Fusion Research in Europe

Fusion research in Europe is practically entirely coordinated by EURATOM and the different agreements entered into within the framework of the EURATOM Treaty. The following brief descriptions on EURATOM, the EURATOM Associations, EFDA and F4E are meant to offer a description on the deployment of fusion research activities in Europe.


The European Union, as we now know it, has been constituted in the course of the last half century by the establishment of agreements or treaties amongst the founding nations. The basic agreement, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1951. In 1957 it was joined by two further treaties also known as the Treaties of Rome:

  • the EEC (European Economic Community) Treaty
  • the EAEC (European Atomic Energy Community) Treaty, also known as EURATOM.

These two organizations shared in their first years the Common Assembly and the Court of Justice with the ECSC, but not its executives. In 1993, the Treaty of Maastricht (treaty on the European Union) absorbed all individual Communities into the European Community pillar, one of the 3 pillars of the European Union (the two other pillars being a) the Common Foreign & Security Policy and b) the Police and Judicial Cooperation). Finally, the EU itself was established by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009.

EURATOM however maintains a distinct legal personality while sharing the institutions of the EU. All members of the EU are also members of EURATOM.

The present scope of activities of EURATOM is:

  • Research (the major project being its participation in the international fusion reactor ITER)
  • Safety Standards (establishment of)
  • Peaceful uses of nuclear energy (insurance of)
  • Regular and equitable supply of ores and nuclear fuels (insurance of, for all users in the EU). To this end, the EURATOM Treaty created the EURATOM Supply Agency, which has been operational since 1st June 1960.

2. EURATOM and Fusion Energy – EURATOM Associations

Fusion research and development have been part of the EURATOM research program since the inception of the Euratom Treaty in 1957. The European Commission manages the EURATOM Research Framework Programs.

All of Europe’s fusion research is coordinated by the EC. Funding comes from the EURATOM Research Framework Program in addition to national funds from the EU Member States and Switzerland. The 7th EURATOM Research Framework Program (EURATOM FP7) covers the five-year period from 2007 to 2011 and has a budget for fusion energy research of EUR 1.947 billion. Of this, over half is involved in the construction of ITER and at least EUR 900 million is reserved for other activities including fundamental plasma research and technology projects related to DEMO. EURATOM FP7 will probably be extended for a further two years to correspond to the duration of the EC FP7.

In Europe, fusion research takes place in a great number of research institutes and universities. In each member state of the European Fusion Program at least one research organization has a “Contract of Association” with the European Commission (representing EURATOM). All the fusion research organizations and institutions of a country are connected to the program through this (these) contracted organization(s). After the name of the contract, the groups of fusion research organizations of the member states are called “Associations” (source of this paragraph: see here).

The Associates are the fusion laboratories across Europe that actually perform the fusion research. There are currently 27 Association contracts involving about 2500 professional scientists (see here).


The European Fusion Development Agreement EFDA is an agreement between European fusion research institutions and the EC to strengthen coordination and collaboration, to participate in collective activities. Its scope of activities includes:

  • collective use of JET, the world´s largest fusion experiment, which is located near Oxford (United Kingdom)
  • reinforced coordination of fusion physics and technology research and development in EU laboratories
  • training and carrier development of researchers, promoting links to universities and carrying out support actions for the benefit of the fusion program
  • EU contributions to international collaborations outside F4E.

EFDA has two locations, which each house a so-called Close Support Unit (CSU), responsible for part of EFDA’s activities. The EFDA-CSU Garching is located in Garching, near Munich (Germany), and is hosted by the German Max-Planck Institut für Plasmaphysik. EFDA-CSU Culham is hosted by the CCFE laboratory in Culham (UK), home of the Joint European Torus facilities.

A large number of scientists and engineers from the associated laboratories work together on different projects of EFDA. The main task of the Close Support Units is to ensure that these diverse activities are integrated in a coordinated European Fusion Program.

4. F4E – Fusion for Energy

The European Union’s Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy, in short Fusion for Energy (F4E) was created under the EURATOM treaty by decision of the Council of the European Union to meet three objectives:

  • F4E is responsible for providing Europe’s contribution to ITER
  • F4E supports fusion research and development initiatives through the Broader Approach Agreement, signed with Japan – a fusion energy partnership which will last for 10 years
  • F4E contributes towards the construction of demonstration fusion reactors.

F4E is established for a period of 35 years from 19 April 2007 and is located in Barcelona, Spain.