Brussels, 15 Mar 2006
A spokesperson for EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has responded to criticism by environmental groups of the EU's plans to fund nuclear research under the Euratom section of the Seventh Framework Programme for research (FP7), highlighting that much of the research funded by the EU focuses on safety and disposal.
'There is a knee-jerk reaction to the word 'nuclear', but fission and fusion need to be separated. When the framework programme contributes to fission, it is generally for safety and methods of disposal, and when it is used, it is done as efficiently as possible,' said the spokesperson.
Pressure group Friends of the Earth (FOTE) has criticised the proposed FP7, claiming that it is skewed in favour of nuclear energy, and that new generation reactors will provide few advantages over current models.
While the report acknowledges that the intentions for the new generation reactors are admirable - sustainable energy; competitive energy; safe and reliable systems and proliferation resistant - it states that in fact none of these goals are achievable.
FOTE believes that the separate allocation of funds to nuclear research under FP7 - for fusion, fission and radiation protection and JRC allocations constitutes a 'special case, for nuclear power by enabling the provision of nuclear technology from the EU's own research and development budget, separate from all other programmes.' FOTE claims that FP7 budgets for fission will in reality be a way of stealthily developing new generations of reactors.
The spokesperson responded: 'This is a perennial debate. The framework programme does do a great deal to support alternative energy, for example linking renewables to the grid and distributing generation supplies. We need to take a broader view. The framework programme is not a microcosm, and has to also be a means to address market failures. A great deal is done on alternative energy and renewable sources both within the framework programme and in the private sector.'
The FOTE report also rounds on fusion, but on purely financial grounds - its estimate is that up to 3364 million euro, almost three times the combined budget for fission, will be spent on fusion. The bulk of this money goes to ITER, the International thermonuclear experimental reactor project based in Cadarache, southern France. FOTE believes the EU's fusion goals are 'an optimistic view of commercialisation of fusion [...]. It is unreasonable to put that many eggs into one basket.'
The spokesperson responded: 'With fusion, there is very little done outside the framework programme. Without the framework programme, there would not be a fusion programme.'
If realised, fusion reactors have the potential to produce large-scale, inexpensive energy. The ITER project aims to produce a 500MW fusion reactor on-line in 2016.