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Fusion power requires skilled people

Fusion energy research challenges the frontiers of human knowledge and ingenuity. It deals with monumental universal forces and is in essence a heroic scientific and technological odyssey, one that offers outstanding practical global rewards. It is also a long-term challenge that needs a constant flow of highly skilled people to bring new ideas and build on accumulated knowledge and experience.

The challenges of the European fusion programme, and in particular the new requirements of ITER and the Broader Approach, mean that European support for education and training activities in fusion-related areas needs to be reinforced. To achieve its goals fusion needs the very best of human resources: scientists, engineers and other professional staff.

The near-term needs of ITER will require a significant number of physicists and, especially, engineers. To maintain the scientific/technological strength of European fusion research, as well as support ITER and future power plants development, a new generation of scientific/engineering staff needs to be attracted to fusion and to be trained in the highly specialised fields which the research requires.

Generation ITER

In view of the immediate and medium-term needs of ITER, and for the further development of fusion, a range of initiatives have been launched to ensure that adequate human resources will be available in the future in terms of numbers, range of skills, and high-level training and experience.

A Euratom Fusion Training Scheme (EFTS) was initiated in Euratom FP6 and is training a number of young engineers and physicists.

Building on the success of EFTS, new training actions have been launched in Euratom FP7. They are funded by Euratom and managed by EFDA. Every year about 40 professionals, mainly engineers, are being brought into the 3-year training programme. They are trained in a range of key fusion related disciplines. In addition, about 10 'Fusion Researcher' Fellowships are being awarded each year for the career development of exceptional candidates.

Other initiatives are aimed at improving access to fusion facilities for undergraduate students so that research opportunities are more visible to them when they consider postgraduate career options.

Ultimately, these training initiatives represent tremendous opportunities for some of the best young scientists and engineers to enter an exciting research area that has a very long-term future.