PARIS ( Associated Press) — Bernard Bigot, a French scientist leading a massive international effort To demonstrate that nuclear fusion can be a viable source of energy has died down. He was 72 years old.
The organization behind the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, said Bigot died on Saturday from an unspecified illness. The director general of the organization since March 2015, Bigot was in the middle of his second term due to expire in 2025.
A statement from ITER described his death as “a tragic blow to the global fusion community”.
While searching for Bigot’s successor, his deputy, Isuke Tada, will lead the ITER project.
Unlike existing fission reactors, which produce radioactive waste and sometimes catastrophic meltdowns, proponents of fusion say it provides a clean and virtually unlimited supply of energy if scientists and engineers can harness it.
The members of the ITER project – China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States – are building a donut-shaped device, called a tokamak, in Saint-Paul-les-Durance in southern France. It is billed as the largest science project in the world. Its purpose is to trap hydrogen that has been heated to 150 million °C (270 million Fahrenheit) to allow the atoms to fuse together.
This process results in the release of a large amount of heat. While ITER will not generate electricity, scientists hope it will demonstrate that such a fusion reactor can produce more energy than it expends.
ITER is now over 75% complete and scientists aim to have the reactor operational by early 2026.