SOFT 2002 was officially opened by Dr. Sinikka Mönkäre, the Finnish Minister of Trade and Industry, who repeated the support of her Government to this kind of research. Dr. J.P. Rager (European Commission) presented the latest developments of the European Fusion Programme, while Prof. W.D’Haeseleer of the University of Leuven provided an overview of the energy problems and the ability and timing of fusion penetration into this arena.

The presentations indicated that the Technology Programme for the “next step” activities clearly show that the fusion community is now ready for ITER. Only the construction of this device would allow further progress in this field of knowledge. At the same time, the long term fusion programme had made progress in the field of materials. In this case the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) would be the additional useful step to prepare for demonstration and commercial fusion power reactors. The participation of industry to the conference and to the exhibition showed its interest in fusion research, and how the work carried out in this area has exerted a beneficial influence on the development of technologies used in daily life. The presentation of the four candidate sites for ITER – Cadarache (France), Vandellòs (Spain), Clarington (Canada) and Rokkasho-mura (Japan) – was followed by the audience with great interest and showed the commitment of the four candidate countries to provide an excellent site.

On the last day the SOFT flag was passed on to the “Consorzio RFX” which will organize the 2004 conference in Venice. The hope of everybody is that SOFT 2004 will be the first one of the ITER era.

The 2002 edition of the Symposium of Fusion Technology (SOFT) from 9 to 13 September has been organized by the Euratom-Tekes Association, in co-operation with VTT (Technical Research Center of Finland), Fortum and PrizzTech at the Marina Congress Center in Helsinki (Finland). A warm and sunny weather welcomed the over 400 participants who gathered here to review the status of fusion technology and prepare the strategy for the forthcoming years which should lead us toward ITER.

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