EPICS Training for ITER

Summer 2009 saw Observatory Sciences consultants delivering EPICS
training to the CODAC (COntrol, Data Access and Communication) Group at
ITER in Southern France. ITER is a major international research and
engineering project intended to prove the viability of fusion as an
energy source, and to collect the data necessary for the design and
subsequent operation of the first electricity producing fusion power
plant.

Launched as an idea for international collaboration in 1985,
the ITER Agreement includes China, the European Union, India, Japan,
Korea, Russia and the United States, representing over half of the
world’s population. It will be the world’s biggest research project,
with a budget of more than 10 billion Euros that will see the construction
of a working Tokamak – the best design for producing fusion power. The complex ITER Tokamak system will be nearly 30m tall and weigh 23,000 tonnes.

In choosing EPICS for the software environment used to build the ITER control system, the CODAC team made what it describes as “a safe, conservative choice.” Observatory Sciences Director Philip Taylor comments: “The EPICS community is delighted by the ITER decision. EPICS is an established software architecture that is well-proven and reliable, and where they could be assured of input and feedback from a large community of existing users, and which could be readily tailored to their own requirements.”

The ITER project is situated on 180 hectares of land in St. Paul-lez-Durance,
a commune in the Provence region of Southern France, adjacent to the existing French nuclear research centre at CEA Caderache. Site preparation began in January 2007, representing the first important milestone in the ten year-long construction process. Assembly of the Tokamak is due to start in 2013 for completion four years later, with first plasma scheduled for 2018.

The operational phase is expected to last for 20 years. First a several-year “shakedown” period of operation with pure Hydrogen will be run during which the machine will remain accessible for repairs, in order to test the most promising physics regimes. This will be followed by operation in Deuterium with a small amount of Tritium to test shielding provisions. Finally, scientists will launch a third phase with increasingly frequent full operation with an equal mixture of Deuterium and Tritium, at full fusion power.

But ITER is not an end in itself: it is the bridge toward a first plant that will demonstrate the large-scale production of electrical power and Tritium fuel self-sufficiency. This is the next step after ITER: the Demonstration Power Plant, or DEMO for short. A conceptual design for such a machine could be complete by 2017. If all goes well, DEMO will lead fusion into its industrial era, beginning operations in the early 2030s, and putting fusion power into the grid as early as 2040.

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