The Commission has today adopted a proposal to extend the budget of the 2007-2011 Euratom Framework Programme, which funds nuclear research, to cover the years 2012 and 2013. This is a formal step necessary to bring the effective duration of the Euratom Framework Programme into line with the seven-year period of the main Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), which ends in 2013. The proposal does not signify any change of policy and was already envisaged by the EU institutions when the two programmes were launched in 2007. Adoption of today's proposal by the Council would allow the continuation of current research work, aimed notably at improving nuclear safety and radiation protection.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: "Euratom research has for many years made a key contribution to nuclear safety, efficiency and competitiveness and today's proposal will allow that to continue. Meanwhile, nuclear energy is a technology of choice for some Member States while others choose not to use it. This is, and will remain, a matter for them."
Euratom Framework Programmes are limited by the Euratom Treaty to five years, whereas the main FP7 lasts for seven years (2007-2013), thus necessitating the two-year extension of the Euratom element.
The Euratom Framework Programme is designed to maintain Europe's lead in nuclear energy by supporting pre-commercial research and facilitating the transfer of technology between academia and industry, in particular to contribute to the highest levels of nuclear safety and security and to non-proliferation. Emphasis will be put on training, boosting competitiveness in the current nuclear industry, and creating a new industrial sector in high-tech fusion energy.
The envisaged €2.5 billion budget for 2012-13 includes just over €2.2 billion - or 86% of the overall sum - for nuclear fusion research, concentrating largely on the construction of the international experimental fusion reactor ITER in France. Funding for fission research projects, including radiation protection, accounts for €118 million. The nuclear research and safety assurance work of the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) accounts for €233 million.
The JRC will, therefore, maintain its nuclear research programme and continue to provide support for developing policy options for the most appropriate "energy mix" needed for the 21st century, consistent with the goals of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan - see MEMO/09/437).
The € 2.2 billion budgeted for fusion in turn includes the additional €1.3 billion - above original projections - estimated to be required for ITER in 2012-2013.
However, today's proposal does not affect the underlying financial situation concerning ITER: a separate agreement between the Council and the European Parliament to make those additional funds available is required.
The Commission proposed in July 2010 (see IP/10/988) that one-third of that additional funding necessary for ITER should be re-allocated from the FP7 budget and that the other two-thirds should come from unspent funds. The Council and the Parliament are still to decide on this proposal.
To ensure the timely implementation of the Euratom Framework Programme, the Commission proposes starting the legislative process now: on 9 March, the proposal will be presented to the Council, which is expected to decide on it before the end of the year.
The Euratom Treaty helps to pool knowledge, infrastructure, and funding for nuclear energy. It ensures the security of the atomic energy supply within the framework of a centralised monitoring system. Euratom acts in several areas connected with atomic energy, including research, the drawing-up of safety standards, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Euratom research is conducted through multiannual programs that are funded from the EU budget. The Euratom Framework Programmes are, according to the Euratom Treaty, limited to five years.
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