Europe acting together
A key feature of the EU's fusion research programme is its unique coordination which provides for highly efficient use of all relevant R&D resources in a truly pan-European effort. This single coordinated programme involving large and small laboratories has brought Europe to the forefront of international fusion research.
All of Europe's fusion research is coordinated by the European Commission. Funding comes from the Euratom Research Framework Programme in addition to national funds from the EU Member States and Switzerland. This is truly a European Research Area in fusion. Such coordination and long-term continuity of research is ensured by the Contracts of Association between Euratom and the national partners (Associates).
The Associates are the fusion laboratories across Europe that actually perform the fusion research. There are currently 26 such contracts involving about 2500 professional scientists.
This coordination not only allows participation in the largest fusion experiment - JET, but also the sharing of expertise and technical facilities across Europe. To illustrate, scientists from all over Europe take part in experiments and analysis on the Tore Supra tokamak (at the ITER site in Cadarache, France - the first large tokamak to use superconducting magnets), the ASDEX device in Germany (which has an ITER-shaped plasma) and the MAST spherical tokamak in the UK. These and many other experimental fusion devices all contribute with valuable data to the development of the science and technology of fusion.
As well as joint participation in experiments, there are major collective efforts in the simulation and modelling of fusion plasmas, the software equivalent of jointly building and putting together all the pieces of a large device. This will ultimately lead to a numerical tool essential for the efficient planning and preparation of experiments on ITER.
Fusion for Energy (F4E) is the European Union's organisation responsible for providing Europe's procurements and "in kind" contribution to ITER. Its immediate task is to work with European research and industry to develop and manufacture the components for ITER that Europe has agreed to provide. This amounts to around 50 % of the total. F4E is also tasked with managing the European contributions to the Broader Approach Agreement signed with Japan and, in the longer-term, with implementing activities to prepare for the first demonstration fusion power plants. F4E was established in April 2007 for 35 years and is based in Barcelona, Spain. It is a joint undertaking that brings together Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community), the EU Member States and other European countries that have cooperation agreements with Euratom.
EFDA brings together European fusion research institutions and the European Commission to strengthen coordination and collaboration. Its activities include:
- enhancing coordination of physics and technology across EU laboratories,
- facilitating the exploitation of the world's current largest fusion experiment (JET),
- promoting training and career development opportunities in fusion,
- coordinating EU contributions to a variety of international collaborations outside the responsibility of F4E,
- representing fusion in EIROforum, a collaboration between seven of Europe's major scientific collaborative organisations.
For some of the coordinated activities the Commission provides extra funding through EFDA. The major part of the funding of JET comes from the Commission, in particular via a contract with the UK Atomic Energy Authority for the operation of the facility.
Fusion staff working for EFDA are located in either Garching near Munich in Germany or Culham in the UK.