A successful fusion research programme must lead to an energy source, that is both economically feasible and socially acceptable. As the EUROFUSION Programme takes a first step towards commercialisation of fusion energy with the ITER experiment, social and economic implications acquire greater importance.
In order to get deeper knowledge on how this new form of energy generation can be integrated in the energy system and the society, Socio-Economic Research on Fusion (SERF) has been performed since 1996. SERF brings together the expertise of researchers in physical sciences, engineering and economic, social and environmental sciences. The studies concentrate on the economic and social aspects of the integration of fusion power into the energy system.
The economic part of the studies analyses energy systems, energy markets and technologies, studying the dynamics of technological development and its implications for an integration of fusion in the energy system (e.g. dependence of production costs on plant engineering, learning and experience, internalisation of externalities, development of energy demands, regulations and policies). Models that incorporate the 4 E´s – economy, engineering, energy, and environment – are used to develop scenarios on a possible use of fusion in a future sustainable energy system.
The social part of the studies focuses on measuring the public opinion on fusion, collecting relevant sociological knowledge related to the acceptability of fusion as a contribution to a sustainable future energy system, and on clarifying ways to contribute to a proper governance of the fusion effort.