Energy

Fusion energy and ITER

Could fusion, the energy source of the sun and stars, be the energy of the future? Fusion has the potential to provide a safe, cost-efficient and sustainable solution to European and global energy needs. For this reason, the EU is part of one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world, called ITER in the south of France.

ITER is a unique project to build the world’s biggest fusion machine. By fostering innovation and international collaborations, the project creates economic growth and job opportunities while putting the EU in the lead of global fusion research. Although a purely experimental device, ITER will help advance fusion energy technology for a greener and more sustainable energy mix.

 

Participation of the EU in ITER

                



21 July 2020 The European Council agreed on the long-term EU budget 2021-2027, including ITER.

 

07 June 2018

The Commission adopted a proposal for a Council decision on EU funding ITER for the period 2021-2027

17 April 2018

The Council of the EU adopts its conclusions on the communication and reaffirms its continued commitment to the ITER project

14 June 2017

The Commission revises the EU contribution to ITER, in accordance with the baseline

15-16 June 2016

The ITER Council adopts a new baseline of the project and sets the earliest technically available date for the first operation of the machine at December 2025

1 June 2007

The Broader Approach agreement, signed jointly by Japan and the EU, enters into force

19 April 2007

The European body Fusion for Energy (F4E) is established for a period of 35 years

21 November 2006

The ITER agreement is signed by China, South Korea, the United States, India, Japan, Russia and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)

The road to fusion

Fusion science and technology have a long history in Europe and their development was accelerated from 1957 by the Euratom Treaty, which established a European atomic energy community. Since then, European fusion research is better coordinated to make sure that the technology moves forward, as quickly as possible.

European fusion laboratories collaborate through a consortium called EUROfusion, in line with the long-term strategy set out in the European research roadmap to the realisation of fusion energy.

ITER is of key importance in the roadmap, particularly as it aims to prove the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion as a future energy source. Although ITER itself will not produce electricity, DEMO - the device that may follow - should already model a real future fusion power plant and produce electricity. This in turn will pave the way for future commercialisation and use of fusion power, possibly in the second half of the century. 

ITER governance and funding

The project stems from the ITER agreement, which was signed by China, Euratom (represented by the European Commission), India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA in 2006. Together, they govern the ITER Organization, which is responsible for constructing and managing the project.

Members have a domestic agency that manages their contributions to the project. The EU’s domestic agency is Fusion for Energy (F4E).

The European contribution to ITER is funded from the EU budget. For the period 2021 to 2027, the EU decided to allocate €5.61 billion to the project, following a Council decision in February 2021.

The United Kingdom and the EU have concluded a trade and cooperation agreement and a protocol, in December 2020, by which the United Kingdom continues to participate in ITER activities through its membership to F4E.

The Broader Approach

In parallel to their collaboration on the ITER project, the EU and Japan are working together on three fusion-related projects.

The projects, all located in Japan, aim to complement ITER and accelerate the development of fusion power. The work includes the construction of an advanced fusion device, research into durable materials for use in future devices, and the setting-up of a remote operation room for ITER.

The cooperation was established by the signature of the Broader Approach Agreement in 2007 and a new, second phase of activities is being launched in 2020.

A study on the benefits of broader approach activities under the current agreement and the expected benefits of continued participation was published in May 2021. Major achievements include the design and construction of JT-60SA, the world’s largest tokamak, until ITER’s eventual commissioning.

Fusion for Energy and industry engagement

The EU’s domestic agency, Fusion for Energy, established in 2007 and based in Barcelona, Spain, is responsible for delivering Euratom’s contribution to the ITER project and the Broader Approach, and contracts businesses and research organisations in the EU to achieve this.

By participating in ITER, the EU makes substantial investment in European industry. More than €4 billion has already been invested in this way, which has had a strong and positive impact on the European economy in terms of producing economic growth and boosting employment. A study on the impact of ITER, and other fusion projects within the Broader Approach, on the EU economy further showed that ITER generated a net impact worth €104 million in 2008-2019.

Moreover, individual businesses that have produced components and provided services for ITER have reported being able to expand their facilities, upgrade equipment, and hire staff.

A study on ITER and COVID-19 has analysed the impact of the pandemic on both ITER and companies involved in the project. It showed that although two thirds of companies have been negatively impacted, close to one third stated that their involvement in ITER makes the companies more resilient to the consequences of the crisis.

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