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International cooperation

The current energy challenge is on a global scale, with international cooperation a vital tool for finding common solutions. International collaboration has long been at the core of EU activities in nuclear energy research, as it forms part of the 1957 Euratom Treaty. The current Research Framework Programme (FP7) is a new impetus for international cooperation.

A bit of history

Flags of international partners ©EC-RTD-EURATOM

The 1950s saw the start of real international cooperation in nuclear energy. In 1957, Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, or Euratom Treaty, was signed in Rome, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was created. This was followed by the creation of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA/OECD) a year later. Other international bodies on nuclear-related issues followed. The combined overall goal is to promote the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and to ensure a high level of nuclear safety worldwide.

A new era of international cooperation

The 21st century has marked a new beginning for international cooperation in the nuclear field, as new mechanisms and partnerships to enhance and improve collaboration have been set up in both fission and fusion research.

In fission both bilateral and multilateral cooperation activities have been launched:

Bilateral

  • The Euratom Framework Programme rules for participation already allow for entities in third (i.e. non-EU) countries such as research centres and organisations, industry and universities to participate in Euratom research, though normally such entities would not receive Euratom funding.

  • With certain countries such as China and Russia, Euratom has established a "structured dialogue" to identify a common set of research topics of mutual interest in which cooperation can take place on a shared-cost basis.

  • Co-operation between Euratom projects and similar activities in third countries can also be fostered through Memoranda of Understanding between the research partners involved.

  • Euratom has signed international bilateral agreements on nuclear R&D cooperation - as well as agreements on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and nuclear safety which contain provisions for R&D cooperation - with Argentina, Canada, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, the USA and Uzbekistan. These agreements often lead to closer research cooperation and monitoring of activities.

Multilateral

A renewed interest in nuclear energy, including from developing and emerging economies, has led to increased international cooperation, in particular in research and training.

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works with its member states and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies. The IAEA's and Euratom's extensive scientific and technological cooperation has been ongoing for many years.

  • A specialised agency within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA), assists its member countries in maintaining and further developing through international cooperation, the scientific, technological and legal basis required for the safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The NEA works closely with the IAEA and the European Commission / Euratom.

  • The Generation-IV International Forum (GIF) was established in 2001 to reinforce international collaboration on pre-commercial research in Generation-IV (next generation) nuclear energy systems. At present there are 10 fully ratified members, including Euratom. All countries with major civil nuclear power programmes are involved.

  • The International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INFRO), an IAEA project, was launched in 2000. Its goal is to help ensure that nuclear energy is able to help meet, in a sustainable way, the energy needs of the 21st century, and to provide a forum for discussion. The European Commission participates at the meetings.

  • Another step forward was the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), an initiative that brings together countries sharing a common vision for the safe and secure expansion of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes worldwide. It aims at accelerating the development and deployment of advanced fuel cycle technologies to encourage clean development and prosperity worldwide, to improve the environment and to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

  • The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) in Moscow and the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU) are inter-governmental organisations established in the 90s in order to retrain and reorientate scientists involved in former soviet WMD programmes. several research projects have been carried out since then which collaborated with the Euratom FP. The EU is a full member of both these bodies.

For more information please refer to the Fission International Cooperation section.

The fusion developments are:

Bilateral:

  • Euratom has signed bilateral cooperation agreements with all ITER partners except China. Furthermore, it has developed bilateral agreements with some non-ITER partners, these are Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Brazil.

Multilateral:

  • ITER International Organization: the construction of ITER, the world's biggest fusion experimental reactor, is the focus of international cooperation in fusion research. Seven parties – Euratom , China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA - representing more than half of the world population, collaborate under the terms of the multilateral Agreement establishing an international ITER Organization. The ITER Agreement also applies to the Swiss Confederation, participating in the Euratom fusion programme as a fully associated third state. Euratom is a full member and Host Party of the ITER International Organisation and the majority contributor.

  • The EU-Japan Broader Approach Agreement:

    The EU–Japan Broader Approach Agreement is a bilateral international agreement between Euratom and Japan. It aims to support the ITER project and analyse the future demonstration fusion power plant (DEMO). The activities of the Broader Approach Agreement comprise three large research projects which will be jointly implemented by the EU and Japan:

    • IFMIF/EVEDA, to prepare for the construction of a materials testing facility for future fusion reactors;
    • The International Fusion Energy Research Centre (IFERC);
    • The Satellite Tokamak Programme JT-60SA, a major upgrade of the tokamak JT-60

    All three projects are based in Japan. The main Euratom contribution to the projects will be in-kind resources provided by Euratom member states or associated states.

  • Euratom research participates in several committees of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), such as the International Fusion Research Council (IFRC).

  • OECD International Energy Agency (IEA) is one of the main initiators of fusion international cooperation. Euratom participates in programmes and committees, in particular in the Fusion Power Coordinating Committee (FPCC) and its Implementing Agreements.

  • The International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA) organised by the ITER International Organisation.

  • The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) in Moscow and the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU). Euratom is a full member of these two programmes, established in the 90s, under which several research projects with European collaborators were carried out.

For more information please refer to the Fusion International Cooperation section.