The proposed priorities of the oncoming Euratom framework programme for research may be re-examined, following a vote by the European Parliament for the 2002-2006 grants scheme to give an extra r100 million. This, said MEPs, would ensure that funding for studies into thermonuclear fusion remains as with the previous programme, at r800 million. This would bring the next Euratom research budget up to r1.330 billion.
Meanwhile, the parliament also voted for greater emphasis to be placed on examining the safety of existing plants, especially those in eastern Europe and new types of reactors.
MEPs called for this research to "comply with fundamental ethical principles," while calling for studies to be carried out on the risks of low and protracted doses in the workplace and the environment.
While saying that he was "reluctant" to make changes to the fusion budget, EU research commissioner Philippe Busquin conceded that the subject could be re-examined. He and EU ministers can ignore parliament's wishes over the Euratom research budget, if they choose.