The PIG is dead, long live the PIN. Babe the pig is stretched out flat in a large steel casserole, smothered in gravy and vegetables. A flag with three initials is sticking out of its roasted shoulder indicating a new dawn for the 27 assembled communication officers from fusion labs within Europe, formerly known as the EFDA Public Information Group (PIG).

Finding a less omnivorous name for the group, now called the Public Information Network, was something of a personal matter for Petra Nieckchen, the new Head of Public Information within EFDA. The PIN members convened in June 2011 for their annual gathering to discuss means and strategies for promoting potential uses of fusion energy. IPP in Greifswald, where the latest newcomer to the international stellarator family, Wendelstein 7-X, is currently being assembled, played host to the event.

The meeting was opened by EFDA Leader Francesco Romanelli,┬áspeaking from JET via webcam. “EFDA,” he said, “should act as a catalyst between the different fusion Associations in Europe to prepare the ITER exploitation and lay the foundations for a fusion power plant.” This path, Romanelli explained further, will ultimately lead to the design of a Demonstration Reactor (DEMO). Initial design activities recently started at the EFDA worksite in Garching, Germany.

group picture PIN Meeting 2011

Picture Anja Richter Ullmann, IPP

Besides exchanging the latest news from their institutions and the ITER project and discussing a future communication strategy in a Europe that has, at least partly, changed its perception of nuclear energy, PIN invited two guest speakers for added inspiration.

James Gillies, Head of communication at CERN, reported on the months that preceded and followed the start of the LHC, and the subsequent quench of one of its magnets. “Now,” Gillies said, quoting Bertold Brecht, “the troubles of the mountains lie behind us. Before us lie the troubles of the planes.” The next challenge after the media hype will be to maintain interest in the project.

The second invited guest speaker to the PIN meeting was Claus Madsen, former communication Head at the European Southern Observatory and now advisor to the EFDA Leader. He chose a slightly modified Hamlet quote, “To Communicate or Not to Be,” as the title for his talk about the new world of technology-driven communication. Modern communication tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have dramatically changed the media and its pace. “Which doesn’t mean that it is now easier to get your message across,” Madsen stressed. “Everybody shouts, but who listens?”

Sabina Griffith, ITER Organization