MEPs vote to cut 2011 spending on ITER nuclear fusion project

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Members of the European Parliament's budget committee on Monday night voted to cut planned funding for the ITER experimental nuclear fusion project in 2011, the Green group in the European Parliament said Tuesday. The budget committee adopted an amendment to cut the ITER budget by Eur 57 million to Eur304.76 million ($419.77 million) in 2011 in a revision to the EU's research budget.

Last week, the parliament's rapporteur on the budget, Polish center-right MEP, Sidonia Jedrzejewska, said it was difficult to find cuts in the research budget because of very tight limits in the long-term budget and the need for proposed increase in areas like entrepreneurship and innovation and other energy-related projects "I am aware that in the times of economic crisis we have to make cuts and concessions, but we cannot forget that our future economic growth will depend on today's investments, especially in the area of education, research and innovation", Jedrzejewska said. MEPs agreed to compensate for increases in expenditure in these areas by making equivalent cuts in the ITER budget, based on the assumption that the fusion project, which is running behind schedule, would not need all the funds allocated to it in 2011.

But this did not go far enough for the Green group, which wants the ITER program scrapped.

"The Greens welcome the decision by MEPs to reduce the amount of EU funds going to the ITER nuclear fusion project in 2011 but believe the most logical solution is not to spend one further cent on this white elephant. That the European taxpayer should be expected to foot the bill for the ballooning ITER budget is simply wrong, particularly at a time of budgetary constraint across Europe," said German Green MEP Helga Trupel.

"The least costly option would be to abandon the project now before the main construction has started at all. All the more so, given the massive doubts as to the commercial viability of nuclear fusion, which even optimistic analysts agree will not be commercially functional before 2050... We are deeply concerned that the Council is planning to throw an additional Eur1.4 billion into the black hole that is the ITER budget in 2012 and 2013," she said.

The ITER nuclear fusion project is being developed by an international consortium in Caderache, southern France, after the EU won an international contest to host the project, beating a rival bid from Japan. ITER aims to generate energy using nuclear fusion, replicating the nuclear reaction that produces energy in the sun.

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