Thursday, 4 March 2004

Questions (65)

Trevor Sargent


56 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which Ireland is involved in research into nuclear fusion and thermo-nuclear physics; the implications for such research on the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7216/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

There are no actual fusion experiments being co-ordinated in Ireland, nor is it envisaged that such experiments would take place here.

Ireland's involvement in nuclear fusion research relates mainly to the study of the properties and behaviour of plasmas, the high temperature highly ionised gas in which nuclear fusion takes place. Much of this research is directed towards utilising the properties of plasmas in the fields of electronics and the production of medical devices. The funding for such research comes largely from the EURATOM research framework programme, and the research is carried out in academic establishments.

I am advised that there are no implications from such research on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I am also advised that one can never say categorically that the results of fusion research will not be hijacked by terrorists intent on using them for destructive purposes. Nevertheless, if fusion reactors were to replace fission reactors there would be no further need for uranium enrichment facilities which present a potential source of nuclear materials for terrorists. Also fusion reactors, unlike fission reactors, do not produce plutonium, which could also be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 15.