Political and strategic priorities
The overarching EU socio-economic priorities that orient the research activities in the Euratom programme are:
- European Research Area and the Lisbon Process
- Health protection and safety
European Research Area (ERA) and the Lisbon Process
The establishment of a 'single market' for research in Europe has been a principal aim of the EU's research effort in all areas of science and technology since the year 2000. Reduce fragmentation and duplication of effort, increase critical mass, stimulate a higher percentage of GDP spending in R&D and promote joint and strategic planning amongst Member States, are all objectives of this policy. In the area of nuclear science and technology, a number of ERA initiatives have been launched by the research community to further this process. In particular, two Technology Platforms have been established together with a Joint Programming Initiative; these strategic forums are presented under collaborative platforms. ERA is an integral part of the economic pillar of the broader Lisbon Process (or Strategy), launched by EU Member States in 2000, and preparing the ground for the transition to a competitive, dynamic, knowledge-based economy in Europe.
The Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) addresses the technology challenges in meeting the ambitious targets for increased renewable energy production and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 2020, and the longer-term vision of a low-carbon society by 2050 (with up to 80% reduction in CO2 emissions). Nuclear fission is currently the key contributor to low-carbon energy production in Europe, and the SET-Plan identifies the necessary technology challenges to enable nuclear to remain an important contributor in the longer term.
The SET-Plan states that the key EU technology challenges for the next 10 years to meet the 2020 targets include maintaining competitiveness in fission technologies, and implementing long-term waste management solutions. To meet the 2050 vision, the SET-Plan also states that we must complete the preparations for the demonstration of a new generation (Generation-IV) of fission reactors for increased sustainability, and proposes a European Industrial Initiative (EII) in 'Sustainable nuclear fission' focusing on the development of Generation-IV technologies.
Technology platforms such as SNE-TP and IGDTP will contribute to reach the SET-Plan objectives. One of SNETP's pillars concerns maintaining the safety and competitiveness of today's nuclear reactors, while another pillar is to develop a new generation of more sustainable reactor technologies. IGDTP's vision is to implement safe geological disposal in Europe within the next 10-15 years, with the construction and operation of the world's first geological repositories for nuclear waste.
Health protection and safety
portable monitoring system ©STUK
The Euratom Treaty legislates specifically for the protection of the work force and public from the potentially harmful effects of ionising radiation. Safety is therefore a crucial underlying theme to all research conducted under the Euratom FP. In addition, specific research is targeted at understanding the fundamental mechanisms of interaction of radiation with living cells and organisms in order to better quantify the associated risks to man. This involves investigating and mitigating risks from environmental exposure as well as from all uses of radiation in industry and medicine. In all cases, these risks must be balanced with the benefits to society and the individual from such uses.