In Memoriam: Romano Toschi

Romano Toschi, a pioneer of the EU fusion energy program, passed away on August 3, 2019 at the age of 90.

Romano Toschi has been the leading figure in the development the Italian magnetic confinement fusion programme and played an important role in bringing the EU at the forefront of fusion research. He was known for his strong leadership and advocacy of the next-step tokamak, a prime mover in the technical and political discussions leading to the establishment of ITER.

Romano Toschi received his doctorate in Electrical Engineering in 1954 from the University of Bologna, where he subsequently had the position of Professor in Electrical Engineering.  He took part in the design and construction of the 1000 MeV Electron Synchrotron at Frascati (1954-60), with responsibility of the experimental magnet and power supply, and then spent two years as a visiting scientist at the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

From 1963 to 1970, he was responsible for the MHD direct energy conversion programme in Italy. Then he became Director of the Italian Fusion Programme. In those years, the Frascati Laboratory pursued several research activities in fusion with the design, construction and operation of the high-magnetic field Frascati Tokamak (FT), which held for some time the world n-tau record, and its upgrade (FTU), which was designed prior to its departure from Frascati.

Romano Toschi was the Chairman of the JET Supervisory Board during the JET design phase and of the JET Executive Committee during the construction phase (until 1983). In 1983, he was appointed as Leader of the Next European Torus (NET), a device that was seen as a decisive step to follow JET on the path to a fusion reactor.

The NET design team was established in Garching, near Munich. It consisted of more than 50 experts from the main Fusion Laboratories and Industries of the European Union, as well as Canada, who worked with the EU under a memorandum of understanding.  Romano built the NET team, selecting the best specialists in the different disciplines and making sure that the design experience of JET was captured in this new project. A few design specialists joined the team from JET, which was by that time already in operation, but he also decided to include some younger physicists and engineers who would guarantee the continuity of the project, which was due to last a number of decades, including construction and operation. In the NET Team, there were also specialists from Industry, as he strongly believed that embedding the experience of industry early in the design process was necessary. Those who have worked with him still vividly remember his scientific and managerial authority, combined with kindness, passion and determination.

The NET programme consisted of design activities and development of the related technologies. Two options for the basic machine were considered: NET-I with 15 MA plasma current and inductively driven burn of about 300 s and NET-II with 25 MA current and 700 s inductive burn. The Technology Programme, conducted by the EURATOM Associated Fusion Laboratories, included six main areas: superconducting magnet, plasma facing components, blanket, remote handling, tritium technology and safety. This programme was closely related to the NET design and aimed at supporting, with experimental data, the assessment of the apparatus feasibility envisaged before entering into the engineering design in 1991.

In the early 1980s, an international collaboration in fusion started under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), bringing together physicists and engineers to study a potential international fusion reactor, called INTOR, through a collaboration between Europe, Japan, Russia (at that time Soviet Union) and the United States of America. Many members of the NET Team took part in the working sessions, mainly organised in Vienna, and Romano Toschi supported this initiative providing manpower from his team. After the Gorbachev-Reagan summit in 1985 brought fusion back on the international agenda, the expertise developed by the NET team put them in an excellent position to develop the design for the future device, now named ITER, alongside Japanese, Russian and US colleagues.

With the advent of the ITER collaboration, Romano Toschi became the European Home Team Leader. Following the ITER Conceptual Design Activities (CDA) from 1988-1992, he was very influential in seeking consensus to adjust the technical objectives to match realistic capabilities, and in finding a workable solution to allow the subsequent Engineering Design Activities (EDA) to operate effectively over the chosen three Joint Work Sites.  At the same time, he led all the activities in Europe in support of ITER design and R&D. In 1999 he was appointed as the first Leader of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) that included the European fusion research institutions and the European Commission (representing EURATOM) for the collective scientific exploitation of JET and the completion of the technology programme for ITER.

After his formal retirement, between 2008 and 2011, he represented the Italian government in the Governing Board of Fusion for Energy (F4E), the European Union's Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy. During this period, he led a task force to review the new cost assessment for the European In-kind contributions to ITER.

Romano Toschi will be remembered as a hugely influential figure in the development of fusion energy for Europe. His close involvement stretched from the earliest European collaboration concerning JET, right up to the worldwide ITER construction now underway in Cadarache.  His special skills in solving the difficulties of international collaborations were greatly respected.  His leadership and long-term vision will be greatly missed.

Romano always kept in his hearth the hope to see a new experimental fusion device built in Frascati. This dream now, with the Divertor Test Tokamak (DTT) device, has become true.

Our remembrances and condolences go to his family: Agnese, Natalia and Nicola.

Comments and Remembrances can be sent to in-memory-Romano(at)euro-fusion.org