French nuclear expert to lead ITER to construction phase

E&T Magazine 6 March 2015 By Tereza Pultarova

French nuclear energy expert Bernard Bigot was appointed ITER’s new Director General [Credit: ITER]

French nuclear energy expert Bernard Bigot has been appointed the new Director General of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) as the project moves from the design to construction phase after years of delays.

Bigot, previously a chairman and a CEO of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, will replace Japanese Osamu Motojima, who led the project since July 2010.

If completed, ITER, under construction in southern France, will become the world’s largest experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor – a device mimicking the processes taking place inside the Sun to generate electricity. However, the project, a joint venture between European Union, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States, is several years behind its schedule.

The schedule slippage forced the ITER Council to revise the project’s cost, scope and schedule in 2014. Motojima started developing a new baseline for the construction, which will be continued by Bigot with the aim to present the new baseline at an ITER Council meeting in November this year.

“The whole world needs innovative technologies to assure its long-term sustainable supply of energy,” Bigot said upon his appointment. “Magnetic confinement fusion is one of the most promising options. I am deeply honoured for the possibility of contributing to the large, international and ambitious research program that is ITER, which has innovation as its aim.”

The transition of the project from its design completion phase to its full construction phase motivated the early handover from Motojima, whose term officially ends in July this year, ITER said in a statement.

The ITER Council endorsed the Action Plan presented by Bigot, which addresses and is in line with the recommendations of the most recent management assessment and stresses the importance of delivery of the revised project baseline,ITER said.