ITER Council reviews progress and challenges

22 November 2022

The ITER Council meeting to review the performance of the ITER Project, evaluated the progress of construction, manufacturing, assembly and commissioning, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain challenges on project progress. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), under construction in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance in southern France, is a first-of-a-kind global collaboration. Construction of ITER is funded mainly by the European Union (45.6%) with the remainder shared equally by China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA (9.1% each). However, in practice, the members deliver little monetary contribution to the project, instead providing ‘in-kind’ contributions of components, systems or buildings.

At its thirty-first Meeting on 16-17 November 2022, the new Director-General, Dr Pietro Barabaschi, reported on the progress of the ITER Project, reflecting the efforts of the ITER Organisation (IO) and Domestic Agencies (DAs) to succeed in the delivery of components and worksite installation and assembly activities. Dr Barabaschi, who was appointed in September following the death of former Director-General Bernard Bigot in May 2022, has started an assessment of the ITER Project, which has identified several areas to address further.

The Council noted, with appreciation, the continuing physical progress, both onsite and in member facilities including:

  • Ongoing fabrication and delivery of First-of-a-Kind components, including most recently the departure for shipment of Poloidal Field Coil #1;
  • Ongoing installation of plant support systems, including the installation of all magnet conversion equipment required for First Plasma, and the initiation of subsystem commissioning for the cryogenics facility and cooling water plant; and
  • Ongoing onsite construction works, including substantial progress on the tritium building, the control building, and civil works for the neutral beam facility.

The Council also noted the need to address a number of concerns related to First-of-a-Kind components. In particular, recent results from analysis of key components indicated the need for extensive repairs. The Council urged the Director-General to assess the impacts of these setbacks and commence the necessary repair work as soon as possible. In addition, the Council urged the ITER Organisation and Domestic Agencies to work together to ensure an appropriate project-wide quality culture to prevent any recurrence of such issues.

On regulatory issues, the Council noted the ongoing efforts to address the remaining outstanding questions of the French regulator, Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN). The Council welcomed the intention of the Director-General to ensure technically correct and transparent communication to ASN to address these issues effectively, and asked to be kept closely apprised of progress in this matter.

The Council accepted the Director-General’s recommendation to establish an updated project baseline after a comprehensive assessment and development of a corrective plan. The successful accomplishment of these actions will allow the ITER Organisation to make a solid estimation of the new timeline and cost to complete the construction of the project.

Council members resolved to work together to find timely solutions to facilitate ITER’s success. The Council noted the ongoing pressures facing the project and encouraged all ITER members to meet their in-kind and in-cash commitments to enable implementation of the construction, installation and assembly strategy.

Image: The ITER construction site (courtesy of ITER)

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