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Commission proposes Supplementary Research Programme for Iter

The European Commission has proposed a Supplementary Research Programme, which would sit separately from the EU’s financial framework, to fund the nuclear fusion project Iter in 2014-18.

This proposal fleshes out the Commission’s June suggestion to put Iter’s budget outside the EU’s seven-year budget structure—although eight ministers opposed the idea last month (see RE 24 Nov 11).

Under the plan, all EU member states would contribute money to the Supplementary Research Programme; the amount would depend on their gross national income. Other countries that have a cooperation agreement with the EU’s nuclear programme Euratom can also contribute.

The contributions would be treated as “assigned revenue” managed by the Commission, meaning that the funds could not be used for any other purpose than funding Iter. The Commission insists that it remains committed to the France-based project, and that this separate budget would be more appropriate for a project as large as Iter.

“The Supplementary Research Programme will ensure that Europe is able to honour its international obligations to the Iter project,” the Commission said in a statement. “The multi-annual financial framework is not a suitable or flexible vehicle for funding major and very long-term projects like Iter, due to their budgetary unpredictability as well as to the fact that execution depends also on international partners.”

The Commission says the EU would need to pay €2.36 billion for Iter in 2014-18, while the total EU contribution to the facility’s construction has been capped at €6.6bn between 2007 and 2020. Iter’s budget has increased by nearly a third from the original amount following a cost review in mid-2010.

Iter aims to demonstrate that nuclear fusion, similar to the fusion processes happening in the sun, can be a viable energy source. It is being built in Cadarache, France, with funding from the EU, Russia, Japan, China, India, South Korea and the United States.