Monday

24th Jan 2022

Germany 'not satisfied' with nuclear fusion spending

Germany has said it is unhappy with the "exorbitant" cost of the EU's international nuclear fusion project, Iter EU, and called for more transparency on spending.

"The bigger a science project is - and in Iter, Europe is not the only member - the more complicate its governance. Iter is exorbitant," Annette Schavan, Germany's education and research minister told journalists on Tuesday (10 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • A detailed cutaway of the Iter, with hot plasma, in pink, in the centre. (Photo: ITER)

Schavan said that Berlin last year demanded a special taskforce to investigate the governance of the France-based nuclear fusion project, which aims to generate energy from fusing atoms, instead of splitting them as it is the case with the current nuclear technology (fission).

Apart from the EU - carrying the brunt of the cost (45 percent), the mega-project includes Russia, China, the US, India, Japan and South Korea contributing with nine percent of the cost, expected to reach over €15 billion. Supporters of the project say it will deliver to the world an essentially endless supply of cheap energy.

But the cost has tripled from its initial estimate in 2005, with Schavan noting that "science has a tendency to encourage politics to ask for more money."

"It is good for Europe to be present in such a project and Germany still supports it, but we need more transparency in its governance, more financial discipline. I am not satisfied today, one year later after the taskforce was put in place," she said.

The European Parliament last year refused to approve a proposal by the European Commission to reallocate €1.3 billion from the Union's unspent budget to cover a financing shortfall for the project.

The commission has re-cast its bid for the 2012 budget, pointing out that this is an international commitment the bloc cannot abandon and that construction is set to begin next year. A first debate in the parliament in April had Greens protesting against the project and pointing out that it is to be built in a seismic area, recalling the disaster of Fukushima, a nuclear fission plant.

Iter maintains that no comparisons can be made, since the technology is fundamentally different.

Yet radioactive materials will still be produced if the researchers manage to secure a safe reactor for the high-power reaction to take place.

Sebastien Balibar, a leading French nuclear physicist, has cast doubts that the EU-funded project will ever come into being: "We say that we will put the sun into a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don't know how to make the box," he told the Wisconsin Scientist in 2006.

Optimism in Bonn about fusion reactor, despite Brexit

Brexit 'may have significant effect' on nuclear fusion research project, say EU auditors, but scientist involved says it is a question of 'when' not 'if' fusion power is scaled up commercially.

Innovation

As the EU continues to struggle with the effects of the economic crisis, the importance of investing in innovation and research is increasingly been emphasized. But how much money is enough and where should it be spent? EUobserver investigates.

EU innovation efforts unknown

The efforts of the EU to turn the old continent into an “innovation union” are largely unknown to business leaders, according to a survey by global accounting firm Ernst & Young.

The Acta debate - will innovation be stifled?

Opponents of Acta, the controversial anti-counterfeiting treaty up for vote in the European Parliament in July, say, among other things, that it would stifle innovation. Advocates say the exact opposite.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

Opinion

Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

President Emmanuel Macron's address to the European Parliament championed a bold and ambitious pro-European agenda. There is one problem though - the plans rely on a system of governance that has gridlocked the EU for over a decade.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us