Our motivation was to set up a better infrastructure in order to focus on turning fusion energy into reality”, says Adam Stephen from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE). He teamed up with partners from ITER and Fusion for Energy to modernise parts of JET’s central nervous system with the help of ITER’s software.

Adam is part of the team which delivers CODAS. This COntrol and Data Acquisition System uses a real-time network which interconnects more than 100 systems receiving data from and feeding data into the Joint European Torus (JET). The device’s communication system was due for an upgrade so that it would accept current state of the art communication.

Some of the CODAS+IT team involved in the work: (Back row, from left to right) Derek Sandiford (Visualisation Expert), Alex Goodyear (real-time Expert), John Waterhouse (Head of Control and Data Acquisitions Group). In the front (left to right) Danny Sortino (Student), David Grist (Visualisation team), Adam Stephen (ITER systems I&C coordinator for JET). Pictures: A. Stephen

Some of the CODAS+IT team involved in the work: (Back row, from left to right) Derek Sandiford (Visualisation Expert), Alex Goodyear (real-time Expert), John Waterhouse (Head of Control and Data Acquisitions Group). In the front (left to right) Danny Sortino (Student), David Grist (Visualisation team), Adam Stephen (ITER systems I&C coordinator for JET). Pictures: A. Stephen

Real-time visualisation

The question was: is there already a facility that has the proper software toolkit to enhance world’s largest operational tokamak? The answer came as a surprise: ITER, the tokamak of the future. An important part of the modernisation comprised improved visualisation tools for the scientists in JET’s control room. In practice, JET data are piped into a new real-time visualisation system integrated by Derek Sandiford and colleagues. As a result, the team in the control room now benefits from an improved view of the tokamak processes displayed on their screens.

“I would say one of the nicest part of our ITER software is the real-time communication, a combination of networks and software”, says Anders Wallander, Head of ITER’s Control System Division. Imagine you need to run a unique fusion machine which needs to manage the input of 170 different plant systems and, moreover, make this data available to the world’s scientific community as quickly as possible. You don’t start developing it just two weeks before going online.

Increasing ITER’s user community since 2011

On the contrary, the ITER CODAC software development was launched in 2011 and made available to the whole fusion community. Over 65 organisations such as plant system suppliers, fusion labs, domestic agencies and contractors are currently using the software in order to develop plant control systems, test and evaluate them and give feedback. Just like any other software, on your smartphone for instance, the software is updated every so often. “It is stable now. This year, we switched from two updates per year to only one”, says Anders.

Only three days to go

For this, ITER provides digital customer support along with the infrastructure. As the ITER plant systems are currently in the manufacturing phase it is difficult to comprehend how well they will work in an integrated machine.
The situation at JET, which has been up and running since 1983, was different. “We were able to test in reality to see the ITER software was mature enough and we could focus on the real challenge”, says Adam Stephen.
Adam and his counterparts Bertrand Bauvir (ITER) and Andre Neto( Fusion for Energy) were literally able to go into a closed meeting for three days and integrate the entire system until the late evening: “We had all preparations done and then went into a workshop where we fixed every tiny issue. The goal was to get the system going within three days and we succeeded in a fairly short time!”

Communication matters

“This only works if you have the right people, the right timing and the right solution for the problem”, says Anders Wallander. He and his CCFE colleague Adam agree on defining the most important thing for a fruitful collaboration: communication. “Usually, you have technical experts but they are not so good in communication. Or you have good communicators but they lack technical expertise. You hardly ever get both”, says Anders.

In this case, the project team obviously managed to obtain all the necessary skills. The group is eagerly looking forward to continuing with the successful integration of ITER’s software on JET’s system. This co-operative work is a win-win for both the experienced tokamak in England and the one to come in France. By choosing to work together, it also makes it possible for future ITER prototypes to be seamlessly tested on JET.

Bertrand Bauvir from ITER (on the left) and his F4E counterpart Andre Neto focussing on the implementation. Pictures: A. Stephen

Bertrand Bauvir from ITER (on the left) and his F4E counterpart Andre Neto focussing on the implementation. Pictures: A. Stephen