Interview with Dr Konya - pro-beam project manager, responsible for the ITER project work

Scientists and engineers from around the world are researching and building the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER = Latin = "The way"). pro-beam has been carrying out development for the reactor project since 2001. D. Rudolf Konya has been involved in the project since 2014 and a year later was made responsible as a project manager in pro-beam team for the ITER project.
We take a look behind the scenes and show how the everyday life of a project manager looks when he takes part in the largest research project in the world.
Question: The project could solve the energy problem of humanity because it opens up an inexhaustible energy source. How do you manage this project with pro-beam with this responsibility, and are you aware that you participate in a project that could change the future of the whole of humanity?

Dr. Konya: This is the charm, which makes this project so exciting! The idea to be part of a project which could affect mankind far into the future by harnessing the energy of the Sun (with Fusion), is fascinating and motivating at the same time. Also this thought was crucial to my personal decision in 2014 to switch from university to pro-beam. I started with pro-beam the possibility of making a modest contribution towards shaping this project.


Question: What in your opinion is the greatest technical challenge and what solution has been found at pro-beam?

The biggest challenge is the differences between the many and various welding tasks.  There are over 2800 electron beam welding tasks with a total of 3.5 km length of weld for pro-beam on ITER with the welding varying from seam to seam, sometimes more, sometimes less. So here we have no classical series with the same conditions recurring, it is more like a mass production of different items. This variability is a great challenge for all of our processes.


In addition, it is a tremendous task to manage all the documents and the work planning in the context of a very tight schedule. Since the highest demands are placed on the welding, the parameters must be robust to deliver a stable and repeatable result with high weld quality also for changing boundary conditions.

For electron beam welding, a process that is much less well known than for example TIG welding, it is important to get all parties and interfaces together "on board". It's good to know that the electron beam is a low distortion welding process with a small total heat input. The distortion is so low that the sectors to be welded with dimensions of 11x7m, are able to stay within the required tolerances. The final movement remains within tenths of millimetres and so does not affect the function.

The procedure makes it possible to produce 60 mm thick welds in only a few minutes.

These are just a few examples showing the advantages of electron beam welding.  At the end, the outstanding welding results of the electron beam alone speaks for itself.

Question: For a project with activities distributed on three continents, where the participants between them speak over 30 languages, how - and how well—do the communications work?

The possibility to be able to be involved in a large international team is part of the charm of the ITER project. Naturally it is a challenge to ensure the coordination of all stakeholders in such a highly complex project. This works only with close and continuous cooperation. Sometimes more than 30 people participate in important conference calls. However not all meetings, video & phone conferencing or emails lead to a result straight away. With so many parties involved, the path may be sometimes longer. But with our professional and focussed work we've always been on target, so that we have now arrived at the production phase of the core of the ITER reactor, the vacuum vessel.

Thank you very much for the interview and we give our best wishes that you will to go on your successful way.