EC considering unification

3 November 2002

The European Commission (EC) is in the process of examining a series of proposals for the nuclear industry. They include three draft directives: on establishing common EU nuclear safety standards; requiring EU countries to set up external decommissioning funds that are "sufficient and available"; and setting deadlines for final waste disposal.

The package is an initiative of EU energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio, and is based on the Euratom Treaty. As a result, the European Parliament is not involved in the decision-making process.

The first proposed directive deals with nuclear safety. De Palacio said she wanted to make the IAEA's nuclear safety standards recommendations mandatory and set up an EU-wide safety monitoring system.

On the subject of decommissioning funds, de Palacio said that she wanted to make sure that if companies went bankrupt, the funds would still be available. She added that this initiative is a consequence of future EU enlargement, since decommissioning funds are insufficient in candidate countries.

The third directive would oblige EU member states to set deadlines for selecting a site and building radwaste repositories. The directive would cover waste from power production, research and medicine, but exclude defence wastes. Repositories could be shared between several countries.

The last element in the package is a draft negotiating mandate for the EC on the trade of nuclear materials. It would allow the EC to lift the quota on import of fissile material from a single country from the current 20% average. It needs to be revised since most EU candidate countries receive 90-100% of their fissile material supply from Russia, and "would face an impossible situation once they accede to the EU." Environmentalists see discussions over the Euratom Treaty as a "window of opportunity" to weaken the EU's institutional support for the nuclear option. They are aiming to remove from the treaty language that requires nuclear to be promoted. They also hope to reduce the funds available under the treaty.

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