Enable Recite

Subscribe options

Select your newsletters:

Please enter your email address:

@

Your email address will only be used for the purpose of sending you the ITER Organization publication(s) that you have requested. ITER Organization will not transfer your email address or other personal data to any other party or use it for commercial purposes.

If you change your mind, you can easily unsubscribe by clicking the unsubscribe option at the bottom of an email you've received from ITER Organization.

For more information, see our Privacy policy.

News & Media

Latest ITER Newsline

  • Central solenoid | 1st delivery celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic

    Standing 18 metres tall at the very heart of the ITER Tokamak, the central solenoid will generate an intense magnetic field which, in turn, will induce an elect [...]

    Read more

  • Tooling | Radial beam fits just right

    When describing operations inside the ITER in the assembly theatre, one is invariably tempted to call up images from the realm of science fiction. How else to c [...]

    Read more

  • Fusion world | Curtain call for the COMPASS tokamak

    After 12 years of operation and 21,000 plasma shots, the Czech tokamak COMPASS ceased operation on 20 August 2021. The tokamak will now be disassembled to make [...]

    Read more

  • Engineering | US to deliver "tough" electronics to ITER

    ITER, a machine that will imitate the sun, will also mimic the sun's extreme environment: intense heat, strong magnetic fields and radiation. A team at US I [...]

    Read more

  • Image of the week | The lighthouse in the pit

    Like a lighthouse (without a beacon) the central column rises more than 20 metres above the floor of the assembly pit. The massive structure does not belong to [...]

    Read more

Of Interest

See archived entries

Donato Palumbo (1921-2011), a fusion visionary

Palumbo promoted the novel scheme of associating fusion laboratories across Europe in order to provide strong incentive for collaborative research activities. © EFDA (Click to view larger version...)
Palumbo promoted the novel scheme of associating fusion laboratories across Europe in order to provide strong incentive for collaborative research activities. © EFDA
The visionary "father" of the European fusion program, Donato Palumbo, passed away on 8 February 2011; this past week a heartfelt commemoration of his life and his professional legacy was organized at JET.

Family, friends, European lab directors, and colleagues gathered in the auditorium to share memories. Umberto Finzi remembered the distinguished scientist who made very original contributions on magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equilibrium. Others evoked his career in Brussels where for 30 years he was a key director of the Euratom program.

Rather than trying to bring fusion research into the framework of existing joint research centres, Palumbo had promoted the novel scheme of associating fusion laboratories across Europe in order to provide strong incentive for collaborative research activities. This program promoted the mobility of scientists and encouraged each national lab to concentrate on the resolution of particular issues for fusion. CEA was the first institution to join, but soon all the European labs that were active in fusion signed contracts of association with Euratom. The scheme was a resounding success and is still in effect today.

Paul-Henri Rebut recollected how, after 1968, Palumbo steered the European fusion program towards toroidal devices and conceived JET, a machine that represented a huge leap forward in size and where each key parameter such as current and power was increased by more than a factor 10 over existing devices at that time. Palumbo, with his low-key attitude but his highly innovative style, created the JET Joint Undertaking. Constructed as a private enterprise, it provided  'high efficiency with minimum bureaucracy.' He personally took part in its management.

Three ''heavyweights'' of fusion research during the commemoration event for Palumbo: Robert Aymar, Francesco Romanelli and Paul-Henry Rebut (from left).© EFDA (Click to view larger version...)
Three ''heavyweights'' of fusion research during the commemoration event for Palumbo: Robert Aymar, Francesco Romanelli and Paul-Henry Rebut (from left).© EFDA
Asked by Queen Elizabeth during the JET inauguration how he could have put together such a huge enterprise so successfully, the often facetious Palumbo answered casually: "By disobeying..., your Majesty."

Romano Toschi went on to recall Palumbo's creation of NET (Next European Torus). Installed in Garching, Germany, the NET team was to prefigure a fully international follow-up to JET, leading naturally to the ITER conceptual design and engineering design phases.

Finally, Catherine Cesarsky, the French high commissioner for atomic energy who is presently the chair of the CCE-FU (the European committee for fusion energy) returned to the essential role of Palumbo's fusion associations. She stressed how he stayed very close both to the managers but also to the scientists. It reminded me of how, when I was a young researcher, Palumbo phoned to enquire about details of MHD calculations I had recently published. I learned then that (in his spare time) he was working on the same subject.

No doubt, those present felt a profound admiration for the charming man who never departed from a modest attitude but who had been tremendously successful at establishing a well-coordinated fusion program with a strict minimum of bureaucracy. Scientific competence was an essential ingredient to his success.
Let us wish that his legacy prevails for decades to come.


return to the latest published articles