ITER Agreement Signed

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Publication date: 
22 November 2006

“The world is counting on us to make ITER a success,” Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach said at yesterday’s signing ceremony for the ITER agreement. Joining Orbach at this ceremony in Paris were representatives of China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation.

Yesterday’s ceremony occurred almost four years after the Bush Administration announced that the United States would rejoin the ITER negotiations (see .) The U.S. had withdrawn from participation in ITER during the design phase in 1998 because of concerns about the facility’s predicted costs and project management. The project was significantly restructured after the U.S. withdrawal.

The agreement signed yesterday was subject to a 120-day review by Congress as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. On September 29, 2006, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) wrote to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, stating, “I am satisfied that the ‘Agreement on the Establishment of the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project’ has been negotiated in accordance with the requirements listed in paragraph 972(c)(3) [of the Energy Policy Act of 2005]. Under Secretary Orbach and his staff are to be congratulated for their hard work over the past several years in securing this agreement.” Boehlert’s findings are of note, as he had threatened in 2005 to kill U.S. participation in ITER if a satisfactory funding mechanism was not implemented (see The funding requested for the Office of Science in the Administration’s FY 2007 American Competitiveness Initiative alleviated concerns about ITER’s financial impact on the domestic fusion program. Under this request, funding would increase 10.9% for the Fusion Energy Sciences Program, which both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2007 DOE appropriations bill would provide (although the Senate bill proposes shifting some funding to a new office of High Energy Density Science.)

ITER will be built at Cadarache, France and is scheduled to be completed in 2015. A DOE statement explains, “The U.S., as a non-host partner, will participate in the construction phase at the level of 9.09 percent. The U.S. contribution to ITER will consist of about 80 percent in-kind components, and about 20 percent in cash to a central fund and for personnel assigned to the project at the ITER site. DOE laboratories will subcontract with industry to build the components of ITER for which the U.S. is responsible. The total value of the U.S. contribution is $1.122 billion.” The European Union, as ITER’s host, will provide 45.46% of construction phase funding.

Yesterday Orbach said, “This signing ceremony represents both a conclusion and a beginning. It is the final closure of the negotiations. And, it is the beginning of the ITER International Organization and the construction phase of the ITER Project. It is also the beginning of a commitment to solve the world’s energy problem by scientists representing more than half of the world’s population.” He concluded, “As we move forward to implement this Agreement, let us all keep in mind the enormous responsibility we all share. The world is counting on us to make ITER a success. The United States Department of Energy will work with you to achieve that success, to providing to succeeding generations a source of unlimited, environmentally benign, energy. There is no greater contribution to world security and prosperity. To this end, I pledge my personal commitment, and that of the United States.”