PARIS – Bernard Bigot, a French scientist who led a huge international effort to demonstrate that nuclear fusion could be an effective source of energy, has died. He was 72 years old.
The agency behind the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, said Bigut died Saturday from an unspecified illness. Bigat, the agency’s director general since March 2015, arrived in the middle of his second term, due to end in 2025.
An ITER statement described his death as “a tragic blow to the global fusion community”.
His deputy, Isuke Tada, will lead the ITER project while searching for Bigat’s successor.
Unlike existing fission reactors that generate radioactive waste and sometimes catastrophic melt, proponents of fusion say it provides a clean and virtually unlimited amount of energy if scientists and engineers could use it.
Members of the ITER project – China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States – are building a donut-shaped device called Tokamak in Saint-Paul-les-Durans in southern France. It is billed as the largest science project in the world. The goal is to retain the hydrogen that has been heated to 150 million degrees Celsius (270 million Fahrenheit) to allow the atoms to fuse together.
The process releases a lot of heat. Although ITER will not generate electricity, scientists hope it will show that such a fusion reactor can produce more energy than it uses.
ITER is now more than 75% complete and scientists aim to burn the furnace by early 2026.