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Seventh Framework Programme: Euratom

Sustainably developing fusion energy and meeting the requirements of the nuclear fission sector in terms of safety, waste management, efficiency and competitiveness are the main objectives of this Specific Programme for nuclear research and training activities. This document defines the current issues and challenges posed by nuclear energy in Europe and sets out the characteristics and objectives of the Programme. For each of the three thematic areas of research - fusion energy, nuclear fission and radiation protection - there are specific objectives, which determine a series of activities to be carried out in the next four years.

PROPOSAL

Council Decision 2006/970/Euratom of 18 December 2006 concerning the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities (2007 to 2011) [Official Journal L 400, 30.12.2006]; and

Council Decision 2006/977/Euratom of 19 December 2006 concerning the Specific Programme to be carried out by means of direct actions by the Joint Research Centre implementing the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities (2007 to 2011) [Official Journal L 400, 30.12.2006].

SUMMARY

The nuclear sector single-handedly produces one third of the electricity currently generated in the European Union (EU). This places nuclear power in a special position. As a clean provider, it plays a key role in environmental protection (by reducing greenhouse gases) and at the same time improves the Union's independence, security and diversity of energy supply.

In the longer term, nuclear fusion * offers the prospect of an almost unlimited supply of clean energy. The ITER * project represents a clear added value in achieving that end. Its implementation and exploitation therefore lie at the heart of present EU strategy. Such an ambition must, however, be supported by a strong and focussed European R&D programme.

Nevertheless, nuclear fission * remains a viable option. In this context, research and training should focus on nuclear safety (radiation protection *), sustainable waste management, and improving the efficiency and competitiveness of the sector as a whole.

Achieving a healthy energy situation in Europe will require not only safeguarding existing sources, infrastructures, competences and know-how but also exploring new scientific and technological opportunities. With this in mind, the Specific Programme should help maintain the right level of investment in research while also optimising cooperation between the EU and its Member States.

CHARACTERISTICS AND OBJECTIVES

The Euratom programme, which runs until 2011, is subdivided into two specific programmes. The first covers research into nuclear fusion, nuclear fission energy and radiation protection. The second concerns activities by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in the nuclear energy sphere.

The overall maximum amount for implementing the Seventh Framework Programme during the period 2007 to 2011 is EUR 2 751 million. A significant part of that budget will serve to finance the ITER international nuclear fusion project.

Euratom Specific Programme

The Specific Programme concerns the following areas:

  • nuclear fusion energy;
  • nuclear fission energy;
  • radiation protection.

In these areas, it seeks primarily to:

  • enhance excellence and innovation;
  • ensure a high level of cooperation and effectiveness through support for research and training.

The main benefit of the Specific Programme will be to strengthen nuclear research in the above areas at Community level. Synergies and complementarity with other Community policies and programmes will also be sought.

In the area of fusion energy, research will focus on:

  • developing a knowledge-base for the ITER project;
  • completing the construction phase of ITER, which should lead to the creation of prototype reactors, prior to the launch of the operation phase.

In terms of nuclear fission and radiation protection, the Programme seeks to establish a sound scientific and technical basis for better management (safer and more resource-efficient, competitive and environment-friendly) of energy and waste and the impact thereof.

In addition, performance indicators will be developed at three levels:

  • quantitative and qualitative indicators to show the path or direction of scientific and technical progress (new standards and tools, scientific techniques, patent applications and licence agreements for new products, processes and services, etc.);
  • management indicators (to monitor performance internally and support decision making, including budget execution, time to contract and time to payment, etc.);
  • outcome or impact indicators (to assess the overall effectiveness of the research against high-level objectives, e.g. impact of the Framework Programme on the Lisbon, Göteborg and Barcelona objectives in particular, and assessment at the Specific Programme level).

The budget amount deemed necessary for the execution of the Specific Programme will be EUR 2 234 million for the period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2011. Distribution of resources between the areas of activity will be as follows:

  • EUR 1 947 million will go towards fusion energy research;
  • EUR 287 million will be allocated to nuclear fission and radiation protection.

Activities of the JRC

The JRC's activities in the nuclear sphere will help to support all the research activities undertaken through transnational cooperation in the following subject areas:

  • nuclear waste management, environmental impact;
  • nuclear security;
  • nuclear safety.

The objectives and main points of these activities are set out in the Annex to Decision 2006/977/Euratom.

The estimated amount needed to carry out this Specific Programme is EUR 517 million.

NB: During the implementation of the Seventh Framework Programme, including the different Specific Programmes and all research activities arising from it, fundamental ethical principles as well as social, legal, socio-economic, cultural considerations and gender equality are to be respected.

THEMATIC AREAS OF RESEARCH

For each of the thematic areas (fusion energy, nuclear fission and radiation protection) an overall objective and a series of activities are defined. Specific objectives have also been defined for nuclear fission and radiation protection.

Fusion energy

Here the overall objective will be to enlist all the key players (researchers, industry, business, political decision-makers, etc.) and knowledge from the scientific community in the European fusion research programme. In more practical terms, efforts will be focused on constructing and operating ITER and its successor, DEMO *, in addition to wider-ranging projects to develop fusion energy.

The proposed activities will affect the following seven areas:

  • the realisation of ITER;
  • R&D in preparation of ITER operation;
  • technology activities in preparation of DEMO;
  • R&D activities for the longer term;
  • human resources, education and training;
  • infrastructures;
  • responding to emerging and unforeseen policy needs.

EU participation in the ITER project will specifically involve:

  • site preparation;
  • establishing the ITER organisation;
  • management and staffing;
  • general technical and administrative support;
  • construction of equipment and installations needed to operate the site;
  • a focused physics and technology programme including assessment of specific key technologies for ITER operation and exploration of ITER operating scenarios by means of targeted experiments and other modelling activities.

For the DEMO project, a technological experiment which should serve as a model for future industrial fusion reactors, the testing and validation of materials and technologies will continue and the reactor design phase will advance.

Building on the activities aimed specifically at ITER and DEMO, focus will also be placed on developing competences and enlarging the knowledge base in fields strategically relevant to future fusion power stations. The aim is twofold: this research should, in the longer term, lead to enhanced technical feasibility and economic viability of fusion power. The planned research will mainly concern:

  • magnetic confinement systems *;
  • fusion plasmas *;
  • sociological aspects and economics of fusion power generation;
  • fusion by inertial confinement *.

In order to ensure the human resources, education and training needed for the purposes of ITER, and of fusion research in general, the programme makes provision for:

  • support for the mobility of researchers between organisations participating in the programme, in order to promote enhanced collaboration and integration of the programme and to foster international cooperation;
  • high-level training for engineers and researchers at post-graduate and post-doctoral level, including the use of facilities in the programme as training platforms and dedicated seminars and workshops;
  • promotion of innovation and exchange of know-how with related universities, research institutes and industry.

In terms of infrastructure, the realisation of ITER in Europe will be the main component of the new European Research Programme.

In order, lastly, to respond to possible emerging needs or unforeseen political necessities affecting energy supply, climate change and sustainable development, a "fast-track" fusion development programme could be set up, which would bring fusion energy to the market earlier. The primary objective, and a major milestone, of the fast-track programme would be to complete DEMO ahead of schedule.

Nuclear fission

In this area, the overall objective to be attained appears multi-layered:

  • meeting training needs;
  • increasing support for infrastructures;
  • strengthening the European Research Area;
  • developing a common European view on key problems and approaches;
  • forging links between national programmes;
  • promoting networking with international organisations and third countries (USA, NIS, Canada, Japan, etc.);
  • strengthening Euratom's role in coordinating research and technological development internationally;
  • ensuring coordination with the Joint Research Centre (JRC);
  • establishing links with research under the Seventh Framework Programme;
  • promoting international collaboration.

More specifically, nuclear fission raises a number of issues related to the management of radioactive waste. In this respect, research and technological development will focus on:

  • management and safety of the geological disposal of high-level and/or long-lived (HLLL) waste;
  • the European dimension of the management and disposal of such waste;
  • development of procedures to reduce the quantity and volume of HLLL waste (e.g. partitioning and transmutation * (P&T), etc.).

Action will also be taken on nuclear installations under the present Programme in order to make them even safer, more resource-efficient, more environmentally friendly and more competitive.

This Programme also provides for support for the design, refurbishment, construction and/or operation of nuclear fission research infrastructures. Facilitating transnational access by research workers to infrastructure is one of the priorities.

In order to promote the spreading of scientific competence and know-how throughout the sector, a variety of measures will address human resources and training in Europe and beyond. These measures principally aim to guarantee the availability of suitably qualified researchers and technicians, in particular by:

  • improving coordination between educational establishments in the EU (ensuring qualifications are equivalent across all Member States);
  • supporting traineeships and training networks as well as student and scientist mobility by means of grants and fellowships.

Radiation protection

Focusing on the question of risks linked to exposure to radiation at low and protracted doses, research into radiation protection will consist of:

  • quantifying such risks (epidemiological studies, cellular and molecular biology research, etc.);
  • enhancing the safety and efficacy of medical uses of radiation;
  • improving the coherence and integration of emergency management, including the rehabilitation of affected areas;
  • developing robust and practicable measures to manage the impact of malevolent uses of radiation or radioactive materials (including effects on human health and on the environment);
  • integrating national research activities more effectively in other areas (radioecology *, dosimetry *, etc.).

Background

The European Union has been implementing research and technological development policy on the basis of multi-annual framework programmes since 1984. The Seventh Framework Programme is the second of these since the launch of the Lisbon Strategy in 2000 and it should play a vital role in boosting growth and employment in Europe in the coming years. The Commission wishes to develop a "knowledge triangle" created by policies on research, education and innovation designed to deploy knowledge in the interests of economic dynamism and social and environmental progress.

Key terms used in the act
  • Inertial confinement: inertial confinement fusion is achieved by focusing very powerful laser beams (or beams of accelerated particles) on a tiny glass pellet containing a mixture of deuterium and tritium (hydrogen isotopes).
  • Magnetic confinement: magnetic confinement fusion involves heating the fuel in a vacuum chamber and preventing it from expanding by means of strong electromagnetic fields. The fusion fuel should first have been converted into plasma, enabling magnetic fields to act upon it.
  • DEMO: demonstration reactor (prototype industrial generator).
  • Dosimetry: the measurement of radiation exposure doses.
  • Nuclear fission: nuclear fission, or fission, is the phenomenon whereby a heavy atom nucleus (such as a uranium or plutonium nucleus) is split into two (or more) lighter nuclei, releasing a considerable amount of energy.
  • Nuclear fusion: this is one of the two types of thermonuclear reaction. It occurs when two atomic nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus. The fusion of light nuclei releases an enormous quantity of energy stemming from the lack of mass (nuclear binding energy). This reaction is at work in the sun and all the stars in the universe.
  • ITER: international experimental thermonuclear reactor, a research tool designed to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of thermonuclear fusion.
  • Fusion plasma: material state in which fusion may occur. This is a very specific material state in which atoms or molecules, after losing one or more electrons, form an ionised gas.
  • Radioecology (or radiation ecology): branch of ecology which studies relationships between living species and the radioactivity of their environment.
  • Radiation protection: all measures to protect people and the environment against the harmful effects of ionising radiation (the effects of radioactivity) while allowing the radiation to be utilised.
  • Transmutation: in physics, this refers to the ability of certain radioactive atoms to decay and transform into other atoms. In nuclear physics, transmutation is what allows long-lived radioactive isotopes to be transformed into short-lived isotopes or stable isotopes.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force - Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 2006/970/EC 1.1.2007 - 31.12.2013 - OJ L 400 of 30.12.2006

Decision 2006/977/Euratom

1.1.2007 - 31.12.2011 - OJ L 400 of 30.12.2006

RELATED ACTS

Council Regulation (Euratom) No 1908/2006 of 19 December 2006 laying down the rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities in actions under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community and for the dissemination of research results (2007 to 2011) [Official Journal L 400, 30.12.2006].
This Regulation looks at the arrangements for undertakings, research centres and universities to participate in the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) (2007-2011). The document is divided into four chapters: introductory provisions, (subject matter, definitions and confidentiality), participation (minimum conditions to participate, procedural aspects, etc.), rules for dissemination and use (ownership, protection, publication, dissemination and use of new and existing knowledge, and access rights to this) and the specific rules for participation in activities under the thematic area "fusion energy research".

Last updated: 10.07.2007
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