Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Article Category

Content archived on 2022-11-17

Article available in the following languages:


Workplan for specific programme on controlled thermonuclear fusion

Unlike other specific R&D programmes undertaken by the European Union, the specific programme on controlled thermonuclear fusion does not proceed by means of calls for proposals. In addition, the proposal for a Council Decision adopting the programme does not foresee the setti...

Unlike other specific R&D programmes undertaken by the European Union, the specific programme on controlled thermonuclear fusion does not proceed by means of calls for proposals. In addition, the proposal for a Council Decision adopting the programme does not foresee the setting up of a work programme by the Commission (OJ No C 113 of 23.4.1994). This specificity is motivated by the very long-term objective of the programme and by the fact that it embraces all activities undertaken in the Union (plus Sweden and Switzerland) in the field of controlled thermonuclear fusion by magnetic confinement. Nevertheless, in order to be exhaustive in presenting R&D activities undertaken by the European Union within the framework programmes, the scientific and technical objectives of the controlled thermonuclear fusion programme (hereafter called the fusion programme), as well as the means and modalities for its implementation, are presented below. - Scientific and technological objectives: The long-term objective of the programme is the joint creation of safe, environmentally sound prototype reactors, which should result in the construction of economically viable power stations which will meet the needs of potential users. In this context, particular attention will be paid to the constraints imposed by the requirements of power utilities. The long time span and the large human and financial efforts needed to attain this objective call for a concentration of Community action, the complete cohesion of the network of organizations associated in the Community action, and the full exploitation of cooperation with the major fusion programmes outside the Community. Safety and environmental issues will be central to the construction of the following large devices, which, after JET (Joint European Tincluded in the strategy leading towards the prototype commercial reactor: - An experimental reactor (Next Step), the overall objective of which is to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes; - A demonstration reactor (DEMO) capable of producing significant quantities of electricity. For the period 1994-1998, the priority objective is to establish the engineering design of the Next Step reactor within the framework of the quadripartite cooperation (Euratom, Japan, Russia and the USA) in the Engineering Design Activities (EDA) for an International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Specialized studies will also be needed to look at possible improvements to concepts in plasma physics and plasma engineering, as well as to carry out the long-term technology developments required for progressing towards the exploitation of fusion as an energy source; the results of such studies will be of benefit both in the operation of ITER and, in the longer term, in the conceptual definition of DEMO. - Research areas: The proposed strategy calls for the simultaneous development, in the period 1994-1998, of three areas of scientific and technical research activities, as presented below: . Next Step activities: The ITER-EDA Agreement is implemented in two Protocols; Protocol 2 covers the period from 21 March 1994 to the scheduled completion of the EDA in July 1998. The activities include the design proper by the Joint Central Team (JCT) and by the Home Teams (HTs) of the four Parties, plus the supporting R&D in physics and technology by the HTs. For the Euratom Party, activities other than the participation in the JCT are coordinated by the NET Team and carried out mainly by the Associations, by industry (with increasing involvement), by JET and by the Joint Research Centre (JRC). Plasma physics and plasma engineering R&D in support of the ITER-EDA Agreement will be pursued on JET and on the specialized devices in the Associations, with the focus on particle and energy exhaust, plasma heating and confinement, plasma disruptions and long pulses. JET's main task is to establish reliable methods of plasma purity control under conditions relevant for the Next Step and to conduct high-performance operations in deuterium-tritium plasmas. The ITER-EDA technology R&D and design tasks allocated to the Community are performed primarily in the Associations, in the JRC, and in industry. In order to make the Community more competitive for the construction of ITER and to maintain the option of proceeding towards a European Next Step, should cooperation on ITER prove too difficult to continue, the necessary competence will be developed in all key technologies for the Next Step, in particular in the fields of superconducting magnets, plasma facing components, operational and environmental safety, fuel cycle and highly reliable remote handling for maintenance and decommissioning of the device in its particular environment. The present generation of technology test facilities will be intensively exploited. Specialized laboratories in the JRC, the JET and the Associations will help demonstrate the safe handling of tritium. A European candidate site for the construction of the Next Step will be identified and qualified. It is important that decisions about where, when and within what framework to build the Next Step be taken during the period 1994-1998, in the light of the assessment foreseen by the programme Decision. . Concept improvements: Research on concept improvements for the Tokamak and configurations akin to it is essential, in the longer term, for the definition of DEMO. This research should also help finalize the design of the Next Step and prepare its operation. Improvements have to be made to the current techniques for tackling certain plasma physics and plasma engineering problems, most of them common to all toroidal magnetic confinement devices. These improvements could require not only the extension of running programmes, but also the upgrading of existing devices and the construction of new ones. More specifically, studies on improved plasma confinement regimes, magneto-hydrodynamic stability, plasma-wall interaction, fuelling and exhaust, heating and current drive, will be carried out on existing devices. New plasma diagnostic methods will be developed in the Associations to support these studies. Synergy between theory and experiments will be fostered. Preparatory activities are under way to upgrade existing devices and possibly construct new ones relating, in particular, to: - The engineering design and prototype development for a possible large stellarator (W 7-X) to demonstrate the advanced performance of that configuration; conceptual studies on the reactor potential of stellarators will be developed; construction of W 7-X could start within the period 1994-98; - The possible upgrading of some Tokamaks, notably TORE-SUPRA. A proposal concerning a specialized Tokamak might be examined, taking into account the ITER timing. . Long-term technology: The long-term technology effort will be expanded with a view to providing technically and environmentally acceptable solutions to the technical problems of using fusion power as an energy source. Environmental acceptability, safety and economic viability will ultimately be the keys to the widespread introduction of fusion power. The activities will include in particular: - Development of tritium breeding blankets, with a view to building DEMO-relevant blanket modules to be tested in ITER; - Development of radiation resistant and low activation materials; testing these materials will require the availability of a high energy neutron source. Participation in the conceptual design of a deuterium-lithium neutron source is being started in the frame of an IEA (International Energy Agency) Implementing Agreement with a view to embarking on the engineering design before 1998; - Further analysis of the safety, environmental impact and social acceptability of fusion power. This long-term technology effort will be undertaken in the Associations, in the JRC and in industry. - Implementation: Integration of all magnetic fusion research into one Community programme has been essential for optimum use of the available human and financial resources; this integration is fully in line with the coordination of research activities recommended by the Commission in its White Paper. Individually, none of the Member States could have undertaken a project the size of JET or been recognized as an equal partner in the worldwide collaboration on the ITER project. According to Article 7(4) of the Euratom Treaty, the Commission is responsible for the implementation of the fusion programme. It is assisted in this task by the Consultative Committee for the Fusion programme (CCFP), made up of 15 delegations (one for each Member State, one for each of the third countries associated to the programme - Sweden and Switzerland - and one for the Commission). Projects are covered by shared-cost research and technological development contracts within the framework of the contracts of association with Member States (plus Sweden and Switzerland) or organizations in the Member States, or within the framework of the JET Joint Undertaking, the NET (Next European Torus) Agreement (which takes account of the Community's participation in the ITER-EDA), or other contracts of limited duration, in particular with organizations in the Member States which do not possess Associations. The Research Units (Associations, etc.) also constitute the interface between Euratom and other research groups in Member States: universities or industries needing any information or wanting to participate in fusion research should contact the Research Unit in their country. - Means of implementation: . The JET Joint Undertaking: The JET Joint Undertaking, located at Abingdon (UK), was set up in 1978 by a Council Decision. The JET Council has the responsibility for the management of the Joint Undertaking. The director of the project is the chief executive of the Joint Undertaking and its legal representative. The JET Council is assisted by the JET Executive Committee and may seek the advice of the JET Scientific Council. The modalities for financial participation and the procedures for the allocation of contracts necessary for the implementation of the project are defined in the Statutes and the Financial Regulations of the Undertaking. The expenditure of the Joint Undertaking is borne by Euratom at a rate of 80% (including contributions from Sweden and Switzerland) and by the UK Atomic Energy Authority at a rate of 10%. The remaining 10% is shared between the organizations having contracts of association with Euratom in proportion to the Euratom financial participation in the expenditure of each Association. The JET Executive Committee decides on the allocation of the contracts necessary for the implementation of the project. Substantial industrial contracts are placed following European-wide calls for tender. The statutory end of the project is currently fixed at 31 December 1996. However, substantial new scientific and technical arguments have been identified, which speak for the continuation of JET's operation beyond 1996, for the benefit of ITER. A possible extension of the JET operation and its time horizon is being analysed from the strategic, programmatical, managerial and financial points of view. The JET expertise is being and will be more and more transferred to other parts of the programme, in particular to ITER activities. . The Associations: Member States or organizations in the Member States (plus Sweden and Switzerland) having a substantial activity in fusion research are linked to the programme by contracts of association (shared-cost activities). In a country, all activities in the field of magnetic confinement fusion are performed in the Association(s) or coordinated by it (them) through sub-contracts. The Community's financial contribution to the current expenditure of the Associations is at a uniform rate of around 25%. Where the CCFP grants priority status to a specifically defined project, the Commission can finance investments for this project at a uniform rate of around 45% (preferential support). Substantial industrial contracts relevant to the project are placed following European-wide calls for tender, and all Associations have the right to take part in the project experiment. Cooperation between the Associations will be extended further, as well as collaboration between Associations and universities. New forms of cooperation between the Associations will be established; in particular, joint projects carried out by formal groupings of Associations as consortia for integrated actions will be encouraged by the Commission through an adaptation of the existing arrangements. The Associations will provide a substantial contribution to the physics and technology programmes of ITER during its design, construction and operation. . The NET Agreement: The NET Agreement, concluded initially in 1983, defines the tasks of the NET Team, which are as follows: - To serve as a focal point for the European contribution to ITER; - To take part in the longer-term developments in view of the joint creation of safe and environmentally sound prototype reactors; these developments include in particular the project "Safety and Environmental Assessment of Fusion Power" (SEAFP), based on conceptual reactor studies; - To carry out the monitoring of the ITER-EDA Agreement and to collect, evaluate and disseminate in the Community the information resulting from these activities. The conditions and the ceiling of the contribution of the Community in the NET activities are defined in the Agreement. Industrial contracts necessary for the implementation of the NET Agreement are placed by the Commission and are financed at a rate of up to 100%. A framework contract was placed with a consortium of European firms having broad capacities in system engineering, which covers the implementation of the industrial contribution of the Euratom Party to the ITER design. Lists of qualified firms and groupings of firms were drawn up in 15 technologies specific to fusion and essential for the Next Step. These firms are invited to tender for the implementation of the Euratom contribution (supply of scientific equipment and of prototypes) to the accompanying R&D of the ITER-EDA Agreement. . Industry: Industry takes an active part in the programme by means of specific contracts - placed by the Associations, JET, the JRC and the Commission - covering studies, developments, and supply of scientific equipment as well as other services. After having consulted the CCFP, the Commission can finance certain tasks, which can only be carried out by industry, up to a ceiling of 100%. A Committee on Fusion Industry has been established to provide a link between the programme and industry, and between the industries themselves, and to advise the programme (via the CCPF) on relevant questions. Industry will be encouraged to participate more fully, with the twin aims of introducing industrial expertise into the realization of the Next Step and ensuring that European industry will master all the key technologies needed to build future fusion reactors. . Activities in Member States without contracts of association: Some activities are carried out through limited duration contracts by research groups from Member States (Ireland, Greece) having no contract of association. The conditions of participation are similar to those governing activities in the Associations. - Accompanying and support measures: Accompanying and support measures are listed in point 2.2 of Annex III to the programme Decision. In particular, considering the duration of the required effort, great importance is given to maintaining excellence and the cohesion of the research teams in the Community and to develop the scientists' and the engineers' mobility. The multipartite Agreement on the promotion of personnel mobility concluded (initially in 1980) between Euratom and the usual partners of the programme (including JET and Member States without association) covers the secondment of staff, and the Commission supports the related costs up to a ceiling anticipated by the Agreement (volume of exchange equivalent to 45 professional man-years per year). This also applies to the secondment of visiting staff to the JCT of ITER. - International collaboration: The programme presents itself as a single body in its relations with other fusion programmes in the world. Agreements are in general negotiated by the Commission, according to directives from the Council, and concluded by the Commission with the approval of the Council. Member States must communicate to the Commission draft agreements with third countries and international organizations. The CCFP assists the Commission on these matters. Apart from the quadripartite Agreement of cooperation in the ITER-EDA, bilateral agreements with the USA and Japan were concluded (two others, with Canada and Russia, are in preparation). Eight multilateral Implementing Agreements in the framework of the International Energy Agency (IEA, Paris) were also concluded (a ninth is in preparation). The possibility will be explored of extending international cooperation beyond ITER, notably through joint planning with the three other world's major fusion programmes. Possible areas of cooperation include a material test facility based on a powerful high energy neutrconcept improvements. - Inter-programme coordination: Certain activities concerning the technology of fusion (safety - including the SEAPF - tritium handling, remote handling, materials, first wall, etc.) are carried out by the JRC. They are covered by a separate Council Decision concerning the nuclear activities of the JRC, but they are fully coordinated with the bulk of the activities through several committees. In coordination with the programme on "Human Capital and Mobility", the fusion programme includes, as a supporting measure, the attribution of individual grants of training in research to nationals of the Member States (plus Sweden and Switzerland) (25-30 grants per year). Grants in Japan are also available. Coordination with the activities carried out by the third area of activity of the Framework Programme is envisaged in the following fields: dissemination of knowledge (conferences and workshops) and exploitaexhibition on fusion research, which is managed by the consortium "Fusion Expo", receives support from the VALUE programme. - Financial provisions: ECU 794 million is provided in the Council Decision on the programme and is broken down between four chapters (as indicated in Annex II to the proposal for a Council Decision on the fusion programme): Next Step activities (JET excluded), JET, concept improvements and long-term technology. The detailed rules for the Community's financial participation are those laid down in Annex IV to the Council Decision on the Framework Programme and Annex III to the proposal for a Council Decision on the fusion programme. There are no calls for proposals.

Related articles