you're currently reading the news digest published from 17 Jun 2024 to 24 Jun 2024



34th ITER Council | Updated baseline presented

Nearly 100 people met for two days last week for the 34th Meeting of the ITER Council. The meeting was an important one, as the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies presented a proposed update of the project baseline. Re-baselining has three objectives: optimizing the overall project schedule, minimizing the delay to the start of substantial research operations (full magnet current, deuterium-deuterium fusion operation, etc.), and lowering licensing and technical risks.  On taking office in October 2022, Director-General Pietro Barabaschi launched a program of project reform, with the support of the Domestic Agencies and under the supervision of the ITER Council. These reforms included streamlined project management, heightened attention to quality control, and enhanced reporting. In addition, they addressed the need to develop a revised project baseline, due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and technical challenges linked to the first-of-a-kind nature of many components. At the 34th Meeting of the ITER Council, which took place on 19 and 20 June 2024, the ITER Organization, with support from the Domestic Agencies, submitted a proposed update to the project baseline for the Council's consideration. The proposed new baseline would prioritize the start of substantial research operations as rapidly as possible by consolidating tokamak assembly stages, enhancing pre-assembly testing, and reducing machine assembly and commissioning risks. The proposal designs a path to a scientifically and technically robust initial phase of operations, including deuterium-deuterium fusion operation in 2035 followed by full magnetic energy and plasma current operation.  The Council reaffirmed that the fusion operations pursued by ITER remain strongly relevant for global fusion research and development and the national fusion programs of the ITER Members. The proposed baseline will be further evaluated, including the cost and schedule implications of this new approach, before the Council reconvenes in November 2024.   ITER Director-General Barabaschi will hold a hybrid press conference (in-person and remote) at 10:30 a.m. CET on 3 July 2024. All details will be posted on the ITER website under Events.  During the two-day meeting, the Council also received reports on the progress of construction (including repairs of key components), manufacturing, assembly, and licensing; appointed Ms DeLeah Lockridge (United States) as Head of the Engineering Services Department; and welcomed the engagement of the project with private fusion sector initiatives. See the press release in English or French.

Image of the Week | Hard work deserves an outdoor buffet

A start-of-summer event was held on Friday 21 June for the ITER community—an occasion to celebrate the everyday commitment of staff and contractors alike, across the international project, whose collaboration is bringing the project ever closer to its goals. A rain shower was not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of participants. The day after the 34th Meeting of the ITER Council (IC-34) came to a close (see related article), two staff events were organized back-to-back. First, the ITER amphitheatre filled to capacity for an all-staff meeting on the results of IC-34. The heads of all ITER Domestic Agencies joined the ITER Director-General on stage, and each one took the microphone to express appreciation for all the hard work that had gone into the preparation, over many months, of the updated baseline proposal that was presented to Council members for evaluation. The all-staff meeting was followed by a buffet lunch under tents outdoors. A live band played under the trees, a wink to France's national 'festival of music' that takes place in towns and cities across the country every year on the same day, 21 June. While the proposed baseline is further evaluated by the ITER Members, work will continue at pace at the ITER Organization and in the offices of the ITER Domestic Agencies. The events organized on Friday helped to create the feeling that one busy chapter is closing, as another opens...

Poloidal field coils | Reflecting on a unique industrial achievement

They had worked together for 10 years. And on Thursday 20 June, they gathered one last time to reflect on what they had accomplished. Director-General Pietro Barabaschi, who joined ITER in the early 1990s when the project was entering the Engineering Design Activities (EDA) phase, remembered when the machine's poloidal field coils were 'just drawings.' Alessandro Bonito Oliva, who before becoming head of the Tokamak Program at ITER managed the magnets program of the European Domestic Agency for more than 15 years, recalled the time when, in the entire fusion ecosystem, 'no more than 20 people had experience in the manufacturing of large superconducting magnets.' Pierre Gavouyere-Lasserre, Europe's Deputy Project Manager for poloidal field coils, reflected on the (relative) emptiness of the vast facility today 'much like it was in 2014, when it all started.' And Marc Lachaise, who was appointed Director of the European Domestic Agency in February 2023, praised the hundreds of workers whose 'resilience and creativity' had made this unique industrial achievement possible: the successful manufacturing and testing, under Europe's supervision, of the four largest ring-shaped superconducting magnets ever designed, ranging from 17 to 24 metres in diameter and weighing between 200 and almost 400 tonnes. Manufacturing requires a factory and a team—and for the ITER poloidal field coils, "both were built from scratch,' said Enrico Vizio, Europe's Magnets Program Manager. In late 2015, the vast poloidal field coil winding facility was ready to receive its first bespoke equipment. As weeks and months passed, more tooling was added, whose functions seemed quite inscrutable for the non-specialists: sturdy tower-like devices, what looked like giant tape dispensers, walkways, gantries, steel cylinders and electrical cubicles. Meanwhile a composite workforce of men and women from a dozen European suppliers was assembled. Coming from different countries and backgrounds, they soon formed 'a team' in the strongest sense of the term. Director-General Barabaschi insisted on the importance, in the success of this exceptional venture, of 'all those who worked with their hands.' In less than ten years, four massive, complex and delicate first-of-kind components came off the production line: two that measured 17 metres in diameter (PF5 in April 2021 and PF2 in December 2021) and two that measured 24 metres in diameter (PF4 in August 2023 and PF3 in April 2024). PF5, 'almost a prototype', had required three and half years of work. Although 40% larger and wound with 22% more superconducting cable, PF3 was finalized in two years and 9 months—a 15-month gain in fabrication time. There is, however, an achievement that is just as important as the fabrication of the four ITER ring-shaped coils. Hundreds of specialists, working in the winding facility since 2015, have created a wealth of technical and organizational skills that will benefit the 'next-step machine' and the nascent fusion industry.


G7 communiqué includes mention of fusion energy

In the communiqué published on 14 June 2024 at the close of the G7 Summit in Italy, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States listed fusion energy among the initiatives and commitments having the potential to advance efforts to address the triple global crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.  Under the sub-heading of "Energy, Climate and Environment," the communiqué states: "Fusion energy technology has the potential to provide a lasting solution to the global challenges of climate change and energy security. We will promote international collaborations to accelerate the development and demonstration of fusion plants to foster private investments and public engagement. With this aim, we commit to establishing a G7 Working Group on Fusion Energy. We will also work towards consistent approaches to fusion regulations. To enhance cooperation in this field, we welcome Italy and the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision to host in Rome the inaugural ministerial meeting of the World Fusion Energy Group." Read the full communiqué here.


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