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The two sides of the equation

Celebrating Tore Supra's 20th anniversary: Michel Chatelier. (Click to view larger version...)
Celebrating Tore Supra's 20th anniversary: Michel Chatelier.
Last week, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Tore Supra. Some people say that Tore Supra is the smallest of the big fusion machines, some that it is the biggest of the small. However you see it, Tore Supra certainly achieved its scientific goals, and also helped a lot to gain credibility for fusion research.

We have had many thousands of visitors here over the last few years, people from all over the world - among them very important people. They all looked at the device, which is not as big as the European experiment JET, but is by far able to run longer discharges. Tore Supra contains a lot of innovative technologies: superconducting magnets, megawatts of RF power, all actively-cooled facing components for long pulse operation. It is an industrial device serving scientists to solve fundamental questions. It is the real life the public sees here and that gives a lot of credibility to fusion overall and to build ITER in Cadarache. That is the one half of the equation.

The other half refers to the fusion community. And here the same holds true for Tore Supra as for ITER: both are experiments that permanently operate at the boundary of the possible, which of course gives the impression that things are difficult. A commercial reactor in the future will have to work sufficiently far from boundaries. Until then, every day we work right at the edge of the frontier. It's very similar to what we see in Formula 1 motor-racing. We have people that draw the engines, other who build them and others that push their performance and may damage them because they drive too fast. ITER is a research project, and the solutions to many issues do not lie on the shelf. You are permanently inventing, having to make decisions. That makes people nervous, but also extremely active.

At last week's celebrations, all the invited speakers had five minutes to speak about their experiences in building and operating Tore Supra. They spoke about the fabrication process for the superconductors which succeeded, failed and then succeeded again. There were many drawbacks on the way...but that's life. Winston Churchill once said that success is going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.

I am convinced that keeping up the enthusiasm and belief is a driving force for success. During all these years, there has been a dedicated team to make Tore Supra a success and contribute to bring ITER to Cadarache. And we never gave up our good spirits, even when in 2001-2002 the ITER project seemed to be lost. I can see that you are working hard to build up the ITER team and I wish you all the luck to succeed. You will win as a team, not as individuals.

return to Newsline #26