Commission presents the state of play of ITER project

Today in Brussels European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin presented the status of the international negotiations relating to the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) research project on nuclear fusion energy.

A significant step has been achieved with the entry into negotiations of the People’s Republic of China and the comeback of the United States of America. Participants to the negotiations will have to identify the ITER site from among the four current candidate sites. Further details on the most important questions relating to the ITER Negotiations will be published in a Communication that the Commission will present to the Council at its meeting on 12 May 2003.

“Nuclear fusion is a key field of European research,” said Commissioner Busquin. “The integration of all European research activities on fusion energy in the framework of the Euratom programmes has greatly contributed to placing Europe in a “position of excellence” world wide. This research requires a large experimental device, ITER, the engineering design of which was carried out successfully in the nineties in the framework of an international agreement between the European Union, with whom Canada was associated, Japan, the Russian Federation and, until 1998, the USA. With the US back on board and now as well as China, I am confident we will be able to give a new impetus to this key initiative.”

Current negotiations on ITER realisation

International negotiations between the European Union, Canada, Japan and Russia on the possible realisation of ITER started in November 2001. Essential issues are still for discussion, such as the choice of the site, the cost-sharing scheme among partners and the allocations of responsibility for supplying components. The eighth round of Negotiations, which was held on 18-19 February in Saint Petersburg, was marked by the return of the USA, announced on 30 January 2003 by President Bush, and the arrival of China at the negotiating table.

The site issue

Currently, four sites are proposed – one in Canada, one in Japan and two in Europe, Cadarache in France and Vandellos in Spain. The technical studies of these different sites are now concluded and the assessment report has been approved in the Saint Petersburg negotiation meeting. Each of them complies with the technical criteria required to host ITER. Further discussions on the choice of the site, the scheme for sharing costs, and the allocation of responsibilities among the international partners will now take place.

Timetable for a decision

A consensus on a draft international agreement to realise ITER, including the site and the cost-sharing scheme between partners, is aimed at for the end of 2003. With the arrival of China and the USA to join the EU, Canada, Japan and Russia in ITER Negotiations, the largest industrialised and developing countries, drawing together more than one third of the world population, have registered their interest in participating in the development of fusion energy.

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European Research Commission

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