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20 December 2010

EU denies funding for fusion reactor

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A plan to save financing for a multinational nuclear fusion reactor project has been rejected at the last minute

The European Parliament refused to approve a plan by member states to transfer $1.84 billion from the European Union's current budget to cover rising construction costs of the multibillion-dollar International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, the BBC reports.

"We had the green light of the Council of Ministers but the Parliament did not follow," the BBC quoted Michel Claessens, a spokesman for the European Commission's research directorate as saying. "The commission will put forward a proposal for the budgetary resolution of Iter next year."

Iter Director General Osamu Motojima was to have crisis talks with EU officials Friday in Brussels to save the project, which has come under fire for ballooning costs. Overall costs for the multinational project have tripled from an initial $6 billion estimate in 2006 to $18 billion.

The research reactor is to be built by 2015 in southern France by a consortium including the European Union, China Japan, Russia, India and the United States. It is then to operate for another 20 years.

The aim of ITER is to show that atoms can be fused together inside a reactor to produce electricity. Conventional nuclear power reactors do the opposite, harnessing energy released from splitting atoms apart.

The EU, which at the start of the project pledged to shoulder 45 percent of the costs, said its share has grown by more than $1.7 billion to at least $9 billion. China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States are each chipping in 9 percent of the total cost.


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