European research is set to lose a total of €460 million from its 2012 and 2013 budgets to prop up the ITER fusion reactor being built in the South of France.
The raid on EU research funds was proposed today by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, as a compromise solution to help plug a €1.4 billion gap in ITER’s budget. The shortfall in the reactor’s funding is a result of expected constructions costs spiralling to €15 billion from initial estimates in 2006 of €5 billion.
Nature first reported on plans to plug ITER’s funding shortfall earlier this month, when European nations proposed to divert more than one billions euros earmarked for research grants to prop up the project.
The Commission has now suggested that €100 million is siphoned off the research budget in 2012 and €360 million the following year. It says the remainder should come from unused funds from other areas of the EU budget.
Announcing the plan, the research commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said, “ITER can provide a safe, clean and inexhaustible source of energy for the future. The EU needs to show the vision and the resolve beyond the immediate financing difficulties and meet its international commitment to this project.”
“What we are proposing today is a balanced solution…” she added.
The Commission’s announcement follows a meeting of member states on July 12, where they asked the Commission to accept a new estimate of €6.6 billion for the EU’s financial contribution to ITER over the period 2007 – 2020. The Commission says it will likely agree to the increase at a meeting of the ITER council on 27-28 July in Cadarache, France.
Other nations contributing to the project are: Japan; South Korea; Russia; India; China and the United States.
The Commission’s plan must now be agreed by the European Parliament and member states.