Posted on: 8th August 2006

Dr. Maurizio Gasparotto (63) was born in Rome in 1942, studied at the G. Galilei Technical Institute in the same city, and received his Ph.D. in 1978 from the University of Rome. Since then, fusion has been a leading theme in his career. Dr Gasparotto is married, has three children, and is living in Munich.

EFDA: On the 1st of November last year, you took up your new duties as the EFDA Associate Leader for Technology. Could you tell us something about your background and about your present role?

picture of Maurizio Gasparotto

Maurizio Gasparotto, New EFDA-Associate Leader for Technology

“I am a physicist, and have spent all my working life in R&D activities related to the application of plasma to produce energy: first magneto-hydrodynamic direct energy conversion, and subsequently fusion. I have been involved in the design, construction, and operation of the Frascati Tokamak and its Upgrade, in the assessment of JET for the operation at a higher magnetic field, and recently in supporting the design activities for the Wendelstein 7-X stellerator in Greifswald. In addition, I have been responsible for the technology R&D programme in ENEA, and for the field Tritium Breeding and Materials here in EFDA from 2000 up to 2003.
My present role as EFDA-Associate Leader for Technology is to contribute to the coordination of the technological activities in EFDA while we are moving to a new, project oriented phase: the construction of ITER, the engineering validation and design activities for IFMIF, and the Long Term DEMO oriented technology activities (mainly materials and nuclear components development). These three together comprise the main technological lines of research towards the realization of a fusion power plant.”

EFDA: When in your career did you become interested in fusion?

“When I started to work at ENEA (the main research center in Italy for nuclear research, at the time called CNEN) in 1961, I was attracted to fusion research activities for two reasons: the curiosity and the wish to work in challenging areas from a scientific and technical point of view, and the idea of contributing to the realisation of something truly useful for everybody on earth. During all my working live, I have contributed to this field with great pleasure. I should also say that I have been very fortunate, as I have been involved in very challenging programmes, and I have worked with competent and very friendly people.”

EFDA: ITER will be built in Europe. Do you feel that the European Fusion Community has prepared itself adequately and is up to the task?

“I believe that from the technical point of view, Europe is very well prepared to build ITER. The tradition of the European Fusion programme in Europe, the success of many experiments (JET in primus), the design and R&D development starting with NET many years ago, and the involvement of industry in many key technology areas are all elements that will contribute to the success of ITER.”
There is one aspect in which, in my opinion, Europe has not prepared itself adequately: this is related to the number of fusion technology experts needed. The fact that the main experimental machines (with the exception of W7-X, which is in the fabrication phase) have been built many years ago, implies that the young scientists and engineers that now have to contribute to ITER have had only little construction experience. In addition, their number is not sufficient to face all the staffing needs in Europe for ITER, the Broader Approach, and the Long Term Programme. As a consequence of this shortage, we now have to create the new structures, such as the European and the ITER organisations, in a carefully optimised way, and start as soon as possible to attract and educate young and brilliant scientists and engineers.”

EFDA: Do you think the Fast Track development schedule can be maintained?

“Yes. I believe the Fast Track is a realistic time schedule for the scientific, technical and economic demonstration of the feasibility of a fusion power plant. To maintain it, three conditions must be fulfilled. First of all, obviously, the absence of some important unexpected show-stopper in the exploitation of the ITER and IFMIF programme on the physics or technology side. The second condition is that sufficient economic resources are allocated starting from FP7, in order to maintain and launch all the necessary activities. In particular, R&D on DEMO materials and some DEMO critical components (mainly the first wall, the divertor, and breeding blanket) should be increased. The third condition is that the international collaboration in the DEMO design and R&D areas are increased, in order to explore different concepts of potential interest in the Fast Track strategy.
I believe that the present know-how in the field is such, that the probability of success is high and therefore the implementation of the Fast Track programme is extremely important considering the need for energy in the world.”

EFDA: What do you see as the main challenges of the ITER project?

“It is clear that in ITER, most of the components and related technology are very advanced and in some cases at the limit of our knowledge. This is evident from the large R&D programme that has been carried out up to now. From the technological point of view, I think we will be ready to launch the procurement of the long term items after a detailed design review, which the new ITER team has to carry out, with the help of all the experts. For a number of components which are not in the critical line for the ITER construction Ð such as those facing the plasma, and those related to the heating and current drive Ð additional research and development is needed.
Considering that ITER will be built by seven Parties, each of them contributing in building in kind some components or part of them, it is also evident that the managerial effort to coordinate such a complex situation is absolutely not trivial. Considering these two aspects, the technical and managerial, perhaps we are facing one of the most challenging and complex projects in the world. A great project to be part of!”