Philosophical Society of Washington

The International Fusion Energy Project - ITER

Michael Roberts
Retired from the Department of Energy

2226 th Meeting Abstract
Friday, October 12, 2007 at 8:15 PM


The member countries who signed the recent ITER Agreement are China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. These countries represent half the world's population. It took twenty years of effort to prepare this international science project aimed at taking the next major step toward the realization of fusion energy's promise. The process used to reach the Agreement, as well as the negotiated positions represented in the Agreement itself, may be useful in future efforts toward other large-scale international science ventures. This talk will cover the development of ITER and why it can be relevant to more than fusion energy scientists and engineers. The presentation will discuss what has actually been achieved and agreed, and what comes next.

About the Author:

Michael Roberts joined the Department of Energy's Fusion Energy Sciences program in January, 1979 and was responsible for the US international fusion activities, including ITER, for more than a quarter-century through mid-2006. He became involved with the (then titled) International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (now simply called ITER) at its earliest inception, in September, 1985 in Moscow. Subsequently, he was the principal US DOE person responsible for ITER at working level, both internationally and domestically, throughout its various evolutionary phases. He participated in all the negotiations, leading the working level delegations and supporting the official negotiators. He retired from the Department of Energy following completion of these years-long negotiations on the ITER Agreement in mid-2006.

He was awarded two Presidential Rank Awards, (Meritorious Executive), for his leadership in the US and international efforts toward ITER. He received the first award at the start of the ITER Engineering Design Activities (EDA) work in the mid-1990s and the second award, just recently, at the end of the formal negotiations. He served as Chair of the IEA Fusion Power Coordinating Committee and as Chair of the ITER Contact Persons during the EDA.

He was awarded a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University in 1966. He then joined the Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he was responsible for building the first all-new US tokamak fusion experimental device. He then led the development of the Oak Ridge proposal for a US burning plasma facility (which became the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory), activities which were steps along the way to ITER.

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