Professor Ronald R. Parker, director of the Plasma Fusion Center (PFC) since 1988, will be on leave from MIT this academic year to serve as deputy director of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project and head of its design center, located near Munich.
Appointed acting PFC director, effective October 1, is Dieter J. Sigmar, deputy director of the PFC since May 1991.
The changes were announced by Professor J. David Litster, vice president and dean for research. Professor Litster said that Dr. Sigmar will be supported in his new role by Dr. D. Bruce Montgomery, associate PFC director for engineering and technology, and Professor Miklos Porkolab, associate director for plasma research. In addition, Professor Litster said, Dr. Daniel R. Cohn, senior research scientist and division head at the PFC, has been named acting assistant director.
Dr. Sigmar is noted for his theoretical contributions to the PFC mission and for his leadership of the Fusion Theory and Computation Group. He is an internationally renowned plasma theorist and has been most recently associated with seminal contributions to the theory of burning plasmas, publishing several papers describing a new phenomena that may occur in such plasmas when the energy of the fusion-generated alpha-particle component becomes significant. In his 18 months as PFC deputy director, "he has undertaken a number of administrative assignments that have prepared him well for his new responsibility," Dr. Litster said.
"Over the years, the Plasma Fusion Center has had strong leadership which has helped it to develop into one of the Nation's premier institutions participating in plasma and fusion research. I am confident that Dieter's appointment will help the PFC continue this tradition. . . ," he said.
Dr. Cohn is well known for his early leadership in the development of high-field tokamak ignition experiments and reactor designs based on Alcator. More recently, Dr. Litster said, he has spearheaded new programs that use plasmas for materials processing, particularly for destruction of toxic and contaminated wastes.
Dr. Litster said that Professor Parker's involvement with the ITER "will strengthen ties between the PFC, especially the new Alcator C-MOD experiment, and the ITER project. The concept of ITER as both a critical step in fusion energy development and a model for future international collaborations in large-scale science projects is very exciting, and is worthy of MIT's strong participation."
The ITER participants are the European Community, Japan, Russia and the United States. Their international cooperation agreement was signed in July. The Department of Energy announcement of the agreement said US participation is a component of the administration's National Energy Strategy whose goals include proving fusion to be a technically and economically credible energy source, with an operating demonstration plant by about 2025 and an operating commercial plant by about 2040.
The ITER engineering design activities are expected to take at least six years to complete. The goal is a test facility design that would, if built, demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy. The estimated cost of the engineering design and the associated research and development is about $1.2 billion.
The ITER design will be carried out simultaneously at three co-centers: San Diego, Garching-bei-Munchen-the site Professor Parker will head-and Naka, Japan. The Garching site has responsibility for "in-vessel" components, including the plasma and its interactions with the reactor vessel walls. The Naka site has responsibility for "ex-vessel" components, including all superconducting magnets. The San Diego site will be responsible for design integration. The overall project director, Paul-Henri Rebut, a European who has been in charge of the Joint European Torus, will be stationed in San Diego. Each of the three sites will have a staff of from 60 to 70 scientists and engineers, made up of roughly equal numbers of Americans, Europeans, Japanese and Russians, Professor Parker said.
A version of this article appeared in the September 16, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 5).