Commissioner Busquin welcomes US return to ITER project

February 5, 2003

Brussels, 4 February 2003

European Commissioner for Research, Mr Philippe Busquin, has welcomed the announcement of US President, Mr George Bush, and US Energy Secretary, Mr Spencer Abraham, that the US will join the negotiations for the construction and operation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). ITER partners include the European Union, Japan, Russia, Canada and now the United States.

A total of €750 million, representing the biggest share of the EU's €1.250 billion EURATOM Framework Programme (2003-2006) budget, will fund nuclear fusion research. The programme should create conditions to launch the construction of the ITER facility within the next few years. Total costs for ITER construction and operation should amount to €10 billion over 30 years.

"I am most pleased by the decision of the American government to get back on board," said Commissioner Busquin. "The USA has acknowledged expertise in fusion sciences, adding to great industrial and technological capacity. Pooled with the expertise and resources of Europe and of other international partners, US participation will make a significant contribution to the success of ITER, while further sharing costs. Europe looks forward to welcoming US representatives to the ITER negotiations. They are welcome to work with all ITER partners towards successfully implementing this important project aimed at the development of a sustainable energy source, for the benefit of mankind."

Back to the future

The USA has already made substantial contributions to ITER in the earlier phases of the project through its participation until 1999. Together with the current international partners, Canada, Japan and the Russian Federation, Europe has followed with interest the extensive assessment and re-evaluation process by the US scientific community. This has led to a renewed US expression of commitment to ITER's objective of demonstrating the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes. Coming shortly after an application from the People's Republic of China to also join the negotiations, the US decision to rejoin ITER increases the chances of reaching the final objective and strengthens confidence in the potential of fusion energy.

Background: what is ITER?

ITER is an international fusion energy research and development project with the goal of taking the next major step in the development of fusion energy as a safe, clean and sustainable energy source. Fusion is the energy that powers the sun and the stars. Research into fusion has been conducted since the 1950s, and recent advances have intensified interest in the technology.

The international ITER co-operation was launched in 1987. The design of ITER and building of key prototype components was completed in 2001. Negotiations began in November 2001 towards the joint implementation of the project where it will be built, how the costs and procurement responsibilities will be shared, and how it will be managed and operated. Current participants in the negotiations are Canada, the European Union, Japan, the Russian Federation and the US. The People's Republic of China has also applied to join the negotiations.

ITER would be built for approximately €4.6 billion over 10 years and operated for around the same amount over a period of 20 years. Total costs for construction and operation should then amount to around €10 billion, over 30 years.

In the European Union, site candidatures have been proposed at Cadarache, France and Vandellos, Spain. Canada and Japan have each offered a possible site for ITER.

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DN: IP/03/171 Date: 04/02/2003

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