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Public and private efforts needed on fusion R&D, group agrees

Nuclear research programme will consider public-private partnership to build fusion power plant in Europe

Greater collaboration between public and private organisations is needed to advance fusion energy research and innovation in Europe, according to a European Commission summary of a meeting on the subject.

Conclusions from the first High-Level Roundtable on Fostering Innovation for Fusion energy in Europe will feed into preparations for the 2026-27 activities of the EU’s Euratom nuclear research and training programme, the Commission said after the meeting on 14 March.

The programme will now look at fostering a new public-private partnership to engage the private sector in constructing a prototype fusion power plant, it said.

Generating useful amounts of energy by fusing specific types of hydrogen atoms promises plentiful clean power with minimal radiation risks, and is seemingly coming closer having eluded researchers for decades.

A major international fusion power research facility, Iter, is currently under construction in France, and plans are also being developed for a successor facility called Demo to help shift fusion efforts from the scientific realm to the industrial one. But providing fusion power to electricity grids remains a distant prospect.

Need for investment

Participants at the meeting hosted by the EU’s commissioner for research and innovation, Iliana Ivanova, concluded that it was necessary to attract more investment into Europe to promote fusion innovation, the Commission said.

They also felt that regulatory frameworks should be developed and Europe’s “competitiveness in the emerging global fusion energy market” needed to be stimulated, it said.

Public and private stakeholders attended the online event, where they also discussed involving bigger industrial stakeholders as well as startups in accelerating fusion electricity generation.

They also considered research and innovation policy initiatives to “unlock the disruptive potential of EU innovation in the shortest time possible”.

‘Decisive contribution’ to net zero

“The development of fusion electricity offers the promise of a clean, sustainable and unlimited source of energy that can make a decisive contribution to the goal of a European net zero economy,” the Commission R&I department said.

“The possible elaboration of a coordinated fusion strategy at the EU level could contribute to harnessing the European expertise and experience—both in the public and private sectors—vis-à-vis a growing international interest and competition in the fusion energy field.”