Rudolf Neu will take up his new position in the third quarter of 2012, after the JET experimental campaign ends. Rudi Neu is the fusion community’s “Tungsten-Man”. He comes from IPP Germany, where he managed the implementation of an all-tungsten wall in ASDEX Upgrade. Visitors to his office can do weightlifting with harmlessly small-looking but very heavy tungsten bricks. Rudolf Neu was Leader of the EFDA Task Force on Plasma Wall Interaction and currently leads the JET Task Force E1, which oversees the first operation of JET with the ITER-Like-Wall. He is also Professor for Experimental Physics at Tübingen University, Germany.

Welcome to EFDA, Rudi! What is the first thing you will do in your new job?

Hire new people! The ITER Physics Department is short-staffed due to expiring contracts, so we are filling two open positions.

EFDA also appointed a Deputy Leader to the ITER Physics Department – Darren McDonald. How do Darren and you distribute the responsibilities?

Darren has a modelling background, while I am an experimentalist, so we complement each other well. He will take care of Integrated Tokamak Modelling, of EFDA’s involvement in the collaborative use of super computers and of the transport and magnetohydrodynamic activities. Darren will report to me but I do not plan to get involved in the details.

What fields of research will the newly appointed officers cover?

We need to cover the areas of Diagnostic, Heating and Current Drive and Plasma Wall Interaction.

The next European Research Framework Programme starts in 2014. What are your aims for the remaining 1,5 years?

We will carry on with the current ITER Physics Programme. As you know, the Programme underwent a major redesign. It is now aligned along key physics issues rather than individual disciplines, which are covered by the respective task forces. Many procedures still need to be further optimised in discussion with the Task Force and Topical Group Leaders. Let’s take the ELM instabilities, for example. An ELM project involves several disciplines. How do we design meaningful interfaces? What kind of meetings will we need? How do we break the overall task down into individual calls?
At the same time we face serious financial constraints. The EFDA ITER Physics Programme has a very limited budget, especially considering the fact that we support 28 Associates. Of course, EFDA only finances one fifth of a task and the Associate contributes the remaining 80 percent, so the total leverage is much higher. But the Associate, bearing most of the investment, will consider carefully whether a task fits into its line of work. The question therefore is, how we can convince the Associates that fusion research has a much bigger impact if we agree on common key research issues.

What will be the main research issues until 2014?

The EFDA ITER Physics Programme focuses on eleven research areas, which are oriented along the key issues for ITER. Most projects will run through 2013, but some might finish earlier. That is our chance to bring in new issues, for instance real time diagnostics for plasma control.
Furthermore, EFDA, and also the Commission feel that we need to work on physics for the planned demonstration reactor DEMO. Experiments in ITER will not answer all remaining questions. So we have to develop other methods of investigation and see how we can best utilize the existing machines.

You have known European fusion research from the perspective of the Associate, as EFDA Task Force Leader and as a JET scientist. If you look beyond 2013 – where do you see the largest value of an umbrella organisation like EFDA?

The highest value is the platform for collaborations. I worked in university research and using a device at another institution was organised via personal contacts. To collaborate across Europe we need a better framework that facilitates the exchange of scientists and the common use of devices. This aspect will become more important as we will have to concentrate our research on fewer devices due to the financial constraints. The common use of machines will become heavier, which EFDA will have to manage. We can benefit from the experience we’ve accumulated at JET. EFDA is already an organisation in which all laboratories meet and agree on strategies. EFDA’s financial resources must be enhanced, too. Mobility support to exchange scientists or finance their stay at an experiment, for instance, will become more important.
The other issue is shaping the research programme. If EFDA wants to go in that direction and ensure that important research tasks are addressed, we need more funding.