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Programme Overview

This overview is taken from Part 1, Section II of the Guide for Proposers for the Research and Training in the field of Nuclear Energy . It has been made available in browsable format for information purposes only. The official Guide for Proposers (Part 1) can be downloaded from the Library domain on this web service.

Table of Contents
  1. Programme objectives
  2. Programme strategy
  3. Programme structure and contents
  4. Synergies with other programmes
  5. Implementation of the programme

1. Programme objectives

The goal of the Nuclear Energy Programme is to help exploit the full potential of nuclear energy, both fusion and fission, in a sustainable manner, by making current technologies even safer and more economical and by exploring promising new concepts. The availability of secure, sustainable and competitive sources of energy is essential to economic growth, prosperity and quality of life in Europe.

In view of the expected growth in demand for energy, continued use will need to be made of all potential sources. Nuclear energy has the potential to provide Europe with a secure and sustainable electricity supply at a competitive price. It also makes a significant contribution to the policy of diversifying energy supply and reducing overall emissions of CO2. Efforts to develop the safety and security of nuclear energy systems can strengthen the Community's industrial competitiveness, through exploiting the European technological advance and enhance the acceptability of nuclear energy.

2. Programme strategy

The strategy follows the common approach to the selection of major research themes for the Fifth Framework Programme, which is aimed at addressing socio-economic issues. In addition to the scientific/technological and innovative aspects, emphasis will be placed in this programme on the following:

European added value : Many problems and challenges facing the nuclear industry are common across Member States. Often, there is a need to create a critical mass in human and/or financial terms. Participation in research and technological projects from several Member States together with complimentary expertise found in the various countries will contribute to the European added value.

Economic development : The main objectives of the research and technological activity in the area of nuclear energy are to enhance the safety ( 1 ) of Europe's nuclear installations and improve the competitiveness of Europe's industry. This effort will also contribute towards maintaining a high level of expertise and competence on nuclear technology and safety in Europe.

Social objectives : Within the above broader objectives, the more detailed aims are to ensure the protection of workers and the public from radiation and the safe and effective management and final disposal of radioactive waste. Furthermore, the other objectives are to explore more innovative concepts that are sustainable and have potential longer term safety, health and environmental benefits.

3. Programme structure and contents

The Nuclear Energy Programme has the following distinct components: two key actions, one on controlled thermonuclear fusion and the other on nuclear fission , and generic research on radiological sciences . These activities are complemented by support for research infrastructures together with other supporting activities (eg, training).

3.1. Key Action: Nuclear Fusion

Indirect actions relating to controlled thermonuclear fusion are carried out under the contracts of the Association, the ERDA agreement, quadripartite cooperation agreement between the Community, Japan, the Russian Federation and the USA concerning the engineering design activities of ITER. Nuclear fusion research is already fully integrated at a European level. Fusion is not discussed further on in this Guide, as there are no calls for proposals in the field of nuclear fusion except for Marie Curie fellowships.

3.2. Key Action: Nuclear Fission

Rationale. Nuclear fission energy contributes about 33% of the electricity supply in the Union. The continued safe and efficient use of this energy source is essential for securing a proper return on a large capital investment. Prolonging the safe operational life spans of existing reactors would enhance their competitiveness and have further substantial economic and environmental benefits.

The nuclear industry provides about 400,000 highly skilled jobs in the Union, some of which are filled by Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SME) providing services to the utilities and vendors. Supporting, servicing and maintaining the existing reactors is a large international business with an annual world-wide turnover in excess of 10 billion EURO. Decommissioning of nuclear installations is also a growing international business.

The main objectives of the RTDT activities on nuclear fission are to enhance the safety of Europe's nuclear installations and improve the competitiveness of Europe's industry. Within these broader objectives, the more detailed aims are to ensure the protection of workers and the public from radiation and the safe and effective management and final disposal of radioactive waste. Further aims are to explore more innovative concepts that are sustainable and have potential longer term economic, safety, health and environmental benefits and to contribute towards maintaining a high level of expertise and competence on nuclear technology and safety.

The major topics of research, the details of which can be found in the Work programme , are as follows:

  • Operational safety of existing installations

    • Plant life extension and management
    • Severe accident management
    • Evolutionary concepts

  • Safety of the fuel cycle

    • Waste and spent fuel management and disposal
    • Partitioning and transmutation (P&T)
    • Decommissioning of nuclear installations

  • Safety and efficiency of future systems

    • Innovative and revisited concepts

  • Radiation protection

    • Risk assessment and management
    • Monitoring and assessment of occupational exposure
    • Off-site emergency management
    • Restoration and long term management of contaminated environments

3.3. Generic Research on Radiological Sciences

Rationale. Health effects of radiation and radioactive contamination of the environment are a major concern of the society. An improved understanding of the behaviour of radioactive material in the environment and of the health effects of radiation, at low doses, on man is of paramount importance.

Ionising radiation and radio-nuclides are used extensively in a wide range of industrial and medical applications (in addition to nuclear energy) which have important health and economic benefits. The research will play an important role in enhancing the safe application of these techniques and promoting the development of new or improved approaches having greater social and economic benefit. Natural sources of radiation are the main contributor to the exposure of the population. The research will also contribute to the harmonised implementation of the Basic Safety Standards in the area of radiation protection and to their further consolidation.

The objectives of the research are to consolidate and advance European knowledge and competence in the radiological sciences that are essential for the safe and competitive use of nuclear fission and other industrial and medical uses of ionising radiation, including the management of natural sources of radiation. The major topics of research are as follows, the details of which can be found in the Work Programme

  • Radiation protection and health
  • Environmental transfer of radioactive material
  • Industrial and medical uses and natural sources of radiation
  • Internal and external dosimetry.

3.4. Support for research infrastructures.

Rationale. Collaboration within Europe among nuclear research institutes and with other nuclear organisations is relatively well developed. This should be intensified in future in response to the ongoing rationalisation and down-sizing of many national nuclear research programmes. More effective integration and better exploitation of research will be needed to continue ensuring the safe use of nuclear energy and to keep European industry competitive. The objective is to enhance access to and improve the consistency of the nuclear research fabric within the Community so that optimal use can be made of the available resources to the competitive advantage of European industry, and to continue ensuring the safe and acceptable exploitation of Nuclear technologies. To this end,

  • Access will be provided to Large scale facilities ,
  • Existing Networks will be reinforced and others established.
  • Existing Databases and tissue banks will be enhanced and others established.

4. Synergies with other Programmes:

Synergistic interfaces with other programmes can be anticipated and measures will be taken, as need dictates, at both the evaluation and implementation stages to ensure effective coordination. This programme will provide an input to the drawing up of annual reports by the horizontal programme, on socio-economic research as well as for drawing and publishing, on a regular basis, a "map" showing all classes of research infrastructures that may apply for support to given specific programme(s).

The actions carried out under this programme will, where appropriate, be closely co-ordinated with the Joint Research Centre's direct action programme. Close coordination is foreseen in the following areas: severe accident management, ageing and plant life extension, waste management and disposal and partitioning and transmutation. Coordination will be further reinforced through the use of thematic networks.

5. Implementation of the programme:

5.1. Types of Calls.

The calls for proposals are published in the Official Journal (OJ) of the European Communities. The calls will normally fall into one of two categories.

Targeted calls: These will be used for Research and technological projects and related activities (including related infrastructure support) in the Key Action on nuclear fission. They will be open for the submission of proposals within a defined scope summarised in the Indicative Timetable in the Work Programme for the Implementation of the Nuclear Energy Programme.

Continuously open calls: Generic research, support for infra-structure, training activities and most accompanying measures will be subject to a continuously open call. This will, normally, be launched at the start of the programme and remain open until the last year of the Framework programme with periodic evaluations as needed.

Other Accompanying measures will be implemented by public procurement procedures, invitation to apply as an independent expert, etc.

5.2. Specific Implementation Modalities

The programme (except nuclear fusion, see section 3.1 ) will be implemented through the following measures:

(a) Shared-cost actions

  • Research and Technological projects - Research and technological projects should be designed specifically to achieve the objectives of the Programme or of its sub-elements. They should aim at obtaining new knowledge intended to develop or improve products, processes or services and/or to meet the needs of Community policies (financial participation: 50 % of total eligible costs). The average duration of a project will be 36 months and should not exceed 48 months.

  • Demonstration projects - These projects should be designed to prove the viability of new technologies offering potential economic advantage but which cannot be commercialised directly or to test the feasibility of innovative policy measures (financial participation: 35 % of total eligible costs). As far as possible, demonstration projects should be associated with existing, or ad hoc, user/consumer organisations or other groupings that need to be convinced of the benefits of the new technology or innovative measures or may play a future role in its acceptance. Demonstration projects will have a stricter regime for intellectual property rights (IPR) than research projects by directly linking the exploitation rights to the project participants. The normal duration of a project will be 24 months and should not exceed 48 months.

  • Combined Research and Technological and demonstration projects - projects combining the above elements (financial participation: 35 to 50 % of total eligible costs).

  • Support for enhancing access to research infrastructures - actions enhancing access to research infrastructures for Community researchers. Support will cover a maximum of 100 % of the additional eligible costs necessary for the action.

(b) Concerted actions

These actions will be designed to coordinate projects already in receipt of funding, in order to exchange experience acquired, to expand the research efforts of the various players so as to reach a critical mass, to disseminate and to inform users (financial participation: maximum of 100 % of the costs necessary for the action).

(c) Support for thematic network activities

Thematic networks are established by bringing together, e.g., manufacturers, users, universities, research centres, organisations and research infrastructures around a given scientific and technological (S&T) objective, so as to facilitate coordination of activities and transfer of knowledge. Thematic networks could also be utilised for clustering and coordinating projects in receipt of EU funding. Support will be granted (maximum of 100%) towards the additional eligible costs of coordinating and implementing the network.

(d) Accompanying measures

The measures will contribute to the implementation of the specific programme or the preparation of future activities. The accompanying measures will comprise, in particular:

  • studies in support of the programme, including the preparation of future activities and, in particular, studies on socio-economic aspects such as the evaluation of costs and social acceptability;

  • the exchange of information, conferences, seminars, workshops and scientific and technical meetings;

  • recourse to external expertise, including access to scientific data bases, in particular for the purposes of the monitoring of the specific programme;

  • dissemination, information and communication activities, including scientific publications, and activities for the exploitation of the results and the transfer of technologies;

  • support for schemes to provide information and assistance for research players, including SMEs.

These will be implemented, as appropriate, through calls for proposals, public procurement procedures, invitation to apply as an independent expert, etc.

(e) Training activities

Marie Curie Fellowships: The following types of Fellowships: Individual, Return and Experienced Scientist Fellowships will be offered (see Guide for Marie Curie Fellowships ). The fellowships provide for proper social welfare expenses and a contribution to costs involved in mobility. There will also be a contribution to the eligible costs of the host institution when it is established in the Community or in Associated State.

Supplementary Training Schemes: For the purposes of the activities in nuclear fission and the radiological sciences, the following two training schemes, though limited in scope, will be implemented:

  • Grants for co-operating with third countries: these grants enable young research workers from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the new independent States of the former Soviet Union to spend time working at laboratories in the Community which are involved in implementing the specific programme;

  • Research training networks: set up in advanced or emerging fields of research, these networks deal with topics freely chosen by the researchers. Their main aim is to train young pre- and post-doctoral research workers.

There will be a 100% contribution towards eligible costs.

Special Training Courses: Support will be provided for courses aimed at maintaining a high level of expertise and competence within the Community on nuclear matters. Priority will be given to training aimed at the rapid dissemination of the results of national and Community research programmes.

5.3. Other implementation strategies.

(a) Mechanisms of clustering and contractual arrangements. Clusters are defined in Section I.3.3 together with their role within the Framework Programme. They can be established in different ways:

  • Several projects can, at the conception stage , be integrated within a cluster and submitted as a single proposal. Such proposals would be evaluated in the same manner as all other proposals, ie, according to the selection criteria referred to in the relevant call for proposals. For successful proposals, a single Research and Technological contract would be negotiated for a cluster of projects submitted in this way.

  • Independently submitted projects can be clustered during the contract negotiation process for successful proposals. This would be done on the initiative of the Commission based, inter alia, on the opinion of the expert evaluators and in full agreement with the participants in the various projects. Contracts, for projects clustered in this way, would have one of the following forms, depending on the willingness of participants to integrate their activities:

    1. a single Research and Technological contract when the proposers want fully to integrate their projects and have a full exchange in terms of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

    2. complementary clauses between individual contracts when the integration and IPR exchange are partial (to be negotiated between partners)

    3. an additional co-ordination contract (thematic network), when only co-ordination between contracts is required.

  • Already existing individual contracts, evaluated in different calls in the same or different activity area, can be clustered. Contracts for projects clustered in this way would have one of the following forms:

    1. complementary clauses between individual contracts, when the participants want to integrate their research but the IPR exchange is partial (to be negotiated between partners)

    2. an additional co-ordination contract (thematic network), when only co-ordination between contracts is required.

Proposals for thematic networks can be made in response to a call that will remain open for the whole duration of the Framework Programme. These can be used not only for grouping of several Community contracts but also national and other Community contracts.

(1) Safety is used here in the broadest of senses and embraces health, environmental, organisational and technological aspects. Nuclear safety is used in a similar manner and encompasses the safety of facilities, waste management and disposal and the protection of people and the environment against the effects of ionising radiation

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