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The ITER International Fusion Energy Organization (ITER Organization) is an intergovernmental organization established by an international agreement signed by seven parties who are its Members: the People's Republic of China, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), the Republic of India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.
The purpose of the ITER Organization is to provide for and promote cooperation among its Members for the benefit of the ITER Project, an international collaboration to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes.
The ITER Agreement was signed in Paris, France on 21 November 2006 and entered fully into force on 24 October 2007 after ratification by all Members. The depositary of the ITER Agreement is the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The ITER Agreement outlines the ITER Organization's purpose and functions and establishes its mandate to ensure the widest possible cooperation between Members for the success of the ITER Project. It defines the governance, structure, and role of the Organization, provides for the budget, and defines the relations of the ITER Organization with external bodies. In particular, the ITER Agreement provides for very specific rules on the sharing among the Members of information and intellectual property developed in the framework of the ITER Project.
The ITER Agreement adopts the usual wording of treaty-style documents and contains standard provisions which can be found in treaties establishing other international organizations. But the document also includes a unique provision relating to the observance by the ITER Organization of applicable laws and regulations of the Host State (France) in certain domains (see Legal Capacity, below).
Like other intergovernmental organizations, the ITER Organization enjoys privileges and immunities on the territories of the seven Members in order to avoid undue influence from any particular Member. This is provided for by the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities signed by six of the Members and the International Organizations Immunities Act of the US.
The ITER Agreement on Privileges and Immunities was signed on 21 November 2006 and entered into force on 24 October 2007. The depositary of the Privileges and Immunities Agreement is the Director-General of the IAEA.
For the implementation of the privileges and immunities of the ITER Organization on the territory of the Host State (France), the ITER Organization signed a Headquarters Agreement with the French government. (Consult the French version here.)
Purpose and Functions
According to Article 2 of the ITER Agreement, the purpose of the ITER Organization shall be: "to provide for and to promote cooperation among the Members ... on the ITER Project, an international project that aims to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes, an essential feature of which would be achieving sustained fusion power generation."
Article 3 lists the functions of the ITER Organization:
• construct, operate, exploit and de-activate the ITER facilities in accordance with the technical objectives and the general design presented in the Final Report of the ITER Engineering Design Activities (ITER EDA Documentation Series No. 21) and such supplemental technical documents as may be adopted, as necessary, in accordance with this Agreement and provide for the decommissioning of the ITER facilities;
• encourage the exploitation of the ITER facilities by the laboratories, other institutions and personnel participating in the fusion energy research and development programs of the Members;
• promote public understanding and acceptance of fusion energy;
• undertake, in accordance with [the ITER] Agreement, any other activities that are necessary to achieve its purpose.
In order to carry out its activities, the ITER Organization has been granted legal personality both at the international and the internal level (Article 5 of the ITER Agreement).
As such, the ITER Organization has the capacity to conclude agreements with States and/or other international organizations and the capacity to conclude contracts, acquire, hold and dispose of property, obtain licenses and initiate legal proceedings in the territories of the seven Members of the ITER Organization.
The ITER Organization, like other intergovernmental organizations, is a subject of international law and must comply with the general principles of international law.
Due to the nuclear nature of the activities carried out by the ITER Organization, however, the Parties to the ITER Agreement stipulated that the ITER Organization shall observe applicable national laws and regulations of the Host State in the fields of public and occupational health and safety, nuclear safety, radiation protection, licensing, nuclear substances, environmental protection and protection from acts of malevolence (Article 14).
As a result, the ITER Organization has the legal status of "nuclear operator" under French nuclear law. In November 2012, the ITER Organization was granted the authorization to create the ITER Basic Nuclear Installation by the French state (the decree can be consulted in French here).
The Members of the ITER Organization are the seven Parties who signed the ITER Agreement: the People's Republic of China, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), the Republic of India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.
However, after the entry into force of the ITER Agreement, any State or international organization may accede to and become a Party to the Agreement following a unanimous decision of the ITER Council. Any State or international organization that wishes to accede to the Agreement must notify the Director-General of the ITER Organization, who will inform the Members of the request at least six months before it is submitted to the Council for decision. The Council will then determine the conditions of accession of any State or international organization (Article 23).
Structure and Governance
As with any intergovernmental organization, the ITER Organization has a governing body, which is the principal organ of the organization, and an executive body.
The governing body of the ITER Organization is the ITER Council, composed of representatives of each Member of the ITER Organization. Please read more on ITER governance here.
The resources of the ITER Organization are divided into two categories: in-cash resources and in-kind resources.
On one hand, the Members of the ITER Organization contribute to the project by providing components, equipment, materials, buildings, and other goods and services and may recommend staff (in-kind contributions). On the other hand, the ITER Members provide financial contributions to the budget of the ITER Organization (in-cash contributions). Additionally, the ITER Organization may receive further resources, either in cash or in-kind, within limits and under terms approved by the ITER Council.
Each Member provides its in-kind contributions to the ITER Organization through its respective Domestic Agency, except where otherwise agreed by the Council.
Pursuant to Article 19 of the ITER Agreement, the ITER Organization may, in furtherance of its purpose, cooperate with other international organizations, institutions, non-Members, and the organizations and institutions of non-Member countries. The detailed arrangements for such cooperation are determined in each case by the Council.
The ITER Organization has signed cooperation agreements and arrangements on international cooperation with various organizations.
Partnership Arrangement with the Principality of Monaco
A Partnership Arrangement was signed between the ITER Organization and the Principality of Monaco in January 2008 that established the creation of five Postdoctoral Fellowships positions (appointed every two years, for two-year appointments). Five groups (25 researchers in all) were appointed through international competition in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. The 2008 Partnership Arrangement also provided for three international conferences on ITER-related research—the Monaco ITER International Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED)—held in 2010, 2013 and 2016. In January 2018, the Partnership Arrangement with the Principality of Monaco was renewed for ten years.
Cooperation Agreement with CERN A Cooperation Agreement was signed between the ITER Organization and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in March 2008 that makes the long experience of CERN available to ITER in areas of technology (superconductivity, magnets and cryogenics) and administration.
Cooperation Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency
A Cooperation Agreement was signed between the ITER Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in October 2008 to enhance research on fusion and strengthen the working relationship between the two organizations. The Agreement includes the exchange of study results relating to fusion energy and cooperation on training, publications, conferences, research, modelling, and safety and security.
Cooperation Agreement with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
In September 2016, the ITER Organization signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)—a national research organization representing the Australian nuclear fusion community. Cooperation is envisaged in the areas of diagnostics, materials, superconducting technology, and fusion plasma theory and modelling.
Cooperation Agreement with Kazakhstan
The ITER Organization and the National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan signed a Cooperation Agreement in June 2017. Agreement scope includes the technical exchange of experts, access to Kazakhstan's KTM tokamak for materials testing, and the development of diagnostics for ITER.
Cooperation Agreement with Canada
The ITER Organization and the Government of Canada signed a Cooperation Agreement in October 2020 that sets out the terms of cooperation for the transfer of Canadian-supplied nuclear material (tritium), and tritium-related equipment and technology.
Memoranda of Understanding on Academic and Scientific Cooperation
To date, the ITER Organization has signed 74 Memoranda of Understanding on academic and scientific cooperation with universities and research institutions in the ITER Members to promote cooperation and exchange in all academic and scientific fields of mutual interest and to advance the training of young fusion researchers.