Brussels, 14 May 2003
As the countdown to the implementation of the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) project gets underway, the Commission has underlined the urgent need for further consensus building and additional objective criteria to help select the right European candidate site for ITER.
Presenting a communication on the construction and operation of ITER to the Competitiveness Council on 13 May, Commissioner for Research Philippe Busquin outlined the ongoing negotiations concerning the selection of a candidate site in Europe. Two possible locations, Cadarache in France and Vandellòs in Spain have been selected as potential sites for ITER in Europe and further sites have been proposed by Japan and Canada.
Given the competition and the significant value of the project for the development of sustainable forms of energy, Mr Busquin emphasised the importance of giving Europe the best chance of hosting ITER. 'Europe's fusion research has a solid foundation, with firmly established networks of excellence. We must give ourselves the best chance to build ITER in Europe. The task facing us now is to rally together, in a carefully controlled consensus-building process, to select the EU's candidate site,' he explained.
Following on from the communication, ministers agreed that increased bilateral discussions between France and Spain were an essential part of the so called 'consensus building process'. The Commission is also expected to help in this process by identifying converging opinions in the countries concerned and through closer collaboration with national authorities.
Ministers also discussed the role of the EU in helping to run the ITER project and the need for a scientific and technical support programme that could run in parallel with the project.
With regard to assessing site preparation, the Council welcomed the Commission's view of drawing up objective criteria, focusing on the scientific, technical, social, political, financial and administrative factors that are expected to affect the eventual site selection. However, ministers noted that such a process should be undertaken with the help of a high level group of experts, and in close cooperation with the Member States involved in the site proposal.
The Council called for further assurances from the Commission that a final report on the issue would be submitted as soon as possible, enabling the Council to come to an agreement on the European candidate site by September. Once the site is selected, the Commission is expected to submit a proposal on the site construction and implementation by the end of 2003. The Council conclusions note, however, that one Member State is not in agreement on the need to select a single European site as a candidate.
For further information about the ITER project, please consult the following web address: