ERA already exists in nuclear fission research, says Head of Unit

February 2, 2004

Brussels, 30 Jan 2004

The European Research Area (ERA) has already been established in the field of nuclear research, believes Hans Forsström, the Commission's Head of Unit for nuclear fission and radiation protection, and bringing people together through a succession of Framework Programmes has clearly helped, he told CORDIS News.

The first European Framework Programme was a actually a Euratom programme back in the 1970s, meaning that collaboration is well established in the nuclear research field, explained Mr Forsström.

'One clear issue is that in an area where, for a long time, cooperation has been going on, you could say that the European Research Area has already been established. This means that the partners know each other and make proposals [together],' said Mr Forsström. He was therefore very satisfied with the response to the first call for proposals under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), which resulted in the retention of 21 projects for funding.

Asked whether the close ties between the nuclear research players presents a barrier to potential new partners, such as organisations in the acceding countries, Mr Forsström claimed that those with know-how are not hampered in joining EU consortia: 'I think the situation is that the good organisations, and there are a large number of good organisations, they have no problem in getting together with the networks that are already formed. They already have good contacts.'


In the projects selected for funding under the first FP6 call, the proportion of participants from acceding countries is 'quite good', although 'it's very difficult for new organisations in the acceding countries to become leaders of projects,' Mr Forsström added. 'This takes time.'


The projects selected for funding are mainly Integrated Projects, but include two Networks of Excellence and a few smaller projects. In total, the consortia will receive 67 million euro of EU funding.


The subjects addressed by the projects are not new to the Framework Programmes, but the way in which all aspects are brought together is novel, Mr Forsström told CORDIS News. One of the projects, for example, addresses the disposal of radioactive waste. The process involves putting the waste in a large container, which is then buried at depth and surrounded by packing material.


While previous research projects have examined various aspects of the proposal, the new Integrated Project will cover what happens inside to the container, the packaging, and the waste itself. The project gathers organisations involved in each part of waste disposal. 'The new aspect in FP6 is that we are much more bringing the parts together,' said Mr Forsström.


Projects funded under FP6 also contain a much more prominent education and training aspect. One project, NEPTUNO, even focuses on these areas, in the field of nuclear engineering and technology. It creates a network of universities and research organisations with the task of assessing how a common curriculum for nuclear engineering and technology could be created, with the ultimate aim of establishing a European Masters programme.


Also particularly innovative is the RISC-RAD project, which will research how radiation interacts with cells. The process can destroy or disturb cells' natural self-repair mechanism, and have implications for human health. Addressing another side effect of radiation is the PERFECT project, which will use mathematical modelling to simulate how steel is affected by radiation. The consortium will seek to build a 'virtual reactor', which would reduce the number of tests needed, saving both time and money. The project is being coordinated by an electricity producing utility, which is interested in finding out for how much longer their reactors can operate.


A second call for proposals is currently open, and closes in April. Mr Forsström believes the themes covered in this call are complementary to those addressed in the first. In preparation for the third call, a call for Expressions of Interest is currently being prepared, with the aim of assessing which fields have not been covered, and in which areas stakeholders are interested in submitting a proposal.
For further information on Euratom under FP6, please visit:
http://www.cordis.lu/fp6-euratom

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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