Fonck named chief scientist for international fusion
Fonck will be the liaison between United States plasma- and fusion-science
researchers and a group that is building the U.S. share of ITER, an
international fusion experiment that eventually could lead to an abundant,
economical and environmentally benign energy source. On May 24, the
seven international ITER participants initialed an agreement to construct
the experiment.The U.S. Department of Energy and its ITER Project Office
recently named Fonck chief scientist for the United States ITER
(the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) Project Office.
In his role as chief scientist,
Fonck will help the project office answer scientific questions that
arise as the U.S. portion of the project develops. For that, he will
don his hat as director of the U.S. Burning Plasma Organization (USBPO)—a
national organization of researchers in the fusion community that studies
the properties of magnetically confined burning fusion plasmas, the
ionized gasses that drive fusion-energy production.
“So if there are issues that arise, and they
have to be resolved in the design of the device, you engage the science
and engineering community here in this country to help answer those
questions,” says Fonck.
A project designed to demonstrate the scientific and
technological feasibility of fusion power, ITER will be constructed
in Cadarache, France, beginning in 2007. It involves researchers from
the United States, China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic
of Korea and the Russian Federation.
Fonck says one of his biggest challenges will be to
establish and and maintain a communication structure that enables U.S.
plasma researchers to interact effectively with the U.S. ITER Project
Office and with international fusion researchers. He will help identify
U.S. ITER research needs and identify plasma researchers who can help
In addition, he also will help communicate requests
from U.S. plasma researchers for activities in the international ITER
organization that advance the project’s interests. “We want
to help make sure the proper capabilities are available when needed
to satisfy our—and our partners’—research interests,”
Fonck is among several UW-Madison faculty and staff
members involved with ITER and the U.S. Burning Plasma Organization.
Researchers in the Fusion
Technology Institute are conducting the U.S. share of the ITER neutronics
analysis, while Assistant Professor Dennis
Whyte is studying how the plasma affects the reactor’s interior
wall and is leader of the USBPO plasma-boundary group. Professor Chris
Hegna is a deputy leader of the USBPO stability group and Physics
Professor Paul Terry is leader of the USBPO transport group.
At UW-Madison, Fonck will continue to advise students
and maintain his own plasma research program. Although his roles as
chief scientist for the U.S. ITER Project Office and director of the
USBPO are, in his words, a big commitment and responsibility, they also
demonstrate UW-Madison researchers’ dedication to the future of
fusion. “It shows that we’re very serious about being deeply
involved in this new direction in the fusion program,” he says.