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In memory of Prof. Bernard Bigot

writerWeiping Liu

Vol.32 (Aug) 2022 | Article no.22 2022

With great sadness, I report that Prof. Bernard Bigot, director of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Organization passed away on May 14, 2022. A great and creative researcher and leader for more than 40 years in the fields of science and nuclear energy, he made great contributions to ITER in the past 7 years through his effective promotion of ITER. His unexpected passing is a great loss to the international scientific community. Prof. Bigot’s outstanding service to ITER and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) management ensured both ITER and the CEA projects’ respective successes.

Since March 2015, Dr. Bigot, working together with ITER international team members, strove to overcome great difficulties. The ITER project transformed from a prior state that was marked with complex inconsistencies and cultural differences as well as financial challenges, to a project with well-managed multinational manufacturing and design capabilities, and progress in construction. With his wisdom, personal inferences, and great management and negotiation skills, the world’s most complicated R&D team was able to work together, even during the pandemic period, with an understanding and collaborative in-house culture. With great interest, I visited the ITER headquarters in Cadarache, France, in 2019 and had a memorable talk with Dr. Bigot. He highly valued Chinese contributions and guided me to the huge assembly site, where a construction team from the China National Nuclear Cooperation (CNNC) did a great job in assembling the center parts of the ITER test bench.

I first became acquainted with Prof. Bigot during his visit in 2014 to CIAE, and later on, I had a number of meetings with him and established a great personal friendship. We had a nice exchange between CEA and CIAE, and we felt similarly and passionately about multiple research areas in nuclear science, spanning from basic research in the Grand Accélérateur National d’Ions Lourds (GANIL) and other CEA research institutes to applied research such as the reprocessing of nuclear waste. Those fields are becoming fruitful and fast-developing areas of research, thanks to Prof. Bigot’s extensive efforts.

Prof. Bigot had a long history in research and management and was awarded a number of high-level positions in research and management. When he chaired CEA, Prof. Bigot pushed for sustainable development and international collaboration of national research organizations with research centers in broad research fields, not only in nuclear science but also in clean energy and advanced materials. His contributions helped France to become the most advanced country with electricity powered by nuclear energy, and he collaborated extensively with scientists from the Asia-Pacific region. Due in part to his great efforts, Japan, China, Korea, and other countries and regions established wide networks of collaboration in nuclear fuel cycle technology, fusion research, and nuclear basic research and education. Prof. Bigot’s contributions are recognized by many awards; he was a holder of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun and the recipient of the China Friendship Award.

I miss Prof. Bigot due to his unparalleled vision of the future, his great kindness to collaborators, and his rich multicultural background. In the current challenging world, those great advantages are surely critical factors in order to establish mutual understanding and collaboration with partners, internationally. All of us will remember his life-long desire to create a cleaner world. As Prof. Bigot himself stated, “I’ve always been concerned with energy issues. Energy has long been the driver of social and economic development. Yet 80 percent of the energy consumed in the world comes from fossil fuels, and we all know that this resource will not last forever. With fusion energy, we hold in our hands the promise of a clean energy resource for millions of years. Harnessing hydrogen fusion is an opportunity we cannot miss.”

We will deeply miss Prof. Bernard Bigot as he was a talented leader in physics, a kind friend, and a great educator. In honor of his memory, we will work hard to continue to support scientific research and to promote collaboration between EU, France, Asia, and China, including fusion and nuclear science studies at ITER and with other nuclear research devices.


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[Source: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s43673-022-00052-5]