Poland and Slovenia step up participation in European fusion research
Polish and Slovenian institutions recently concluded institutional agreements with EURATOM, the European Atomic Energy Community, securing long-term R&D co-operation in the field of fusion energy across the European Union. Scientists and research organisations in these countries will now have fuller access to Europe’s integrated fusion research programme and facilities.
On 10 March this year, a new agreement was concluded with the Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion (IPPLM) in Warsaw and the Slovenian Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (MHST) to join the EURATOM framework programme. The organisations signed Contracts of Association, paving the way for extended pan-European co-operation in fusion energy research.
|Germany’s TEXTOR fusion device close up after a recent upgrade.|
© Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP)
Both EU Member States have a strong scientific background which will enrich and strengthen the fusion research community – under the EURATOM banner – and further develop the know-how needed to build future power plants using this promising technology.
These Contracts of Association are building blocks for an integrated and coherent R&D programme in fusion physics and technology at European level. EURATOM’s fusion programme has some 1 800 professionals delivering world-class results using cutting-edge facilities. Average yearly basic research expenditure in the Associations amounts to about €500 million, a bit more than one-third coming from EURATOM’s total €1.2 billion budget in the wider Sixth Framework Programme for research.
The Contracts call for a fusion research unit to be set up in each country and several research institutions are usually involved in carrying out the work programme. For example in Slovenia, both the Josef Stefan Institute and the Mechanical Engineering faculty at the University of Ljubljana will contribute. In Poland, the research work involves not only the IPPLM, but also Warsaw University of Technology, the Soltan Institute for Nuclear Studies and other institutions.
(pro)Fusion of talent in Europe
European-level fusion research has a long history dating back almost 50 years to 1958. Europe is taking a leading role in fusion research with such facilities as the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion experimental device in Oxfordshire (UK), which is accessible to all European fusion scientists. The fusion programmes demonstrate strong collaboration and integration, necessary characteristics of the European Research Area.
Researchers in countries without a Contract of Association to the fusion programme – but which are nevertheless covered by the EU’s broader research Framework Programmes – can participate in the fusion programme through cost-sharing contracts for specific work. This does not provide all the benefits of a Contract of Association but is a good way to kick-start integration into the fusion programme.
Although all new Member States, such as Slovenia, Poland and the eight others, are Associated with EURATOM following accession to the Union (1 May 2004), the way they participate in its programmes depends on the programmes themselves. EURATOM’s fission research programme, for instance, operates much like the rest of the Framework Programme for research, with calls for proposals and so on. But fusion research is different. Contracts of Association are concluded with nominated legal entities (the Associates) in the different countries. Organisations and institutions in these countries can then take part in the work carried out under the Contract by making an agreement with the Associates – i.e. in this case, IPPLM in Poland and MHST in Slovenia.
Poland and Slovenia also now become members of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) which promotes co-operation between all Associations. EFDA includes developing fusion technologies, joint use of the JET facility, and international collaborations, such as that on the fusion experimental facility ITER. Associated organisations and countries also take part in staff mobility and fellowship schemes which encourage more young scientists to work in fusion research.
Researchers in the Polish research unit will develop plasma diagnostics for a number of European fusion devices, such as TEXTOR (DE), MAST (UK) and TORE-SUPRA (FR), and will provide computational support for different plasma confinement concepts. They will also co-operate in materials research for fusion applications and laser detritiation of components in contact with the plasma. Researchers in the Slovenian research unit will continue work in the plasma-wall interaction field and activation calculations. The Association will provide computational support for the Wendelstein 7-X facility (DE), and develop material for fusion technology.
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