EFDA Newsletter (E.N.): The US withdrew from the ITER project in 1998, but has been still participating in the testing of the Central Solenoid Model Coil (CSMC), a pulsed superconducting magnet, through a bilateral agreement with Japan. Now as the US decides to rejoin the ITER project, what could be your main contributions in the field of superconductivity?

Joseph V. Minervini (J.M.): Personally I would prefer that we could come back with a strong role in the development of the superconducting magnets including delivery of substantial coils. We have a strong interest in MIT in the US magnetics programme in the CS coil area, but the US is right now in a sort of informal evaluation of the costs and what the contribution may be. We need to know that information to give it to anybody from the US side who would be negotiating the background information of what our potential contributions would be. The reinvigoration of the magnet technology programme in our country would be a big advantage for my team at MIT. After the US withdrew from ITER there was a major cut back in funding in general on the fusion programme. All technology areas were cut substantially and also our teams were reduced to a very low level, so there will be a new impetus to increase budgets and bring back a much stronger technology team.

E.N.: Do you believe you will get those people back now into your project, especially those who went to industry?

J.M.: I think that we still retained a core of people and activities. Even within the team that we have now, only about 50 to 60 % of its effort is in fusion magnets, the rest is in other areas of applied superconductivity. Some of our former team’s people are older and actually retired. But there are still enough people that we identify in other areas of different industries who have the right background and I think they could be brought into our project again from industry. But this is also a chance for some younger people from universities. I’m optimistic that now, as there is a substantial effort to really build ITER, it will have a strong influence on people deciding to come back into this project and making it a career commitment.

E.N.: After the US withdrew most of the industrial teams involved in ITER were dismantled. Do you believe they will be able to immediately participate in the ITER magnets construction?

J.M.: We have already been discussing with industry in the background, seeing who and what are available for industrial teams and capabilities. I can foresee that there is enough of a basis left there to come back in a strong fashion, including people who had participated in large scale industrial activities during the EDA phase and particularly during the construction of the CS model coil. We always have continued the activity with US industry for superconducting magnet development, so I don’t see any big problem for them to reorganize now on a large scale.

E.N.: Superconductivity is one of the most advanced technologies in the ITER project. After 15 years of research, what are the main lessons learned for ITER?

J.M.: There is still a lot that we need to learn, but I think experiments like Tore Supra have certainly demonstrated that you can introduce superconductivity to a fusion application and have it work reliably. This has also been demonstrated in Japan with the Large Helical Device. The results of CSMC and the Toroidal Field Model Coil (TFMC) give the magnet technology community worldwide the confidence that the coils of the scale of ITER can be designed and fabricated in industry, using existing and new technology that was developed over the last five to ten years. Implementing and operating those coils in the appropriate operating conditions demonstrated that you can go ahead with confidence to build a machine like ITER and it will work.

Both interviews: D. Lutz-Lanzinger

Dr. Joseph V. Minervini is the Division Head for Technology and Engineering in the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA). His major project was as Principal Investigator for the US ITER Magnetics R&D Programme as a part of the ITER project. His present duties include spokesperson of the US Magnetics Programme organized under the Virtual Laboratory for Technology of the DOE Office of Fusion Energy Science (OFES).

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