27 Nov 2023 to 04 Dec 2023
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Fusion world | Japan and Europe inaugurate largest tokamak in the world
It was 6:00 a.m. in La Bergerie, a former sheep barn located a few kilometres from ITER in the vast Château de Cadarache domain, and that had been converted in 2021 into a high-tech 'remote experiment centre' by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and EUROfusion. Some 40 people, belonging to ITER, EUROfusion and the French Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research (CEA-IRFM) had their eyes glued to an array of large screens. They were waiting in excitement for a momentous event in the history of fusion research: the official inauguration of JT-60SA—'the world's largest tokamak' located 10,000 miles away in Naka, Japan—where the clock was just striking 2:00 p.m. JT-60SA is one of the projects of the Broader Approach agreement—a scientific collaboration between the European Union and Japan to accelerate the development of fusion energy through advanced research in complement to ITER. Work on JT-60SA, a major modification of the JT-60U tokamak at the Naka Fusion Institute in Japan, was carried out between 2007 and 2020, followed by a lengthy period of commissioning that included the discovery, and repair, of a short circuit at the terminals of one of the machine's largest poloidal field coils. First plasma was successfully achieved on 23 October 2023. The ITER Organization has been closely associated with the upgrade project through collaboration agreements that ensured that it could learn from the assembly, installation, integrated commissioning and operation of the JT-60SA device. With a plasma radius of 3 metres and a plasma volume of 130 m³, JT-60SA is the largest operating tokamak in the world. The European Domestic Agency Fusion for Energy (F4E) has managed Europe's contribution to the project, including the management of European funds and the coordination of the fabrication of components by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, who all participated voluntarily in the project. EUROfusion, the consortium of 31 European laboratories, has also been contributing, and will continue to do so, by means of hardware and personnel. Japan's National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (QST) is host to the device in Naka and manages the Japanese contribution in terms of equipment and staff. Some 500 researchers from Europe and Japan have been involved, and more than 70 suppliers have contributed to the manufacturing of its components. At a ceremony held on 1 December 2023, Europe's Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, together with Japan's Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Masahito Moriyama, and Japan's Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy Sanae Takaichi, were joined by senior politicians, representatives from industry, and the research community to inaugurate the JT-60SA facility. ITER Director-General Pietro Barabaschi and ITER Deputy Director-General Yutaka Kamada were especially moved by the start of JT-60SA operation, as they had led the project for their respective stakeholders for a decade before joining the ITER Organization. 'For me, JT-60SA is a machine that has a soul,' said Director-General Barabaschi. 'Its personality derives from the other face of this great experience, the social and human side. [...] Together we forged something of [extra] value—a powerful new way to cooperate in projects, which I really think provides a management model that we have created from scratch that I believe will and can be used for many projects to come. [...] With my brother-in-arms Kamada-san, we'll do our best to spread this approach to the ITER Project.' Minister for Science and Technology Policy Sanae Takaichi commented, "The successful generation of the first plasma is a significant achievement that will lead to the early realization of fusion energy. During the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation plenary session in June this year, I witnessed both Japanese and European researchers working very hard to realize the first plasma. I am very pleased that the efforts of these researchers have borne fruit. Based on the success of this first plasma generation, we would like to do our best for the development of fusion energy and its related industries, while fundamentally strengthening research and development and involving the industrial community to establish an industrial council." European Commissioner Kadri Simson said, 'Today is a milestone for fusion history. JT-60SA, the most advanced tokamak in the world, officially starts operating... With this tokamak, Japan and Europe are positioning themselves as world leaders on magnetic fusion research. [...] Its unique technology will allow for unprecedented scientific experiments, and the results of these experiments will feed the progress of the ITER Project.' See the press release issued after the event in English or French. Watch a replay of the two-hour ceremony here. From F4E see an introductory video on JT-60SA and an article on the event.
Stakeholders | ITER Director-General meets Prime Minister Kishida
In Japan, the prime minister lives and works at the Prime Minister's Official Residence in central Tokyo, just a few blocks from the National Diet Building and the grounds of the Imperial Palace. It was in this modern glass-fronted building that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida received ITER Director-General Pietro Barabaschi on 30 November 2023 for a cordial exchange on the status of ITER and the role of Japan in the ITER Project. Prime Minister Kishida has been the head of the government of Japan since October 2021, when he was appointed by the emperor after being nominated by the National Diet. Concurrently, he is the head of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party. Pietro Barabaschi, before becoming the Director-General of the ITER Organization in September 2022, led the European contributions to the JT-60SA tokamak project—a major upgrade of the Japanese tokamak JT-60U being carried out jointly by Europe and Japan under the Broader Approach agreement. It has been estimated that his duties as JT-60SA project leader since 2007, and later as director of the totality of the Broader Approach activities, had led him to travel over 180 times to Japan. The bilateral meeting took place just one day before the inauguration of the JT-60SA tokamak which, until ITER operation, will be the largest tokamak in the world. At the meeting, Prime Minister Kishida underscored the continued commitment of Japan to the ITER Project. Director-General Barabaschi expressed his appreciation for the continued contributions of Japan to ITER, and the country's role as one of the historical founders of the international collaboration to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes. Japan has long been a steadfast partner in the realization of ITER, participating alongside Europe, Russia and the United States in the project's early conceptual design activities (1988-1990), hosting one of three Joint Work Sites during engineering design (1992-2001), proposing a site for the project, and—since the signature of the ITER Agreement—hosting a number of advanced fusion research projects in complement to ITER under the umbrella of the Broader Approach. As Member to the ITER Project, Japan is responsible for delivering critical components and systems, including niobium-tin conductor for the central solenoid, toroidal field magnets and magnet structures, gyrotrons for electron cyclotron heating, the outer vertical target of the ITER divertor, and the blanket remote handling system. The meeting with Prime Minister Kishida was of historical significance to the ITER Project, as it was the first time that an ITER Director-General had met the head of government of an ITER Member. During his trip, Director-General Barabaschi also met with Masakazu Tokura, the chairman of the Japan Business Federation Keidanren, and attended a trilateral meeting with Masahito Moriyama, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson.
Image of the week | Season wrapping
Although the travel distance is short, barely exceeding one hundred metres, the transfer of vacuum vessel sector #8 from the Assembly Hall, where it is presently stored, to the Cryostat Workshop where it will be repaired, requires careful planning and preparation. Prior to moving this week from one controlled environment to another, the massive component was wrapped in three layers of plastic protection, two of them tightly sealed, and equipped with humidity inhibitors, temperature sensors, air circulating devices and even accelerometers to ensure its protection during transfer and 'mid- to long-term storage,' depending on when repair activities can begin in earnest. A looser-fitting third layer of plastic protection was added, whose colour and reflections are perfectly in tune with the holiday season. Now, the vacuum vessel looks like a giant panettone, the Italian sweet bread specialty that is enjoyed throughout southern Europe at Christmas and New Year.
In memoriam | Bernard Pégourié, physicist and mountaineer
The worldwide fusion community mourns Bernard Pégourié, of France's Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research (CEA-IRFM), who passed away on 25 November following a mountain climbing accident. An astrophysicist by training, Bernard entered the world of fusion research in 1988 and dedicated his work to plasma-wall interactions, becoming an expert on hydrogen ice pellet injection. He was a brilliant physicist and an excellent 'science communicator' with a unique talent for simplifying complex issues. He was involved in several training programs in France and abroad. A passionate mountaineer, he was the victim of a 15-metre fall in the Gorges du Verdon, not far from ITER and Cadarache. Bernard Pégourié was 60 and was set to retire in the coming weeks. He will be sorely missed by his mountaineer friends and his colleagues in the fusion world. ITER extends its condolences to his family.
COP28 | Fusion is making a splash
The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, opened on 30 November in Dubai's Expo City—a sprawling conference centre built two years ago for the World Exhibition. One takeaway already is that fusion is no longer fighting for a seat at the table. Among a rash of initiatives promised by governments to "bolster clean energy and to wean themselves off fossil fuels" (Reuters), initiatives that include the promise of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, investment in fusion energy no longer exists at the margin. On the second day, a panel titled "Fusion and Climate: The Conversation Continues" highlighted the current momentum in the field of fusion. The panel's makeup—with Rafael Mariano Grossi (Director General of the IAEA), Christofer Mowry (Chairman of the Fusion Industry Association and CEO of Type One Energy, a private sector stellarator project) and Laban Coblentz (ITER Organization)—was indicative of the growing consensus that increased private/public partnership in fusion is the way to move forward. The panelists discussed how this could be broadened and expanded through the IAEA's announced World Fusion Energy Group and other initiatives. On Saturday, the launch of a Fusion Energy Task Force was announced by the Sustainable Markets Initiative, aiming to accelerate the commercialization of fusion energy by facilitating broader market participation from both private and public sectors and industry. The non-profit organization Energy for the Common Good is planning two panels in the week ahead on the regulatory landscape for fusion commercialization, including one at the ITER Pavilion in the Blue Zone on 5 December. Also on 5 December is the expectation that US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry will have an announcement on a fusion strategy for the United States, likely in concert with the announcement from the White House today. Stay tuned for full COP28 coverage in the ITER Newsline.
Guest lecture on high-powered lasers and fusion
Félicie Albert, Director of the Jupiter Laser Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, delivered a guest lecture on 4 December 2023 to several hundred members of the ITER community. She returned to the achievement of fusion ignition at the National Ignition Facility in December 2022—a first-of-class milestone that had reverberated around the world and that has been replicated several times since—and brought the audience up to date on future plans for the facility. "The National Ignition Facility has not yet reached its full potential; we have many plans for the future," she said. Increasing the energy of the laser, achieving more routine implosions of the deuterium-tritium target, and sustaining the facility through the maintenance and replacement of components are all on the list. As for the longer-term prospects of designing and building a fusion power plant based on laser technology (inertial fusion), she described the many scientific and technological challenges that would have to be overcome. Director Albert also took time to describe other laser facilities at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where research activities are underway to investigate particle acceleration in laser-driven plasmas as a way to generate x-rays that have unique properties and that can be used for non-destructive examination of materials or the probing of matter in extreme conditions. Félicie Albert is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the recipient of numerous awards including the APS Katherine E. Weimer Award (2017) and the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineers (2019).
New resource on fusion
After dedicating their careers to fusion power development, five recently retired engineers have launched an educational website, Facts About Fusion, that is designed to make the intricate world of fusion energy understandable and engaging for everyone. Bill Spears, Federico Casci, Werner Gulden, Antonino Cardella, and Lorenzo Virgilio Boccaccini set out to give "a grounded view of the requirements, aims, and variety of fusion power development, highlighting the achievements so far, the current status, and the steps still needed to reach an acceptable solution." What sets this site apart, according to its authors, is its objective viewpoint. "While the authors are knowledgeable and experienced in the field of fusion, their retirement status allows them to offer a neutral perspective that complements existing fusion project websites. This unique vantage point enhances the website's goal of fostering a better-informed public." Click to visit Facts About Fusion. See this introductory article by Bill Spears published on the EUROfusion website.
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