Bernard Bigot, ITER Director-General

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Why did you decide to be present on the EXPO 2017 inside the French pavilion?

Seven Members have signed the international agreement that establishes the ITER Project: the China, the European Union (under the Euratom treaty), India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States.

By unanimous accord, a site in southern France was chosen in 2005. Building began in 2010 and today more than 1,500 are involved in preparing the buildings and auxiliary facilities for the world’s largest tokamak. It will take two more years to finish the principal Tokamak Building and begin machine assembly activities.

France participates in ITER as a member of the European Union. But in addition, as Host, it has had a special role to play. Some of France’s “additional commitments” to the project are: providing the building site and carrying out all preparatory works (clearing, levelling, fencing, and networks for water and electricity); adapting the roads along the itinerary foreseen for the transport of ITER components; creating an international school for the families of ITER employees; and accepting responsibility for the deactivation and dismantling phase of the project.

The presence of the ITER Organization at the French pavilion at the EXPO 2017 is testimony to the special relationship between France and the ITER Project.

What innovations would you like to present at EXPO 2017?

In the world of fusion, ITER is the critical step between today’s experimental machines and tomorrow’s fusion power plants. Its role is to confirm the feasibility of exploiting magnetic confinement fusion at large scale for the production of massive amounts of energy for peaceful purposes.

It will be the first fusion device to produce a “burning” or self-heating plasma, and thus the first to produce net energy. It also will be the first device to maintain fusion for long periods of time, and the first to test the integrated technologies, materials and physics regimes necessary for the production of fusion-based electricity at reactor scale.

The complexity of the ITER design has already pushed a whole range of leading-edge technologies to new levels of performance; some of these will be showcased at EXPO 2017.

What does Kazakhstan mean to you?

Kazakhstan is amazing – in many ways. It is a country rich in natural resources. And, Kazakhstan is engaged in fusion research, it has a small tokamak!!! Kazakhstan in the past has expressed an interest in becoming part of the ITER Project – and we hope this will be a reality at some future point!

Kazakhstan is also of great relevance to the ITER Project and tokamak fusion because of its vast beryllium resources. Since the plasma at the heart of ITER will operate at 150 million degrees, the materials chosen for the plasma-facing components are of great importance to the success of the machine. Due to its unique physical properties (low plasma contamination, low fuel retention), beryllium has been chosen as the element to cover the first wall – together with high-strength copper and stainless steel.

Interview of November 1, 2016.

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