The European atomic forum, Foratom, has proposed that nuclear regulators from candidate European Union (EU) accession states be invited to join their western European counterparts in a regional association, to discuss the harmonisation of safety standards.

Foratom’s director of institutional affairs, David Sycamore, suggested that the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association should change its name to the European Nuclear Regulators Association in the “near future”, as part of ongoing moves to strengthen co-operation between the EU and accession candidates in the field of nuclear safety.

Sycamore said: “This would be a good way to speed up the harmonisation of standards and to bring in the considerable experience and knowledge of the regulators in the candidate countries. Valuable time and effort could be saved if the exchange of information and expertise could be facilitated more actively.” He also made the following points:

• The continuing discussion on EU nuclear safety standards should be “steered towards a consensus approach by recognised experts and practitioners,” so that current rather than historic assessment criteria can be created.

• If the results of the process do not justify decisions already taken, the states concerned should have the right to recon-sider their positions without prejudicing the accession process.

• The EU should take into account the other consequences of early closures, particularly the enormous costs of decommissioning and power replacement, the regional impacts for electricity supply, and socio-economic factors.

With regard to the issue of premature plant closures in accession countries, Sycamore said: “The Commission’s reluctance to re-evaluate closure decisions based on the thinking of ten years ago (the 1992 G7 meeting) is curious, because it seems to ignore the very significant progress that has been made since then.”

• The European Parliament’s industry committee has approved a European Commission proposal that the EU and Euratom should sign up to the International Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Its aim is to enhance national measures and international cooperation; it has been signed by all EU Member States, except Portugal.

Meanwhile, EU energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio said she would present a detailed package of proposals for a common law for nuclear safety standards throughout the EU next month.

In an interview for Financial Times Deutschland, de Palacio confirmed her intention to devise a “common methodology” for assessing and implementing nuclear safety standards in the EU.