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The DONES Project Spearheaded by Croatia and Spain Paves the Way for Global Fusion Energy Advancements

DONES Steering Committee agrees to establish the DONES Programme Team.
Mar 15th 2024
The DONES Project Spearheaded by Croatia and Spain Paves the Way for Global Fusion Energy Advancements

Prime minister Andrej Plenković and DONES project meeting attendees.

In a groundbreaking move for the future of sustainable energy, the DONES Program has emerged as a pivotal player in the construction of next-generation fusion power plants, underscoring the united commitment of Croatia, Spain, and the international community towards advancing fusion technologies and materials. This ambitious project is set to receive a significant boost with the forthcoming participation of Japan and the EU Fusion for Energy agency.

The IFMIF-DONES project, a cornerstone in the international effort to build Europe's first fusion power plant, highlights the crucial roles played by Croatia and Spain in developing essential materials. This endeavour has received renewed support from the Croatian Government, as affirmed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković during a recent meeting of the DONES Steering Committee in Zagreb. Japan is expected to collaborate with Croatia on developing a cooling system for molten lithium flows, a key component of the fusion reactor. Additionally, an interim director for the DONES project has been appointed upon recommendation from the European Commission. The Fusion for Energy agency's imminent involvement, contributing 20% of the project's funding, is a critical step towards defining the EU's stake in a project where Croatia and Spain hold a 55% share.

Fusion for Energy, an organization within the European Union, employs 450 engineers, physicists, project managers, and administrators dedicated to fusion-related scientific experiments. "We anticipate Fusion for Energy's involvement on April 12th during a meeting in Barcelona. Their participation is crucial as it brings components, expertise, people, and financial resources to the project," stated Dr. Tonči Tadić from the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB), the lead coordinator of Croatian fusion activities and the DONES.HR project team. Dr. Tadić also mentioned ongoing negotiations with Germany, Italy, and Slovenia, and expressed optimism about Japan's inclusion by year-end.

This initiative promises to bolster the EU's plans to construct a fusion power plant by 2050, harnessing the immense energy released by the fusion of hydrogen atoms - a process mirroring that of the Sun's surface. Utilizing deuterium from seawater and lithium from the Earth's crust, this technology offers a vast and less harmful alternative to the uranium used in current nuclear power plants.

From 2035, Spanish and Croatian physicists will test materials for the future fusion power plant at a site near Granada, Spain, where a scientific laboratory is currently under construction. Croatia is set to deliver crucial components, including cranes and heat exchangers for cooling lithium, reinforcing the collaborative nature of this international project.

DONES meeting attendees at NSK.

The recent DONES Steering Committee meeting in Zagreb, attended by the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education, the Director General at Ruđer Bošković Institute, the Spanish and Croatian delegation and representatives from 15 countries, the European Commission, EURATOM, EUROfusion, and Fusion for Energy, showcased the latest advancements and organizational aspects of the DONES program. It was announced that Philippe Cara from Fusion for Energy has been named the interim director of the DONES project, marking a significant step towards formalizing the EU's contribution to this critical initiative.

During this meeting, an update on the Croatian contribution to the DONES  Programme was presented by the Croatian delegation. Progress on the  Procurement Arrangements template was presented as well as key organisational aspects such as the setting up of the Programme Team with  the appointment of the interim Programme Manager and the agreement on the establishment of the DONES On-site Joint Team

In addition, the DONES Steering Committee discussed the achievements since the last meeting held in Granada on 14th October 2023, including the progress on addressing the recommendations raised by the External Expert  Panel, and were informed on the Commonalities and Interface activities with the IFMIF/EVEDA project. The DONES Steering Committee was also updated on the ongoing discussions with interested countries to define their possible contribution to the DONES Programme.

Finally, the representatives reviewed and agreed the DONES Programme  Value Estimates that sets out the value estimates and rules for the contributions to the DONES Programme.

The DONES project, designated an ESFRI project in 2018 due to its strategic importance for the EU, is at the forefront of securing funding and establishing its User Network across Europe and Japan, extending its reach beyond fusion research to include biomedicine, isotope production for PET-CT scans, nuclear physics, material physics, astrophysics, and industrial applications.

This initiative not only highlights the leading role of Croatia and Spain in driving forward the EU's energy future but also sets a precedent for international collaboration in the pursuit of clean and sustainable energy solutions.

The next meeting of the DONES Steering Committee will be held in the city of Granada in October 2024.

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