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FPN04-77

ITER Update

December 5, 2004

As the year 2004 draws near to a close, high level meetings between officials of the European Union (EU) and Japan remain at an impasse on a formula for breaking the deadlock over ITER siting. The other ITER Parties (China, Russia, Republic of Korea and the U. S) have been pressuring the EU and Japan to negotiate an agreement on the site on a bilateral basis and to bring that agreement back to the ministers of the six Parties.

The European Commission has reportedly recommended that the EU take the initiative to proceed with ITER construction in France if a 6-Party agreement cannot be reached by the end of the year. At a meeting of the European Council of Ministers November 25, the Council agreed with the Commission's recommendation but urged the Commission to continue to negotiate with Japan in hopes of reaching a 6-Party consensus on the site.

European sources have told Fusion Power Associates that the EU is seriously considering inviting all interested governments to join with them in building ITER in France. One of the potential new partners is India. According to the October 27 issue of the Calcutta newspaper The Telegraph, French foreign minister Michel Barnier raised the issue on his first official visit to India. According to the paper, the question of India joining ITER was a topic on the agenda at a November 8 EU-India summit meeting in the Hague. Brazil and Switzerland have also expressed an interest in joining the ITER venture.

A Reuters news article on November 9 erroneously reported that Japan would concede the site to the EU. This article reportedly upset Japanese officials. News reports quoted Satoru Ohtake, director for fusion energy at the Science and Technology Ministry in Tokyo, as saying "It is regrettable that they are talking about taking unilateral action. There is no change in Japan's policy to seek to host the project." EU sources continue to insist publicly that they will not yield to Japan on the site. They have reportedly offered Japan a "privileged partnership," implying a more significant role in the ITER management structure than other ITER partners, and to help pay for new fusion facilities in Japan. One news source quotes Ohtake as saying "We don't know about their plan to compensate. But if it is the same proposal as what they had before, it is worth no consideration. It is not acceptable that the EU offers compensation to Japan on condition that the EU hosts the project." Other news reports quote French Research Minister Francois D'Aubert as saying "This is not an ultimatum, but we wish to reach a political agreement before the end of the year. If the negotiations do not come to a rapid conclusion, the commission has the possibility to choose a different path."

The various ITER news stories are posted at http://fire.pppl.gov