Nuclear Fusion Project Seeks End to Site Dispute **Or "France Drags EU into fight for scraps"** Mon Dec 22,12:14 PM ET By Paul Carrel PARIS (Reuters) - A group of countries that wants to produce energy like the sun -- through nuclear fusion -- are considering whether sharing out work on the project can resolve a dispute over where to host it, France said on Monday. The European Union (news - web sites) still wants the scheme's International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) to be at Cadarache in southern France, but data analysis could take place in another country, French Research Minister Claudie Haignere said. "The European site (in Cadarache) is the one that offers the greatest chance for success," Haignere told a news conference. The other possible site for the reactor is in Japan. The six-member ITER joint venture failed to agree where to place the reactor at a weekend meeting near Washington. The United States and South Korea (news - web sites) backed Japan, but Russia and China favored France. Haignere said officials proposed that the group should look into ways to expand the project to give more than just one country a hands-on role. "What was proposed was to say 'Of course a reactor is essential in the project'...But to have a greater chance of success, there is also a need for communication, data analysis, testing materials," she said. These parts of the project could be carried out outside Europe, she added. Commentators have seen the deadlock as more evidence of Washington's displeasure with France over its opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq (news - web sites), following its move to bar opponents of the war from bidding for lucrative reconstruction contracts in Iraq. The ITER aims to create the world's first sustained nuclear fusion reaction, lasting several minutes, in a bid to harness the source of the sun's power and tame it, in a cleaner process than today's nuclear fission. Fusion power has been touted as a solution to the world's energy problem because it is low in pollution and has a virtually limitless supply of fuel in the form of sea water. Fusion involves sticking atoms together, unlike the splitting of an atom that is at the heart of nuclear fission, the process used in today's atomic power plants and weapons. The stakes are high. Construction of the reactor is expected to take a decade and provide employment for about 2,000 workers. A working group would look at ways of dividing the project's work among different countries before a ministerial meeting in early February aimed at leading to a decision, Haignere said.