29th Oct 2016

Brussels pushes atomic safety amid pro-nuclear talk

  • "Nuclear energy is in Europe and it is here to stay," Mr Piebalgs said (Photo: Stefan Kühn)

The European Commission is making a concerted push for harmonising nuclear safety requirements across the European Union, saying that nuclear energy is here to stay.

EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs made the comments after the first meeting of an experts group on nuclear safety and waste management.

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The experts group is made up of senior officials from the 27 member states' national regulatory or nuclear safety authorities and is to advise the EU executive on how to progressively develop EU rules in nuclear safety and waste management.

"Nuclear energy is in Europe and it is here to stay," Mr Piebalgs said, adding that it should be under the condition of "high safety standards and sound management."

"It is up to each member state to decide whether to have nuclear power or not. But the question of nuclear safety and waste management concerns everybody," he added.

Nuclear energy currently counts for over 30 percent of electricity use and around 15 percent of total energy consumption across the 27 member bloc, according to the commission.

Pro-nuclear commission?

Mr Piebalgs' predecessor Loyola de Palacio proposed in November 2002 rules for the management of nuclear safety and nuclear waste across the EU, following safety risks at the Sellafield nuclear plant in the UK.

However, Ms de Palacio's plan met huge opposition from both anti-and pro-nuclear states with France and the UK saying it was purely a national matter.

But the current commission is arguing increasingly openly in favour of nuclear energy.

Last week, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso called on EU states to consider greater use of nuclear energy in order to avoid increasing dependence on oil and gas imports and to improve the bloc's energy security.

"Member states cannot avoid the question of nuclear energy. There needs to be a total and frank debate regarding this problem", commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said at a high-level conference on energy in Madrid.

In addition, competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, who also took part in the conference, said she was personally "completely in favour of nuclear power".

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