Prof Osamu Motojima
Pronounced by Prof Guido Van Oost (faculty of Engineering and Architecture)
Today we honour Professor Motojima, the Director-General of the ITER Organization. ITER is a unique and highly challenging project involving the European Union, China, India, Japan, South-Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States. It represents 80 percent of global gross domestic product and half of the global population. There is no equivalent in history of such a large-scale international collaboration and it also marks a crucial step in the development of fusion as a sustainable source of energy.
In his first address, in July 2010, one day after the ITER Council had appointed him as Director-General of the ITER Organisation Professor Motojima emphasised the importance of this project for the future of mankind. He said: ‘The world is looking at us! We shall demonstrate that fusion energy can be used to benefit everyone’. And he was right: since then the world has been following ITER’s activities with interest. Buildings are being raised in Cadarache (southern France) and everything is being prepared for the construction of the ITER tokamak fusion reactor.
The project, which is led by Professor Motojima, faces several great scientific and technological challenges in the field of plasma physics, magnetic technology, cryogenics, robotics, etc. Throughout his professional career Professor Motojima has amply demonstrated that he is capable of successfully rising to such challenges. In 1998 he became responsible for the Large Helical Device (LHD) program of the Japanese National Institute for Fusion Science, building the largest superconducting stellarator worldwide. This project was a huge success.
In less than twenty months at the head of the ITER Organization Professor Motojima’s achievements are impressive. ITER no longer is a dream for the fusion community and for the entire world: it is happening here and now. Sometimes, however, the biggest feats are not the most visible feats and this rule also applies to the ITER Organization. One of the key words in his speech in July 2010 was ‘simplicity’. He said: ‘Simplify everything and every process’ and repeated this maxim to his team. Under his strong leadership the ITER Organization was transformed into a simpler structure, based on task forces, facilitating a faster decision-making process.
These changes were necessary and proved to be quite efficient when ITER – and by extension, the whole world – was confronted with some of the greatest challenges in its history: the complicated financial situation, which was partly due to the global economic crisis and the consequences of the earthquake in East Japan in March 2011. While Professor Motojima and we mourned the losses and suffering of the people of Japan he was also forced to evaluate the consequences of this tragedy for the ITER project. He visited Japan himself to evaluate first-hand the damage to the industrial installations and labs which were supposed to supply or test some of the most important components of the ITER tokamak.
While most experts were of the opinion that the tragedy would delay the project by at least three years intense efforts on both sides helped keep the planning schedule within the boundaries of the Roadmap. Professor Motojima stated that he would not accept more than one year’s delay and that is precisely what he has achieved: the target data for the first plasma in ITER is still 2020. The strict cost control policy that he enforced convinced the ITER Council and the governments of the ITER countries. The budget is now guaranteed and Europe, which funds 45% of the construction of ITER, has agreed to put up the required additional funding of 1.3 billion euros for the period between 2012 and 2014.
Motojima sensei, ITER is at home all over the world and it is especially at home here in Belgium. Several Belgian institutions are part of the great world-wide ITER undertaking, such as the Laboratory for Plasma Physics of the École Royale Militaire/Koninklijke Militaire School in Brussels, which develops an antenna for radiofrequency heating of ITER; the Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie/Centre d'Etude de l'Energie Nucléaire in Mol, for materials and diagnostics; the theoretical physics department at Université Libre de Bruxelles and others.
And of course, Ghent University, where we are gathered today, is active in fusion research since thirty years and offers a specific international training in fusion of which I am the coordinator: a European Master as well as a Doctoral College in Nuclear Fusion Science and Engineering Physics, part of the Erasmus Mundus Interuniversity Training Programme of the EU. You kindly accepted to be a member of the Steering Committee of the Doctoral College.
Your determination has put the ITER train back on track. The torch that was lit thirty years ago by the first generation of fusion scientists is in good hands. By bringing a sun to Cadarache, you are working to shape a better future for our children and grandchildren, and for many generations to come.
And what about Erasmus Mundus Fusion ?Erasmus Mundus “European Master in Nuclear Fusion Science and Engineering Physics”( FUSION-EP) and Erasmus Mundus “International Doctoral College in Fusion Science and Engineering” (FUSION-DC)
The European Fusion Education programme aims at playing the important role of a natural human resource in order to ensure the success and excellence of the International Fusion Research programme.
The FUSION-EP master programme and the FUSION-DC doctoral programme involve an attractive variety of educational and training activities and an unsurpassed diversity of research opportunities at the EU and non-EU partner institutions and research facilities.
The aim of FUSION-EP is to provide a high-level harmonized international research-oriented education in magnetic fusion-related engineering physics, in close collaboration with outstanding EU and non-EU fusion research institutes, and with a well-integrated language and cultural experience.
FUSION-DC focuses on a number of research fields that address the major remaining challenges for making magnetic fusion energy a reality, with an emphasis on next-step devices (ITER, W7-X, DEMO) and reactor aspects.