Strong winds make strong trees
The story of the negotiations that led to the choice of the ITER site and the establishment of the ITER Organization is a complex and fascinating one.
It is a story that has never been written ... the press releases that were issued after each round of negotiations gave only a faint idea of what was really going on between the delegations.
So it was a real privilege for the public of the 7th Inside ITER seminar last Thursday to hear the negotiation story told by three of its participants: Akko Maas, Senior Officer for Central Integration & Engineering; Hiroshi Matsumoto, Head of the Office of the Director-General; and Paul-Henry Tuinder, ITER Legal Advisor.
Recollecting the five years during which the ITER Organization went progressively "from concept to signature" between November 2001 and November 2006, all three speakers shared a common perception: it was harsh, it was often painful and sometimes unfair, but it was definitely worth the pain.
"Strong winds make strong trees," said Paul-Henry Tuinder and all agreed. Nothing resembling ITER had ever been attempted before and no scientific venture had ever had to compose with such political and diplomatic challenges.
By the end of the seminar, one couldn't help but feel "indebted" to the three guests seated at the table, and to all those who had endured the five-year diplomatic ordeal.
They had joined the negotiations as representatives of different nations entrusted with different agendas. Over five years, in a difficult international context, they managed to reach the only goal that mattered: the building of the international collaboration that the fusion community had been waiting for ... for more than 25 years.
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