Physics – Letters to the EditorAugust 26, 2020 – Physics

The beginning of 2020 saw years of plans converging for the ITER Organization (the international collaboration that works toward demonstrating the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes). Construction has reached completion on major components for the thermonuclear fusion reactor. Complex delivery protocols were set in motion to bring these large pieces onsite in Cadarache, France. Unfortunately, the start of COVID-19 necessitated some major changes to starting assembly.

ITER quickly enacted safety measures for on-site essential staff, prioritizing worker welfare while doing its best to stay on track. The new work-from-home situation for non-essential staff has had minimal impact on most of my division. A lot of our work lies in the realm of simulations. While adjusting to the work-from-home lifestyle, frequent boosts in morale came from the daily ITER Bulletin that keeps us all up to date on progress. Workers here are still striving to make fusion energy a reality.

By mid-May, France began to lift restrictions and non-essential workers started voluntarily returning to the work site. Bus rides to the site operate at half capacity with staggered seating, our beloved caf is closed for everything except lunch, all meetings are virtual, and masks are required. In the end, we all came together online for a virtual start of assembly celebration. Sharing that moment was fantastic, even at a distance. With the cryostat base safely installed in the tokamak pit, work is moving forward. New components are constantly arriving from across the world. Were now testing a working schedule of two days on-site, three days off-site, and are learning as we go while maintaining both progress and safety.

Jonathan Coburn is a Monaco Postdoctoral Fellow within the Science Division of the ITER Organization, Cadarache, France.

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Physics - Letters to the EditorAugust 26, 2020 - Physics

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