European nuclear researchers often work closely with their counterparts in other countries. International cooperation on pre-commercial research has a number of benefits, allowing researchers to pool expertise and share ideas and findings.
The Euratom programme promotes international research cooperation in a number of ways. In doing so, it supports scientific excellence worldwide, and enables Euratom researchers to benefit from joint activities. Crucially, this promotes the dissemination of the European second-to-none nuclear safety culture. Working together also allows Euratom and other funding agencies to share the often high costs of research.
Over the years, Euratom projects have involved cooperation with researchers in a number of countries, including Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Ukraine, USA and Uzbekistan.
Euratom FP7's open door policy
Researchers based in countries that are not members of the Euratom programme (i.e. that are not EU Member States, or Euratom Associated Countries) can still participate as full project partners in Euratom-funded projects, though usually they would not receive Euratom funding and must find alternative support to participate in the projects. However, under certain circumstances, Euratom may provide financial support to non-Euratom partners, e.g. funds may be set aside for the participation of overseas researchers in training courses.
Sometimes, Euratom joins forces with other research funding bodies to support joint projects. For example, Euratom and the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM have identified areas of common interest and will launch joint research projects. The Euratom programme will finance Euratom partners, while ROSATOM will provide funding for Russian partners. A similar initiative is now planned with China.
Euratom projects sometimes link up with similar projects underway in other countries, usually under a Memorandum of Understanding, thereby facilitating cooperation and the sharing of results.
An active voice at international level
Euratom is an active member of both the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency), which is a specialised agency of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
In 2003, Euratom signed the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) Charter, followed by full ratification in 2006. The GIF brings together the world's leading nations in the field of nuclear technology research. Through the GIF, research is coordinated globally on the development of next generation nuclear reactors, which will produce less waste, be at least as safe as current reactors and use uranium much more efficiently than today's nuclear power plants. The GIF partners have identified eight technology goals in the fields of sustainability, economics, safety, reliability and nuclear non-proliferation. Euratom contributes to the work of the GIF through the research projects it supports.
In addition, the European Commission is involved in the IAEA's INPRO (International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles) project. INPRO partners share knowledge and work to ensure that decision makers will have the information they need to deploy innovative nuclear energy technologies in the future.
Elsewhere, Euratom has observer status in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). The GNEP aims to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear energy technologies, while reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation and addressing fuel cycle issues.
The International Science and Technology Centre (ISTC) in Moscow and the Science and Technology Centre in Ukraine (STCU): The EU is a full member of these two inter-governmental organisations established in the '90s. Several research projects involving collaboration with Euratom have been carried out. Coordination with the Euratom programme is ensured through three Contact Expert Groups (CEGs) on Partitioning & Transmutation (P&T), Severe Accident Management (SAM) and Plant Lifetime Management (PLIM).
Finally, the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP), set up with Euratom support, brings together research organisations, industry, technical safety organisations and academia with the goal of cementing Europe's leading role in nuclear research, engineering and technology, and will increasingly become a focal point for international cooperation activities.