The international project to build the ITER experimental fusion reactor is suffering delays in its schedule after entering "a phase of unprecedented technical complexity and challenges," the ITER Council said, following its thirteenth meeting, and called for an immediate plan to address the delays.
A team has been assembled to come up with an action plan to improve project performance. This plan will be presented in mid-January and evaluated at an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council scheduled for early February next year.
The ITER Council is the governing body of the ITER Organisation and is made up of representatives from the seven ITER members: China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. It met under the chairmanship of Hideyuki Takatsu (Japan) in St Paul-lez-Durance, France on 20-21 November.
The action plan is the Council’s response to an internal, biennial independent assessment that urged changes in both project management and governance.
The Council also approved two important technical proposals for the design of the divertor and in-vessel coils, components that will have a positive impact on the performance of ITER.
Operations will commence with a full tungsten divertor, rather than a carbon-fibre divertor that would have been replaced in any case during the second phase of operations with a tungsten version. The decision comes after more than two years of R&D and experiments on the tungsten divertor carried out in the Institute of Electrophysical Apparatus (St. Petersburg, Russia) and at JET (UK). The change "will result in cost savings for the project," ITER said. The Council also approved a proposal to include in-vessel coils, which will improve overall plasma stability, in the project baseline.
All seven members also reported that the pace of manufacturing of key components was "progressing steadily." ITER is targeting first plasma in November 2019, with the start of deuterium-tritium operation planned for March 2027, according to a schedule agreed in July 2010.