In order to prepare the ground for future fusion reactors beyond ITER, Europe and Japan have established a scientific collaboration known as the “Broader Approach” Agreement. Five European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland) contribute on a voluntary basis to three R&D projects carried out in Japan. Fusion for Energy (F4E) is managing the European participation to these projects. One of them is IFMIF/EVEDA, which stands for International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF) Engineering and Validation Design Activities (EVEDA). Apart from fulfilling its specific project objectives it is also paving the way for DONES. The DEMO Oriented Neutron Source (DONES) infrastructure will help scientists to test materials in an environment of neutron irradiation similar to that of a Demonstration fusion reactor (DEMO), the machine that will follow ITER. Such a facility has been considered essential for a long time in order to design DEMO.
Earlier this year, Spain and Croatia flagged their interest to host DONES. Consequently, a technical group of experts was put together to visit the sites proposed by the two countries, evaluate their compliance with the technical requirements and communicate the findings in a report. The Governing Board of F4E, consisting of the member states of EURATOM and the European Commission, received this report towards the end of the year. A few weeks later, it was announced that the two EU member states have agreed to join forces and either to host the project in Granada (Spain) or, if this would not be possible for technical reasons, in Moslavacka Gora Hill (Croatia). The joint team has declared its commitment to work together in order to bring DONES to Europe. An encouraging statement made by the technical group declaring the Granada site as “fully operational” and acknowledging that construction works could start immediately has increased their confidence.
What happens next? While it is still not clear whether Japan will also express an interest in hosting the DONES facility, opening a new round of negotiations, the Europeans are moving ahead. The joint team has started to explore the availability of EU structural funds in order to raise more financial resources for the realisation of this project. In parallel, the joint team will seek the help of F4E and the European Commission to develop the best possible approach and discuss the different phases of the project if in the end our continent ends up being its host.