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The nuclear safety framework in the European Union after Fukushima. Egmont Paper No. 73, December 2014

Dehousse, Franklin (2014) The nuclear safety framework in the European Union after Fukushima. Egmont Paper No. 73, December 2014. [Policy Paper]

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    Summary. On 11 March 2011, a devastating earthquake struck Japan and caused a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The disaster confirmed that nuclear reactors must be protected even against accidents that have been assessed as highly unlikely. It also revealed a well-known catalogue of problems: faulty design, insufficient back-up systems, human error, inadequate contingency plans, and poor communications. The catastrophe triggered the rapid launch of a major re-examination of nuclear reactor security in Europe. It also stopped in its tracks what had appeared to be a ‘nuclear renaissance’, both in Europe and globally, especially in the emerging countries. Under the accumulated pressure of rising demand and climate warming, many new nuclear projects had been proposed. Since 2011 there has been more ambivalence, especially in Europe. Some Member States have even decided to abandon the nuclear sector altogether. This Egmont Paper aims to examine the reactions of the EU regarding nuclear safety since 2011. Firstly, a general description of the nuclear sector in Europe is provided. The nuclear production of electricity currently employs around 500,000 people, including those working in the supply chain. It generates approximately €70 billion per year. It provides roughly 30% of the electricity consumed in the EU. At the end of 2013, there were 131 nuclear power reactors active in the EU, located in 14 countries. Four new reactors are under construction in France, Slovakia and Finland. Secondly, this paper will present the Euratom legal framework regarding nuclear safety. The European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) Treaty was signed in 1957, and somewhat obscured by the European Economic Community (EEC) Treaty. It was a more classical treaty, establishing institutions with limited powers. Its development remained relatively modest until the Chernobyl catastrophe, which provoked many initiatives. The most important was the final adoption of the Nuclear Safety Directive 2009/71. Thirdly, the general symbiosis between Euratom and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be explained. Fourthly, the paper analyses the initiatives taken by the EU in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe. These initiatives are centred around the famous ‘stress tests’. Fifthly, the most important legal change brought about by this event was the revision of Directive 2009/71. Directive 2014/87 has been adopted quite rapidly, and has deepened in various ways the role of the EU in nuclear safety. It has reinforced the role and effective independence of the national regulatory authorities. It has enhanced transparency on nuclear safety matters. It has strengthened principles, and introduced new general nuclear safety objectives and requirements, addressing specific technical issues across the entire life cycle of nuclear installations, and in particular, nuclear power plants. It has extended monitoring and the exchange of experiences by establishing a European system of peer reviews. Finally, it has established a mechanism for developing EU-wide harmonized nuclear safety guidelines. In spite of these various improvements, Directive 2014/87 Euratom still reflects the ambiguity of the Euratom system in general, and especially in the field of nuclear safety. The use of nuclear energy remains controversial among Member States. Some of them remain adamantly in favour, others against or ambivalent. The intervention of the EAEC institutions remains sensitive. The use of the traditional Community method remains limited. The peer review method remains a very peculiar mechanism that deserves more attention.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Additional Information: D/2014/4804/272
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > energy policy (Including international arena)
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Egmont : Royal Institute for International Affairs > Egmont Papers
    Depositing User: Unnamed user with email
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 04 May 2015 16:05
    Number of Pages: 36
    Last Modified: 04 May 2015 16:05

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