The ITER community had two events to celebrate last Friday 23 November: first, the granting of the ITER Organization’s nuclear licensing decree, which was the subject of an all-hands meeting in the morning, and second—ITER Member Day. This third ITER Member Day of the year was the occasion to visit the culture and traditions of Europe, in the airy setting of ITER’s brand-new cafeteria with a capacity for 1,000.
„Today, we should celebrate together the milestone that has been achieved,” said Director-General Osamu Motojima in his opening presentation in the ITER amphitheatre. „ITER is now formally a nuclear operator, and the first fusion device that qualifies as a nuclear installation.”
For the crowd assembled, Deputy Director-General for Safety, Quality & Security Carlos Alejaldre had the following words: „Those of us who have been working for fusion for a long time have always said that fusion is safe, but up to now there had never been an independent evaluation of that safety. For the first time, an independent body of experts has come to the conclusion—and made the official recommendation—that ‚You have the green light to go ahead, because you have shown that your project is safe.'”
On 10 November, the French government published Decree 2012-2048 authorizing the creation of the ITER nuclear facility. Coming as it did after a very long and difficult examination process, lasting for over two years, the decree represents a landmark achievement—for ITER, of course, but not only. „My personal view,” said DDG Alejaldre, „is that this licensing milestone is also an important achievement for the fusion development program. We are beginning to talk about the next step after ITER; the implications of the event that we are celebrating today will be felt long into the future.”
To put the event in perspective, he told the audience, „Imagine for one moment that the ITER project didn’t get the decree … What would have happened? Everything would have been stopped.”
The positive conclusion of ITER’s licensing process is indeed cause for celebration, marking the end of long, thorough and sometimes gruelling examination process. „The Nuclear Safety Authority in France is one of the most, if not the most, demanding in the nuclear world, and certainly one of the most prestigious,” stressed DDG Alejaldre. „To have succeeded in our endeavour is a consequence of everybody in this room, and also of people not in this room today.”
Before the crowd convened for the buffet lunch waiting just a few doors away, he reminded the ITER community that ITER’s new status comes with responsibility. „This decree is a binding contract between the French state and the ITER Organization as nuclear operator. It is a contract that we cannot break.”
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