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Media Corner
13 June 2012

Helios supercomputer facility officially inaugurated

Senior officials congratulate the lucky student for submitting the best nickname entry for the Helios supercomputer

A new sun has risen over Rokkasho bringing new hope to fusion energy research and deepening the international collaboration between Europe and Japan. “Helios”, from the Greek word sun, the supercomputer facility at the International Fusion Energy Research Centre (IFERC) hosted by the Japanese Atomic Energy Authority (JAEA), has been officially inaugurated attracting the interest of 150 people from the circles of policy, science and technology. The facility stems from the Broader Approach (BA) Agreement between the two parties and complements the ITER project through various R&D activities in the field of nuclear fusion. The European participation to the BA is coordinated by F4E. The supercomputer was provided by France as a part of its voluntary contribution to the BA, through a contract between the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA) and Bull.

Due to the great earthquake, Japan had to reorganise the supply of the supercomputer cooling system, and all teams had to work tightly together to achieve the assembly of the supercomputer on time despite difficulties. Therefore, the inauguration of Helios has been the occasion of a joyful celebration of the courage and resilience of the Broader Approach parties, and their commitment to advance fusion science. In a ceremony that brought together Tenzo Kumura, Deputy Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Shingo Mimura, Governor of Aomori and members of Japan’s Diet, words of praise for the infrastructure were echoed and the need to invest in a sustainable energy mix. Similarly, Stuart Ward, Chair of the F4E Governing Board and Barbara Rhode, EU Science and Technology Counsellor, highlighted the merits of international collaboration and the determination of the shared objective to succeed. The local community has also welcomed “Helios” with open arms. In a competition that was launched in six schools in the area, students were asked to suggest a nickname for the supercomputer. “Rokkuchan” was the entry that was selected and the lucky student was invited to attend the inauguration ceremony. The ceremony was concluded with a scientific talk on the contribution of the supercomputer in plasma physics and a tour of the facility.

The first call for proposals, open to more than 1,000 fusion researchers from Europe and Japan, attracted a high number of submissions. Four high-visibility runs otherwise known as “light-house projects” have been selected from the areas of magnetohydrodynamics, transport of energy. Their findings will help us understand better local physics and predictability. Given the fact that “Helios” is high in demand, a series of seminars over the web will be carried out in autumn to train European fusion scientists.

The importance that F4E attaches to the BA has also been highlighted by the recent appointment of Juan Knaster as new IFMIF/EVEDA Project Leader, who will be moving to Rokkasho in order to take up his new position starting mid-June. The International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF), currently in the Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (EVEDA) phase, is one of the three pillars of the BA Agreement. IFMIF/EVEDA is to prepare for the construction of a materials test facility for future fusion reactors (DEMO). Knaster will be leading the European-Japanese Integrated Project Team.  

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