Brussels, 04 Mar 2005
Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has called on Japan to agree to a compromise on the location of the international thermonuclear experimental reactor, ITER.
Speaking at a Commission event on research infrastructures in Oxford in the UK, Mr Potocnik remarked that Europe has managed to achieve its position of world leader in fusion research thanks to cross-border collaboration.
The Joint European Torus (JET), based in Oxford and developed some 30 years ago, is the world's leading device for magnetic fusion research, and also the flagship of European fusion research. 'JET gives us a striking demonstration of what happens when the scientists and engineers of Europe act together with a common goal,' said Mr Potocnik.
Convinced of the importance of fusion energy, Mr Potocnik also announced that he is to press for an increase in the budget allocated for ITER's construction and an accompanying programme during discussions on the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
The building of ITER will be a major milestone on the path to the creation of fusion energy. However, this phase in the project has been delayed for over a year by a lack of consensus on where the reactor should be built. While three of the project's international partners support the EU's proposal of Cadarache in France, three are backing Japan's proposed site.
Mr Potocnik said that the Commission had 'spared no effort' in seeking to find a consensus among the partners on the suitability of Cadarache, but to no avail. 'We recognise the special role that Japan has played to date and should continue to play in the ITER project and in fusion energy. The EU has spared no effort and has made an offer to Japan that in all respects is comparable to the Japanese proposal. For example, it includes provision for a real partnership of Japan and the EU in ITER and for the EU to procure some key systems from Japanese industry,' said the Commissioner. A deal is yet to be struck, however.
'Technical discussion has now gone as far as it can. I have proposed to our Japanese partners to sit together and find an acceptable compromise at a high political level,' said Mr Potocnik. 'This suggestion has not yet been taken up.'
The Commissioner concluded his address by stating that Europe would like to see work beginning on the construction of ITER during 2005, and that he will do everything in his power to make that happen.
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