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Media Corner
02 June 2014

Europe explains its ITER contribution to the media

Professor Henrik Bindslev, F4E Director, explaining Europe’s contribution to ITER to BBC radio

More than 50 journalists from all over the world crossed the gates of the ITER headquarters to witness the progress of the biggest international collaboration in the field of energy. The ITER media trip has officially become the meeting point for those who are eager to learn more about fusion energy, discover its merits and challenges, understand the complexity of the ITER components and their manufacturing.

Several high-level speakers were invited to explain key ITER technologies, elaborate on schedule and cost. Through their presentations one could sense their resilience and optimism that fusion energy will eventually be part of the energy mix. The presentations covered a broad range of topics such as the overall management of the project, the different interfaces of the ITER assembly, the compliance with the nuclear safety standards. Between sessions, a guided tour on the impressive construction site was planned, with Laurent Schmieder, F4E’s Head of Construction, Buildings and Power Supplies, who offered a warm welcome to all participants and explained how the site has changed over the years. A few minutes later, the Tokamak pit turned into a massive TV studio. Crews started by fixing their cameras on the rebars, repositioned their microphones because of the wind and once the interviewers and interviewees took positions it was time for action: statements, soundbites and photos starting finding their way to articles, blogs, reports and social media.

With Europe being responsible for nearly half of ITER’s cost, a special media briefing was planned to explain the involvement of F4E to the project and the tangible benefits for Europe’s industry and SMEs. Professor Henrik Bindslev, F4E’s Director, opened the briefing with a report on what has been achieved so far in terms of construction, manufacturing and the list of incentives given to companies. He highlighted the role played by industry in delivering the ITER components and paving the way towards a fusion energy market.

Companies from different sectors were also invited to elaborate on their contribution and why it mattered to them to be part of ITER. Ferrovial was represented by Oriol Ribas Escola, who outlined the construction process of different ITER buildings and the rigorous specifications that have to be met down to the level of the concrete mix. On behalf of Atkins, Simon Layzell, explained the titanic tasks stemming from the Architect Engineer contract and the compliance with strict nuclear safety standards. Greg Willetts, illustrated the role of AMEC in the field of in-vessel technologies and spoke of ITER as a new knowledge platform for sustainable energy. For Stefano Pittaluga the work undertaken by ASG Superconductors for the Toroidal Field Coils, served as an opportunity to retrain staff with new skills and explore the potential of superconductors in the energy market. Finally, Mathias Zorn from the M+W Group, explained the engineering challenges of equipping the most emblematic building of ITER- the Tokamak complex.

The participants conveyed a message of commitment and pride to be associated with the project. Some spoke of ITER as a reference boosting their position in the market and the capacity to recruit talented people. Others highlighted the wealth of skills that they have acquired and their application in other domains. Irrespectively of their visions, they all coincided in one observation: the lessons we draw today from ITER will determine to a great extent tomorrow’s energy choices.

International media representatives during the briefing