The ITER project: Moving forward

May 14, 2020, 12:00 pm12:00 pm
Open to the public


Event Description

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is a 35-country collaboration designed to build a 500-MW fusion plant in southern France, which is slated to be the first fusion experiment to produce more energy than it consumes.

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By the end of 2019, ITER had completed about 67% of the overall work required to achieve First Plasma. Significant progress has been achieved over the past five years, most visible in the completion of key buildings and infrastructure on the worksite. The tokamak building was ready to receive equipment as of 31 March 2020. Commissioning of the connection to the EU grid and the steady-state electric network is complete. Planning for commissioning other key plant systems (e.g., secondary cooling water, cryoplant, pulsed power for magnet systems) is well underway.

On the manufacturing front, progress is equally impressive. The base and lower cylinder of the cryostat were completed and turned over to ITER in July 2019. The first two poloidal field coils will soon be turned over to ITER (PF6 shipping from China, and PF5 fabricated onsite), and two more are being wound. Factory tests of the first central solenoid module will be completed in Summer 2020, and five more modules are in the manufacturing process. The first two toroidal field coils arrived onsite in April, from Japan and Italy, despite current constraints. The first sections of the thermal shield are onsite. The first vacuum vessel sector is complete and will ship from Korea on  20 April. This progress means that, for most of the major first-of-a-kind components, the capability has now been demonstrated to fabricate according to ITER’s demanding specifications.

With this progress achieved, ITER is formally entering Assembly Phase, progressing steadily toward First Plasma. The sequence of ITER operation from First Plasma (FP) to the achievement of the Q = 10 project goal has been consolidated in a Staged Approach, with all systems to be installed before the start of full fusion power operation in 2035.

Highlights from each of these areas – manufacturing, commissioning, and tokamak assembly –  will be presented along with the most current status and plans.


Since 5 March 2015, Dr Bernard Bigot has been the Director-General of the ITER Organization.

Bernard Bigot has been closely associated with ITER since France’s bid to host the project in 2003. Following the ITER site decision in 2005, the signature of the ITER Agreement in 2006 and its ratification by all Members in 2007, Mr Bigot was delegated by the French government to act as High Representative for the implementation of ITER in France, a position that he has occupied since 2008.

With the responsibility of coordinating the realization of ITER and ensuring the representation of France to the ITER Members and the ITER Organization, he has followed the project for some twenty years.

ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot

In his long and distinguished career, Bernard Bigot has held senior positions in research, higher education and government. Prior to his appointment at ITER he

completed two terms (2009-2012 and 2012-2015) as Chairman and CEO of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, CEA. This government-funded technological research organization—with ten research centres in France, a workforce of 16,000 and an annual budget of EUR 4.3 billion— is active in low- carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies.

From 2003 to 2009 Bernard Bigot served as France's High commissioner for atomic energy, an independent scientific authority whose mission is to advise the French President and the French government on nuclear and renewable energy policy and in all the other scientific and technological domains where the CEA intervenes.

On his long experience in the field of energy, he says: “I’ve always been concerned with energy issues. Energy is the key to mankind’s social and economic development. Today, 80 percent of the energy consumed in the world comes from fossil fuels and we all know that this resource will not last forever. With fusion energy we have a potential resource for millions of years. Harnessing it is an opportunity we cannot miss.”

Bernard Bigot was trained at the Ecole normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud and holds an agrégation (highest-level teaching diploma in France) in physical science and a PhD in chemistry. He is a high-ranking university professor (classe exceptionnelle) at the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon, which he helped to establish and which he directed from 2000 to 2003. Author of over 70 publications in theoretical chemistry, Bernard Bigot was also in charge of research at the Ecole normale supérieure and Director of the Institut de recherche sur la catalyse, a CNRS laboratory specializing in catalysis research.

In parallel to these academic responsibilities, he worked at the ministerial level as Head of the Scientific and Technical Mission (1993-1996), Director-General of Research and Technology (1996-1997), and Deputy Director for Research from 1998 to 2000.

In 2002, Bernard Bigot was appointed Principal Private Secretary to the Research and New Technologies Minister and Assistant Private Secretary to the Minister for Youth, Education and Research. It was during his tenure in this office that France proposed a site in Cadarache (southern France) to host the ITER Project.

Bernard Bigot is a Commandeur in the French Order of the Legion of Honour, a Commandeur in the Royal Swedish Order of the Polar Star, and an Officer the French Order of the National Merit. In October 2014 he received the Gold and Silver Star in the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun