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USDOE ITER Head Mike Roberts to Retire

February 28, 2006

Dr. Michael Roberts, Director of the ITER and Internationsl Division of the U. S. Department of Energy Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, will retire April 3.

Finishing his college studies with a PhD in Electrical Engineering (in plasma engineering) at Cornell University, Michael Roberts interviewed with the Thermonuclear (fusion) Division at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the spring of 1966, thus beginning his forty year career in fusion.

Mike started with a small floating quadripole experiment and quickly became involved with the ORNL effort to design, build and operate the first US all-new tokamak, ORMAK. Working with John Clarke and George Kelly, Mike was responsible for building ORMAK. He went on to lead the ORNL design efforts that culminated in the ORNL-PPPL competition resulting in TFTR.

In 1978, Mike was asked to commute to Washington from ORNL to be a staff person on a major DOE review of fusion, the Foster Panel.

In 1979, Mike was asked to join the DOE Office of Fusion Energy as Director of Planning and Projects. He also took on the International role. A few years later, the international role had grown considerably with Mike as the US Executive Secretary for the active US bilateral collaborations with the USSR/Russia, Japan and the European Community/Union.

Immediately after the November 1985 US-USSR Geneva Summit, OFE Director John Clarke asked Mike to lead the OFE effort to work toward ITER which he has done for more than twenty years. When the ITER Parties, then EU, JA, RF and US, began serious talks on ITER, in the form of the Quadripartite Initiative Committee in 1988, Mike was chosen to chair its Ways and Mean Working Party, the forerunner of the current day Contact Person (CP) group. When the ITER Conceptual Design Activities began, Mike became the US Contact Person and Chair of the CPs, reporting regularly to the ITER Council, as he did throughout the Engineering Design Activities as well. He has been the USCP throughout the entire ITER history to date.

Throughout the 1990s, Mike worked to further fusion's international colaboration, serving as Vice-Chair and then Chair of the IEA Fusion Power Coordinating Committee in Paris as well as being one of the leaders in the IAEA International Fusion Research Committee in Vienna.

In 1994, President Bush awarded him a Meritorious Executive medal. In 2005, Fusion Power Associates honored him with its Special Achievement award for his many fusion contributions.

Starting in 2003, following President Bush's decision to join the ITER negotiations, Mike, as USCP, has supported the US ITER Negotiating Delegation, led by Director of the Office of Science Raymond Orbach, including active participation in virtually every one of the thirty multiparty meetings and additional bilateral meetings, held around the world..

Through persistence, development of mutual respect, and mastery of all aspects of the negotiations, Mike has been instrumental in bringing ITER from concept to negotiated international agreement that can enable the actual start of the ITER project.. He has been supported throughout his fusion career by his marriage to Linda Roberts, a successful collaboration that began three years before his fusion career started.

Mike can be reached at Michael.Roberts@science.doe.gov