EFDA Newsletter (E.N.): Your professional career started in the field of Aeronautics, which is – together with Energy – one of the 7 main themes of the European Commission’s FP6. Which parallels do you see between these two fields?

Pablo Fernandez Ruiz: Aeronautics and Energy are both fields of considerable importance in the economy of the EU. Aeronautics, since its beginning, and Energy, more recently, with their sophisticated forms of production, distribution and use, are highly dependent upon Research and Development for their future. The EU aerospace industry has gained its competitiveness at the world level by coordinating and integrating national activities. When it comes to fusion as a component of energy research, the EU is a world leader, thanks to a very well integrated research programme. So I can say that the integration aspect in both cases has been very positive for assuring that the EU can compete at the world level. But I also have a wide experience in the field of nuclear fission. This helps me greatly because the fission world, even though very specific, helps to understand the field of fusion in all of its complexity.

E.N.: How do you see the respective roles of fusion and fission in the future energy market?

Ruiz: At the moment it’s not possible to achieve the Kyoto objectives without nuclear fission. But it’s important for our future to develop new technologies for fission as well as for fusion, understanding that the two areas are on two different levels of development: fission being a reality in the generation of energy, and fusion being on the verge of scientific and technological demonstration of its feasibility. Beyond ITER, one further generation of demonstration and prototype devices will be needed before fusion will enter the market. In the end the objective of research is to offer options for society to choose when the right moment has come. And at that time we must be prepared in fusion. It’s important to highlight the fact that fusion provides an enormous advantage in relation to security of supply of fuels. These are available within the European Union and could contribute to reduce the enormous dependence of the European Union on external supply of fuels.

E.N.: In which way will you personally support fusion during the next few years?

Ruiz: ITER is an initiative undertaken jointly by the Europeans and other international players, so it is important to recognize that we have to adapt the fusion programme to the new conditions. I will strongly support the fusion programme in implementing this process, so that it can reorganize itself to ensure that it is a coherent and well structured programme, remaining a good model of the European Research Area. This means I will help to find proper support to drive forward the ITER development in the coming 10 years and beyond. All parties must be involved and we need to present the fusion programme so as to reflect its true value, as a vital element of the Commission’s energy research programme.

E.N.: In the 2001 proposal by the Commission, fusion was allocated 700 Million Euro. Eventually, the EU parliament and the Council of Ministers have pushed it to 750 Million Euro. By “vital element”, do you mean that fusion will get more financial support from the Commission during FP7 – without the “help” of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers?

Ruiz: It’s difficult to say at this stage what will be the orientations for FP7 and beyond. But we should not apply for a large increase in budget without very solid arguments. The European Fusion Programme must be strong. In order to achieve this, there are clearly financial needs. But an effective response of the programme, in organisation and substance, to the forthcoming challenges is also essential. When preparing the fusion part of its proposal for FP7 it can be expected that the Commission will assess the coherence and the efficiency of the fusion programme and its relation with our possible international partners. But as you know, the decision will belong ultimately to the budgetary Authority, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council, and both Institutions will likely pay also great attention to how the programme is adapting itself to the realization of ITER.

Interview: D. Lutz-Lanzinger

Pablo Fernandez Ruiz began his professional career in the projects office of Construcciones Aeronauticas (CASA) in Madrid (Spain) in the area of structural analysis. He has also worked in the area of nuclear fission fuel. In 1988 he joined the European Commission, Euratom as Head of Division. Now he is the director of Energy in the European Commission’s Research Department.

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