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Nuclear research: Europe at work for sustainability

EURATOM supports research spanning a range of important areas, from fission energy technology to radioactive waste management, nuclear safety and radiation protection.

Nuclear power is the principal carbon-free source of electricity in the EU, accounting for one third of current generation capacity. It therefore plays a key role in limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and makes an important contribution to improving the Union's independence, security and diversity of energy supply.

The EURATOM Framework Programme is in place to secure the sustainability of that supply, and to ensure that all uses of nuclear technology are safe and environmentally benign. One priority is to facilitate the implementation of a permanent and safe solution for managing radioactive waste produced in nuclear power plants. Another is to carry out research to ensure that a high level of safety can be maintained in European installations. The potential of innovative reactor technologies is also being evaluated, with the goal of developing future systems that can use resources more efficiently and produce less waste than current designs.

Activities supported by the EU make an important contribution to Europe's knowledge base in the area of nuclear fission and radiation protection, and have a major impact on networking and cooperation within the European nuclear research sector. Their effect is further enhanced by maximising the coordination with national and industrial programmes.

Key topics are identified in the Strategic Research Agendas (SRA) of the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform, the embryonic Implementing Geological Disposal Technology Platform, and MELODI. In the latter, major Member States are collaborating to investigate the effects of low-dose radiation exposure from the workplace, the environment or medical interventions such as x-ray imaging. To ensure that the EURATOM programme delivers maximum added value to the EU, the SRAs unite a broad range of stakeholders, including industrial actors and the organisations responsible for national programmes.

The Commission is also keen to encourage enhanced international cooperation, and 2008 saw important steps being made towards a closer collaboration with research programmes in Russia and China.