Brussels, 03 Feb 2003
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin has welcomed a decision by the US to rejoin the international thermonuclear experimental reactor project (ITER).
Mr Busquin told CORDIS News that there are still a number of conditions to be considered, regarding US re-entry into the programme, but that these will be discussed at a meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, on 18 February.
The US was one of the original members of the ITER project, set up in the 1980s, with the EU, Russia, Japan and Canada. The US then withdrew from the project in 1998 as it considered the original design to be too expensive.
'This is now a truly global project,' said Mr Busquin, noting that China too has expressed an interest in becoming involved in ITER.
The project maintains a strong European focus however, and the EU is proposing two locations for the reactor, in Spain and France.
In a statement on 30 January, US President George W Bush said: 'Commercialisation of fusion has the potential to dramatically improve America's energy security while significantly reducing air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases.'
President Bush has directed the country's Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, to represent the US at the forthcoming ITER meeting. Mr Abraham has since outlined how nuclear fusion is a key element in the US' long term energy programme because of the potential for plentiful, safe energy that it offers.
Fusion is the energy source that powers the sun. It occurs in the sun when the intense heat and pressure within the sun's core cause lighter atoms to collide and fuse together. This creates heavier atoms and releases energy.
Following US withdrawal from ITER in 1998, the remaining partners redesigned the reactor at half the original 10 billion dollar (9.3 billion euro) cost. The US will meet 10 per cent of the budget. Construction of the reactor could begin in 2006 and be operational in 2014.
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