Posted on: 9th October 2014

The European Commission launches EUROfusion

On 9 October 2014 the European Commission officially launched the European Consortium for the Development of Fusion Energy, EUROfusion for short. EUROfusion manages the European fusion research activities on behalf of Euratom, which awards the appropriate grant to the consortium. The new consortium agreement will substitute the fourteen year-old European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA), as well as 29 bilateral Association agreements between the Commission and research institutions in 27 countries. The Grant Agreement (contract) provides €424M in funding from the Euratom Horizon 2020 programme 2014-18 and the same amount from Member States, adding up to an overall budget of €850 million for 5 years.

The launch of EUROfusion was celebrated with Europe’s fusion research community in the heart of the European Quarter, the Solvay Library. Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General DG Research & Innovation, opened the event in the presence of the Heads of EUROfusion Research Units, Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the European Commission. In his welcome address, Vice-President and European Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger noted that “Europe sets the path to commercialisation of fusion energy.” Prof. Sibylle Günter, Scientific Director of Max Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics, Germany, and Chair of the EUROfusion General Assembly, introduced the EUROfusion consortium and its research programme. She also thanked everybody who contributed to the sucess. Günter presented the roadmap to the realisation of fusion energy, which forms the basis for all EUROfusion activities. “The EUROfusion work plan is designed to exploit synergies and ensure excellence in the best possible way,” she pointed out. In his keynote address about fusion energy and fusion research in general, Prof. Steve Cowley, Director of Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), UK, said: “It it is a wonderful time to work in fusion and the most important”.

At mid-day, Robert-Jan Smits and Sibylle Günter signed the grant agreement between EUROfusion and the European Commission, thus marking the official start of the Consortium. “It is an historic event as this is the European research organisation with the most member states, “ said EUROfusion Programme Manager Prof. Tony Donné. “For the first time we are bringing together 27 countries to work on a common scientific goal – fusion electricity by 2050.”

Dr. András Siegler, Director for Energy Research, DG Research & Innovation, opened the afternoon session. “Now that all contracts are signed we can focus on the research,” he said. Former EFDA Leader Prof. Francesco Romanelli looked both back and forward in this talk about the transition from EFDA to the Joint Programme under EUROfusion. He pointed out the pragmatic approach of Fusion Roadmap. “My advice,” he said, “don’t look for the ultimate solution.” A panel discussion between Tony Donné, Dr. Thomas Mull, AREVA and member of the Fusion Industry Innovation Forum, Dr. Catherine Cesarksy, former Chair of CCE-FU (Consultative Committee for the EURATOM specific research and training in the field of nuclear energy (fusion)), Prof. Niek-Lopes Cardozo, Chair of the Fusion Education Network FuseNet and Dr. Sandor Zoletnik, Head of the RMI-Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics, Budapest, completed the event.

The formation of EUROfusion marks a big step forward for Europe’s quest to develop fusion power as a climate-friendly energy source that will contribute to meet a growing global energy demand. The EUROfusion Consortium enables Europe’s national laboratories to pool their resources even more efficiently – a measure which became necessary to meet the challenge of increasingly complex and large-scale projects such as ITER and DEMO. The preparation for such a joint fusion programme started in 2012. All EU research laboratories jointly drafted a detailed goal-oriented programme to realise fusion energy by 2050. This programme, known as the ‘Roadmap to the Realisation of Fusion Electricity’ outlines the most efficient path to fusion power. The roadmap has two main aims: Preparing for ITER experiments in order to ensure that Europe makes best possible use of ITER and to develop concepts for a fusion power demonstration plant DEMO. The necessary research towards reaching these aims is carried out by universities and research centres within the current European Framework Programme Horizon 2020. More than before does the programme involve industries in the process of designing components and finding technical solutions.