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2011 marks turning point for Iter, says EU

Iter’s budget crisis has been solved, and the project can get on with its final construction phase, claims Fusion for Energy (F4E), the agency responsible for the EU’s contribution to the project.

The agreement on the EU budget for the second construction phase, reached in December 2011, was an important milestone, says F4E chairman Stuart Ward in F4E’s annual report. He also highlights significant progress at the site in Cadarache, France, including excavations for the fusion chamber and assembly of foundations for the reactor.

The report, which was published on 8 August, says that F4E’s financial expenditure in 2011 was its largest yet, with €500 million in commitments and almost €300 million in payments. However, “unceasing attention to cost control remains vital for all our future procurements”, said Ward. “Much more remains to be done.”

Earlier this year, Iter’s management advisory committee agreed a recovery plan to speed up the project following announcement of a €1.3-billion funding gap in 2012 and 2013. The gap was plugged by re-distributing money from unspent agricultural funds and other EU funding pots, including €280m from the Framework Programme.

However, post-2013 funding for the project is still problematic. Iter’s budget was revised in 2010, and it was found that the construction alone will cost about €5bn more than the €10bn proposed at Iter’s previous cost estimate in 2009. It is not yet known how this extra money will affect budgets in the next EU multiannual financial framework.