-sector collaboration in the fusion industry. Announced at the recent IAEA Fusion Energy Conference, the group, according to Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, aims to 'bring together not just scientists and engineers from laboratories and experimental centres, but also policy makers, financiers, regulators and private companies' to accelerate the eventual achievement of commercial fusion energy production. The expansion in this type of cross-sector collaborative thinking reflects an emerging recognition that exploiting the synergies between the public and private sectors will be necessary to harness fusion energy. As the recognized global leader in multinational fusion collaboration, ITER will certainly have a critical role to play.
ITER manga 5.0
In the fifth installment of ITER Japan's manga series on the project, our hero Taiyô Tenno visits the Gyrotron Test Facility at the Naka Fusion Institute where eight ITER gyrotrons were manufactured and tested. Taiyô learns about the synthetic diamond windows that were developed over 30 years of R&D and that allow strong microwave pulses to pass through to the plasma without cracking. Download any of the comics in the "ITER: A Small Sun on Earth" series from the ITER Japan website or directly from the ITER Publications gallery (comics).
360° tour updated (October 2023)
The virtual tour of ITER construction has been updated with high-definition 360° photos from October 2023. Enter the main ITER plant buildings or the machine assembly theatre to see what has changed since the last update in January 2023. Accessible from the home page of the ITER website (yellow icon) or by clicking on the link below. Click here to enter the latest 360° ITER virtual tour.
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