ITER Update

November 22, 2017

The governing body of the ITER Organization, the ITER Council, met for the twenty-first time on 15 and 16 November 2017 under the chairmanship of Won Namkung (Korea). Representatives from China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States reviewed a detailed set of reports and indicators covering both organizational and technical performance, and concluded that the project remains on track for success.

In November 2007 - ten years ago exactly - the ITER Council convened for the first time in the history of the ITER Organization. Clearing had just begun on the ITER site, the ITER design was under review, and only 170 people were working in temporary offices, housed by ITER's host and neighbor—the CEA Cadarache research centre. Twenty Council meetings later and a quantum leap forward, the ITER Organization assessed the level of manufacturing completion for First Plasma components and systems at 61 percent and the level of total construction work scope completion through First Plasma at 49 percent.

Since early 2016, the ITER Organization has been controlling and reporting project progress on the basis of high-level milestones. Whether related to construction, manufacturing or deliveries—or rather to programmatic milestones like recruitment and contract signatures—these milestones are underpinned in the schedule by the many thousands of activities that make up progress to First Plasma, with each one representing a firm achievement on the road to ITER operation. During the two-day meeting, participants confirmed that the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies have achieved all Council-approved milestones for 2016 and 2017, maintaining strict adherence to the overall project schedule and critical path. Processes for schedule control, risk management and cooperation also continue to improve, with project performance metrics that now measure physical progress in construction, manufacturing, assembly and installation down to the level of each building system and component.

The Council continued its candid discussions, acknowledging continuing efforts made by each Member to overcome various challenges, which include ensuring approval of the cost baseline, as concluded at the Nineteenth ITER Council in November 2016. Council members reaffirmed their strong belief in the value of the project, and its mission and vision, and resolved to work together to find timely solutions to ensure ITER's success. It now falls to each Member to seek approval of project costs through their respective governmental budget processes.

ITER began its existence as an aspiration in the early 1980s, as actors in the fusion community called for the joint machine that would demonstrate the prospects of fusion energy. It acquired tangible reality on 21 November 1985, when President Reagan and Secretary Gorbachev advocated together for “the widest practicable development of international cooperation” in fusion research. Twenty-one years later to the day—on 21 November 2006—the representatives of the ITER Members signed the Agreement that established "the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project" and the legal framework for the project existed at last. The ratification, or 'approval,' process by each of the seven Members, each according to its own procedures, was to take another eleven months.

Work on the pre-compression rings of the ITER magnet system progresses in Europe, where work on a full-scale prototype is underway. These technically challenging components—made of composite materials—are designed to push back against the electromagnetic forces of the ITER machine and reduce the fatigue on the structures of the toroidal field magnets. The electromagnetic forces acting on the machine structure during operation will be huge—to the order of several hundred meganewtons (MN). Caused by electromagnetic interaction between the toroidal field coil current and the magnetic field generated by the poloidal field coils, these out-of-plane forces will cause stress to the toroidal field coils and, over time, fatigue. Six pre-compression rings, installed at the top and bottom of the toroidal fieldcoils, will be used to pull the 18 coils tightly together. Measuring five metres in diameter and weighing approximately three tonnes, the pre-compression rings will reduce the fatigue on the magnet structures caused by electro-magnetic forces—consequently prolonging their operational lifetime. Three other rings will be manufactured as spares. A lengthy R&D program carried out in Europe identified a glass-fibre/epoxy composite as the best material for withstanding high loads and avoiding the circulation of current; the fiberglass composite rings, consisting of more than a billion miniscule glass fibres, will be glued together by a high performances epoxy resin. Work is underway at Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus D&S) in Madrid, Spain, on a full-size prototype—part of advanced qualification activities that precede the start of production. Development of the spare pre-compression rings is taking place at CNIM in Toulon, France, where a small-scale mockup is underway.

For more information on ITER progress, visit the ITER web site: http://www.iter.org