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European agency opens outpost in Cadarache

Barcelona's (first) man in Cadarache: Laurent Schmieder. (Click to view larger version...)
Barcelona's (first) man in Cadarache: Laurent Schmieder.
What a warm welcome for Laurent Schmieder for his first week at ITER: heavy snowfall has paralyzed life in southern France, there is no public transport, schools and kindergartens are closed—and so is ITER Headquarters. A general alert was sent out strongly recommending staff to stay at home. But as his name is not yet on the all-iter email-list, he did not receive this message and so he finds himself almost alone in a deserted office building.

Laurent takes the situation with humour. For someone who has worked in remote places like French Polynesia and arctic Siberia, "a little snow" is nothing to make fuss about. And so Laurent uses the "white out" to settle into his office and to unpack a few personal belongings before the wheels of the snow-covered scarpers parked on the hill opposite the Headquarters buildings start turning again.

Laurent Schmieder is the Head of the Division for site, buildings and power supplies at Fusion for Energy, the European Domestic Agency for ITER situated in Barcelona, Spain. According to the ITER Agreement, Europe will contribute the buildings for the ITER site. So, in order to be close to their work project and their colleagues from the ITER Civil Engineering & Plant Support Department, Laurent and his team of four are currently moving to France. It is still a small team, but support is in the pipeline.

"Procurement for more positions has been launched already and by the end of the year we will expand to 15," he says.

In 1990 Laurent joined the CEA, who soon sent the young engineer to French Polynesia. After a "stopover" in Reims back in France he worked in Siberia before he moved back to France in 1998, this time to Bordeaux, to build the Laser Mégajoule Project, an experiment investigating fusion energy by inertial confinement.

So ITER is not the first megaproject for Laurent Schmieder, even though ITER will be about six times bigger than the Mégajoule project. His biggest challenge building ITER, he says, will be to make the scientists understand that "it is necessary to freeze the design for the buildings very soon."

return to Newsline #64