Former CERN boss Chris Llewellyn Smith has taken up a key role in the €10bn ITER fusion experiment that is about to be built at Cadarache in the south of France. The 65-year-old theoretical physicist was voted chair of ITER council at its first meeting on 27 November.

The council has overall responsibility for the budget and organization of ITER . The project is an international collaboration between the European Union, the US, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and India and aims to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion as an energy source.

Llewellyn Smith is currently director of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which runs the UK’s fusion programme and operates the Joint European Torus (JET) in Culham, Oxfordshire. A long-standing advocate of an international programme to show that fusion can be used to generate electricity, Llewellyn Smith was influential in the lengthy negotiations to build ITER, which was first proposed over 20 years ago.

Before becoming director of the UKAEA in 2003, Llewellyn Smith was head of physics at Oxford University from 1987 to 1992. In 1994 he became director general at CERN for four years, before becoming president and provost of University College London from 1999 to 2002.

“My appointment as chair is a reflection of the prominent role that Europe plays in international fusion research, as we work towards a safe, clean solution for the world’s future energy needs," he said.

Future energy needs

ITER will use powerful magnetic fields to confine a plasma of deuterium and tritium within a doughnut-shaped device known as a tokamak. The nuclei will fuse to form helium nuclei and neutrons, with the excess energy of the neutrons being converted into electricity. The facility is planned to be operating within the next 10 years.