Tuesday

23rd May 2017

Brussels to renew push for EU-wide nuclear safety rules

  • The EU as a whole is the largest nuclear electricity generator in the world (Photo: IAEA)

As nuclear energy makes something of a comeback ready for the low-carbon age, the European Commission is dusting off its earlier failed plans to strengthen the safety of nuclear power plants operational in the EU territory.

On Wednesday (26 November), EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs kicked off a lengthy legislative process aimed at setting "basic obligations and general principles for the safety of nuclear installations, while enhancing the role of national regulatory bodies."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

According to Mr Piebalgs, legislation covering all member states is necessary in order to give legal certainty across the EU, as currently standardisation of safety requirements in the bloc have been "limited".

Under the proposed rules, the 1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety and the 2006 International Atomic Energy Agency Safety Fundamentals - which are currently both applied only in a voluntary fashion - would form the main pillar of EU-wide rules.

To "achieve, maintain and continuously improve nuclear safety," the EU's executive body has suggested a strengthening of the role of the regulatory bodies - institutions generally authorised by member states to grant licences and to supervise the siting, design, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

The commission proposal says that EU states must ensure that the regulatory body be "effectively free from any influence" that may affect the safety and that it should have the power to halt operations or withdraw the licence of any plant if safety is at risk.

To improve its own functioning, the regulatory body also has to undergo "an international peer review" once at least every ten years.

This is not the first time that Brussels has tried to involve itself with the sensitive area of nuclear safety. Efforts on this front date back to 2003 and 2004, but none of the original proposals were ever enacted.

The executive body defends this new move by pointing to the fact that several EU states are now interested in either extending life span of their existing installations or in building new ones.

Currently, 15 member states operate nuclear power plants, delivering a one third of the union's electricity needs and making the EU as a whole the largest nuclear electricity generator in the world.

In addition, backers of nuclear energy are increasingly promoting it as a low-carbon energy source and a key weapon in the fight against climate change. Nuclear energy is also better shielded from price fluctuations compared to oil and gas, they argue.

As part of the proposed EU law, Brussels has also suggested to urgently step up efforts in training new safety inspectors, as many specialists are now approaching retirement.

Children among dead in UK bomb attack

Children are among the victims after a suspected suicide bomber detonated at the Manchester Arena on Monday, the latest in a string of terror attacks to hit Europe.

Investigation

Fight club: Russian spies seek EU recruits

Russian intelligence services are using martial arts clubs to recruit potential troublemakers in Germany and other EU countries, security experts have warned.

Letter

An open letter to ministers on the audiovisual directive

The ongoing revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive is a key opportunity to reduce exposure of Europe's children to advertisements of health-harmful products – an opportunity that should not be missed.

EU gives mandate for Barnier to take on Brexit

In its final preparatory act before Brexit talks begin, the EU has officially given the negotiating mandate to Michel Barnier. The French politician said he would like to start negotiations on the week of 19 June.

EU wary over Ukraine weapons in South Sudan

Ukraine, which had signed an EU arms embargo on South Sudan, has since sold attack helicopters used by the government forces in Juba against civilians and hospitals.

Investigation

Fight club: Russian spies seek EU recruits

Russian intelligence services are using martial arts clubs to recruit potential troublemakers in Germany and other EU countries, security experts have warned.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  2. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  4. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  5. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  7. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  8. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  9. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  10. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  11. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus