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Results on Nuclear Fusion

R&D investments in nuclear fusion

An interpretation of the R&D investments broken down per technology as shown in the following needs to take into account the associated uncertainties described in section 'Analysis of uncertainties'. In specific cases these may be higher than the actual differences in the R&D investments between individual technologies, therefore impeding a direct comparison between different sectors.

Nuclear fusion is publicly financed with the EU-funds contributing around 42% of the total (up to FP6 2006) and the Member States contributing the remaining 58% in 2007, amounting to a total of around €482 million (see Figure 21). Germany is the by far largest single investor, followed by Italy, France and the UK.

Nuclear fusion energy research constitutes an exception among the SET-Plan priority technologies. There is hardly any corporate R&D investment and most public R&D investments are implemented in one single European Programme coordinated by EURATOM. After the decision to build ITER was taken in 2006, the implementation of the largest programmes (ITER and Broader Approach) is carried out through the "European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy", which was established in April 2007.

Taking into account that the bulk of the budget for ITER construction will be provided through the EU budget, it may be expected that the EU share of the overall expenditure in the next years will clearly exceed that of the Member States. This will reaffirm the exceptionality of the fusion case, while at the same time showing that major global endeavours, such as the development of fusion energy through ITER, necessitate a different approach.

Result nuclear fusion

Figure 21: Approximate R&D investment in nuclear fusion from industry and public sectors

Source: Own analysis based on IEA RD&D statistics and official information from some Member States; FP6; EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard

Note: Some EU Member States are not IEA member and do thus not figure in the database; for others no data are available. No annual average estimated for Belgium due to a limited number of data.

Within the 7th EU Framework Programme (and here within the EURATOM part), the maximum amount for the implementation budget dedicated to fusion related research  for the period 2007 to 2011 will be €1947 million, which means more than a doubling compared to the FP6 support. More than half of this amount is allocated to work involved in the construction of ITER, but not less than €900 million is reserved for other ITER relevant activities including fundamental plasma research and technology development projects. This research cannot directly be compared to other technologies given the scale of the initial investments needed for constructing ITER (with capital costs expected to be some €5 billion and the total expected costs over its 35-year experimental lifetime reaching around €10 billion).