Brussels, 17 Nov 2004
The European Commission has adopted proposals on a new negotiating stance with partners in the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) project. The change is aimed at securing a town in France as the site for the reactor. The statement released by the Commission gives the strongest indication yet that the EU would consider constructing the reactor in France without Japan as a partner.
Before taking such decision, the Commission wishes to offer Japan an olive branch in the form of a 'genuine partnership' in the hope that the country will remain an ITER partner.
'Japan could receive favourable conditions to reflect its special contribution to the ITER project. Furthermore, the EU could contribute to other fusion research initiatives carried out in Japan to complement the ITER project as part of a 'broader approach' to mastering fusion energy,' reads the Commission statement.
With construction and operation costs of ten billion euro over 35 years, ITER would be the second largest international collaborative research project after the International Space Station. It would aim to generate energy by fusing together light atoms such as hydrogen.
The EU's Council of Ministers agreed in November 2003 to propose the site of Cadarache in France as the host for the reactor, and received the backing of Russia and China. Japan put forward the site of Rokkasho-Mura, and was supported by the US and South Korea. Countless meetings over the past year have failed to break the deadlock.
The 'broader approach' proposed by the European Commission could include a separate test facility for materials and smaller fusion devices, 'satellite tokomaks' resembling the Joint European Torus (JET) in the UK and the planned JT60 superconductive reactor in Japan.
The proposed new negotiating stance will be discussed by the EU's Competitiveness Council on 26 November.
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