Brussels, 30 June 2004
OPINION of the European Economic and Social Committee on Fusion energy (own-initiative opinion)
Full text of Opinion in MS Word file on ESC website
6.8.5 The considerable investments earmarked for industry to build ITER and develop DEMO will both strengthen the economy and, even more importantly, boost expertise and innovation in a technologically most demanding new area. This is already becoming clear from the many spin-offs of the fusion programme to date.
6.9 Internationally, Europe faces a multiple challenge. It is vital on the one hand to maintain its leading role in fusion research not only in the face of US dominance in research but also against the growing strength of the three Asian ITER partners . On the other hand, however, it is important as far as possible to maintain and expand the unprecedented international cooperation seen up to now.
6.10 The Committee therefore supports the Commission in its intention to take up that challenge, and calls on the Council, the Parliament and the Member States to do the same and not to give up Europe's leading position in this key area of the future. This does however present difficulties.
6.11 Before the USA rejoined the ITER partnership and China and Korea came on board, there was, realistically speaking, little doubt that ITER would be located in Europe, not least because, as with JET, that would be the best guarantee of its success.
6.12 A new state of affairs has now arisen, however, as the USA and Korea currently back the Rokkasho-mura location in Japan, despite the clear and broadly accepted technical advantages of the Cadarache site. If this decision were confirmed, Europe would lose its leading position and be deprived of the fruits of investment made and work done to date - with all that that implies for research and industry.
6.13 The Committee therefore notes, welcomes and backs the European Council's decision of 25 and 26 March 2004 in which it reaffirms unanimous support for the European proposal and calls on the Commission "to progress negotiations on the ITER project with a view to its rapid commencement at the European candidate site".
6.14 Summing up and reiterating this point, the Committee calls on the Council, the Parliament and the Commission to launch initiatives and to genuinely exhaust all possibilities - if necessary working out new structural approaches to the international division of labour - to ensure that, whatever happens, ITER is located in Europe, given its key strategic role in the development of a major sustainable energy resource.