Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

The Fusion Energy Experimental Tokamak Site Negotiation

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

The Fusion Energy Experimental Tokamak Site Negotiation

Article excerpt


The purpose of this case is to provide an international negotiation simulation exercise, derived from a specific setting adapted from a real situation, that tests the ability of students to overcome cultural and political obstacles while engaging in coalition building in order to structure an integrative and mutually beneficial agreement. The case is appropriate for upper division undergraduate students or graduate students, depending upon the depth with which the instructor wishes to explore the case and the instructor's comfort level with the issues included in the case. The negotiation exercise is designed to take about two to three hours (including the debrief), although more time may be spent on it. The case requires that students devote approximately one hour of preparation for the case, but this time can be spent outside class if necessary.


The Fusion Energy Experimental Tokamak ("FEET") Site Negotiation simulation is a multiparty and coalition building negotiation exercise. Inspired by the real-world negotiations surrounding the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), this fascinating multiparty negotiation simulation provides outstanding lessons in coalition building, difficulties in maintaining coalitions, intercultural communication, real world politics and, of course, negotiation skills. The real-world ITER negotiations (pronounced "ee-ter", which is Latin for "the way") had their roots in a 1984 proposal by the Soviet Union seeking a method to harness nuclear fusion as an energy source. More specifically, the proposed ITER reactor would essentially be a gigantic vacuum vessel surrounded by super-conducting coils that magnetically confine hydrogen plasma in the shape of a doughnut. Once accomplished, the temperature of the plasma will then be increased to the point of igniting fusion, a method that scientists view as a credible first step to capturing fusion as a feasible commercial energy source.

Despite having had its genesis in 1984, the real-world negotiation involving ITER was not completed until June of 2005. Distilled to its essence, the ITER negotiation resulted in France being designated as the location for the reactor with Japan being granted the lead role in managing and directing the effort. Accordingly, the research related jobs primarily will go to Japan, and the construction jobs will go to France. This real-world outcome--after such protracted negotiations spanning over 20 years--is provided for informational purpose only and is not at all suggestive of what should or should not happen when conducing the FEET simulation.

FEET, while inspired by ITER, is nevertheless separate and distinct from ITER and, in fact, the outcome with the most possible points for ALL of the parties in the FEET simulation would be for the parties to agree to build two reactors. Interestingly, none of the six parties individually has the allocated resources to fund one FEET reactor, but collectively the six parties actually have the resources to fund two FEET reactors. Despite intense disagreement by the parties over where to build any FEET reactor, the parties nevertheless share a desire to fund FEET. Given that, no one party has enough money its budget to fund a FEET reactor on its own, the parties are required to negotiate over 1) where to locate the FEET reactor, and 2) how to apportion the cost.

While none of the parties knows for certain whether there are sufficient funds for two FEET reactors, if any one party withdraws from the negotiation it is certain that there will only be enough money for one FEET reactor. In addition to each party's primary motivation to fund at least one FEET reactor, each party has a secondary motive: For Russia it is to procure funding for a second FEET reactor, for all others it is to advance their preference for the site location.

Each party's tertiary goal is to minimize cost (i. …

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