Parliamentary report on FP7 programme for nuclear research and training activities (link)

October 24, 2006

Brussels, 23 October 2006

Report on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific Programme implementing the seventh Framework Programme (2007-2011) of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities ( COM(2005) 0445 - C6 0386/2005 - 2005/0190(CNS))
Committee on Industry, Research and Energy
Rapporteur: Umberto Guidoni

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EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The rapporteur welcomes the Commission proposal on this Specific Programme, where the activities for indirect research actions are organised along two lines:
1. fusion energy research and
2. nuclear fission and radiation protection

Guidelines for fusion energy research

The rapporteur, in agreement with the general rapporteur on the FP7, believes that the EU should exploit to the highest degree the potential of fusion to become in the long-term a virtually limitless, environmentally acceptable and economically competitive source of energy, thus making a major contribution to the realization of a sustainable and secure energy supply. To this purpose, he believes that a "fast track" to fusion energy should be followed -also including additional voluntary budget contributions from Member States for specific projects- in order to shorten as much as possible the time taken to develop a commercial fusion power plant.

A fundamental step in this path to fusion energy is the ITER device. In June last year an International Agreement on ITER was finally signed among the six Parties (EU, USA, Russia, Japan, Cina and Korea), after a long negotiation on the choice of the site to host ITER.

During these difficult negotiations, all the European Institutions and Member States took strong commitments, in terms of programmes and budget, with the other Parties, to support the European site (Cadarache, in France). On a number of occasions in the recent past, the ITRE Committee has stated that the EU should firmly continue its reactor-oriented strategy and maintain its world-leading position in fusion energy research. To this purpose, the ITRE Committee has repeatedly encouraged the Commission and the Council to take any necessary decision (including, of course, appropriate funding of all relevant activities and programmes) to ensure that the ITER facility would have been actually built in Europe.

The positive conclusion of these negotiations, with the choice of the EU site to host ITER, calls now for coherent decisions and measures in this and the next Framework Programmes.

The sharing of costs and the allocations among the Parties of procurements of the components of ITER, as agreed in the International Agreement on ITER, implies well defined commitments for the Host Party, i.e. the EU. For this reason an adequate budget for the construction of ITER is necessary, as proposed by the Commission.

At the same time, the full and effective exploitation of the ITER device, once it is built, will require an adequate number of skilled European scientists as well as an high level knowledge in physics and technology. To this purpose, a European fusion programme, during the construction of ITER -the so called accompanying programme- must be adequately supported, in terms of budget and management.

To this extent the rapporteur makes the following recommendations:

- Full support to the whole European fusion program. It is necessary to keep a robust research program to ensure that the investment for ITER is going to be cost effective. To this extent, the Commission should avoid any significant reduction of budget.

1. A European Agency for ITER is necessary. As proposed by the Commission, it will be established as a Joint Undertaking under the EURATOM Treaty. The rapporter agrees that this agency will provide the means for EURATOM to discharge its international obligations under the ITER Agreement and to provide the EURATOM contribution to ITER and to Broader Approach activities with Japan. The same agency should be responsible also for managing and administering all the activities in support of ITER construction, set out in the sub-heading "The realization of ITER" in the Annex of the Commission proposal. The rapporteur is convinced, like almost all the research community on fusion, that the construction of ITER is such a challenging task that it deserves -at least all over the next decade- a dedicated structure, focusing exclusively on the best and quickest realisation of ITER.

2. A strong accompanying research programme, with dedicated budget should be continued. In view of the best exploitation of ITER, once built, and to maintain a European leadership in the physics and technology of fusion, a bold research programme (the accompanying programme) must be maintained during the construction of ITER, as set out in the Annex in the Commission proposal. The rapporteur believes that this programme should be adequately supported, with an earmarked appropriation, within the overall budget on fusion, as proposed by the general rapporteur in his draft report on the Euratom FP7.

3. The accompanying research programme should not be managed by the Agency for ITER. In agreement with almost the totality of the fusion community, the rapporteur believes that all the activities of the accompanying research programme, including activities in preparation of the possible construction of a demonstration fusion reactor and other facilities, set out in the Annex in the Commission proposal (i.e. all the activities not mentioned in paragraph 1 above) should be implemented and managed separately from the Agency for ITER. For all these activities the same management as for the previous framework programmes should be maintained, including contracts of Associations and the European Fusion Development Agreement. In fact the rapporteur is fully convinced that the integrated approach to fusion research activities and the full involvement of the Fusion Associations in Member States has proven to be successful in establishing, so far, a truly European Research Area in fusion research, making the EU the world leader in the physics and technology of fusion.

4. JET, the largest European device for fusion research, should be kept fully operational. However, since JET is absorbing almost one half of the budget of the accompanying programme, it is important to guarantee the reliability of the plant by regular assessments of its scientific results.

5. The EU worldwide leadership in fusion energy research should be mantained. The worldwide leadership of the EU is not automatically preserved by the construction of ITER in Europe. The successful exploitation of ITER in general and an effective participation of the EU in the experimental activities on ITER in particular call for a strong and truly European R&D programme, involving all the Member States. The rapporteur welcomes the Commission proposal for R&D activities in preparation of ITER operation on the magnetic confinement toroidal devices, already existing or under construction in all Member States. The exploitation of such devices, during the construction of ITER (which will last one decade), will increase the knowledge in a number of ITER-relevant topics and represent a key element for successful experimental activities on ITER. However the rapporteur believes that a review of the devices included in this programme, based on shared scientific arguments needs to be carried out at the beginning of the FP7.

6. Adequate human resources should be ensured. The realisation of ITER calls for a significant boost in the Euratom fusion budget as well as for an even more important increase in the need for adequately trained personnel. The rapporteur believes that to answer this demand the EU should not only foresee high level education programmes, including a European PHD in physics and engineering of fusion, but also focus on scientific programmes, able to ensure the proper training for a new generation of physicists and engineers.

7. A fast track to fusion energy should be strongly supported. The rapporteur firmly believes that a "fast track" to fusion energy should be followed, in order to reach as soon as possible the objective of the realisation of DEMO, a demonstrative fusion reactor. To this purpose, he thinks that more emphasis should be given to those research activities set out in the sub-heading "Responding to emerging and unforeseen policy needs" in the Annex of the Commission proposal. However, the rapporteur believes that strategies must be set - also including additional voluntary budget contributions from Member States for specific projects - in order to be ready for a timely reaction and start as many research activities as possible in parallel, thus shortening the time to a commercial fusion power plant, in case of deepening of the energy crisis.

Guidelines for Nuclear fission and radiation protection

In the circumstances of limited resource for the Euratom budget, the rapporteur believes that EU should give priority to financing research activities related to safety and waste management, in order to ensure a safer exploitation of the existing reactors.

Reactor systems. The rapporteur believes that, within the activity "Reactor systems", lower priority should be given to the objective of 'exploring the potential of more advanced technology to deliver an even safer, more resource-efficient and more competitive exploitation of nuclear energy'.. Research on new generation reactors can be better carried out by Member States in close cooperation with private sectors.

Joint undertakings in the field of nuclear fission and radiation protection. The rapporteur believes that Joint Undertakings under the EURATOM Treaty, should be welcome when they can actually improve the efficiency in the management of the activities brought under their responsibility as well as the quality of the scientific results. In this context, he recognises that a Joint Undertaking in the field of radioactive waste management, as proposed by the Commission, could actually provide a better environment for the development of safer and more efficient technologies for nuclear waste management.

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON BUDGETS for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific Programme implementing the seventh Framework Programme (2007-2011) of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities
( COM(2005) 0445 - C6 0386/2005 - 2005/0190(CNS))
Draftswoman: Marilisa Xenogiannakopoulou

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