25 August 2005
It is probably fair to say that for many of us, our first choice would not be cost/engineering, unless we recognized that this might well be the single most critical effort needed for the ILC design. In order for the GDE to produce a viable design for the ILC, it will need to meet enormous challenges in the areas of engineering design and costing. We need to produce a viable concept for the ILC that can meet the performance goals, while being both affordable and buildable!
To take up this challenge, we are appointing three highly respected senior cost engineers within the GDE. That group is beginning the process of preparing for the design and costing effort that will start once the ILC baseline is determined and documented this fall. Deciding on everything from engineering standards to design and costing tools seems like a rather dry set of subjects, but the challenges in how to approach these tasks such that we can optimize the design and costs are subtle and difficult -- especially how to do them internationally.
A highlight of the cost/engineering deliberations this week at Snowmass was a talk by Robert Aymar, the CERN Director-General, who discussed experiences or lessons from ITER. ITER is an ambitious experimental plasma physics research project aimed toward developing electricity-producing fusion power plants. ITER is based on a hydrogen plasma torus operating at over 100 million °C that is designed to produce 500 MW of fusion power. It is a very large (~$10B) project being undertaken by six nations (Russia, Korea, China, Japan, U.S. and France as host country). It has recently been agreed by the six partnering nations, after a long and difficult process, that the device will be built near Cadarache, France.
The ITER model for international collaboration and for costing is one that is very useful for us to study as we develop our own plans for the ILC. Aymar, in his talk, described the design process, the costing techniques and the formation of an international project. Aymar contrasted two different paths, one involving international agreements between partnering nations (like ITER) that developed up front understandings about equitable contributions, and the other being a strong central host model, like the CERN LHC. In different ways, we are looking at both CERN and ITER as models, as well as other large international projects, to help us develop our international organizational structures for the ILC.
The GDE cost/engineering team is looking at various design and costing methodologies, having the special challenge of how to do this task internationally. They must find common methods of costing, which first involves understanding how different regions treat manpower costs, contingency, etc. and this is being done at Snowmass. For ILC costing, Bob Kephart has suggested a variant of the ITER scheme by creating what he calls 'core costs' that exclude region dependent items, expecting that those will be applied to the core costs as needed in each region to convert to their own systems.
A general design and costing philosophy and approach that we are discussing is the use of parametric methodologies. This methodology involves creating a parameter space for crucial parameters that effect performance, cost, risk, etc and studying how these vary with the parameters. Our ultimate goal is to apply a design methodology that will enable us to achieve our design goals, while minimizing cost. In a parametric approach, this involves optimizing the crucial parameters, while doing value engineering and engineering trade studies, as well as applying rigorous cost consciousness at every step in the design.
Maybe it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that this topic of engineering design and costing is as exciting as pondering about how many extra dimensions there are in nature, but it does have its own very interesting challenges, as well as being of utmost importance to the success of the ILC design process.