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Non-nuclear energy

Home page for nuclear fission energy and radiation protection research

Fission and radiation protection

EU research in nuclear fission and radiation protection is carried out under the provisions of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (referred to as the Euratom Treaty), one of the original Treaties of Rome signed in 1957. Under this treaty the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) was also founded to undertake research into aspects such as nuclear safety and security.

Alongside the research carried out in the JRC’s institutes, the European Commission is funding Euratom research projects and actions through calls for proposals within multi-annual framework programmes.

The current Euratom framework programme is the seventh of its kind. It covers the five-year period 2007–11 and is implemented by two specific programmes: one for direct research actions carried out by the JRC, the other one for indirect research actions – i.e. EU-funded research managed by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Research (DG Research).

This website deals only with the specific Euratom research programme managed by DG Research.

Nuclear fission energy

Bird's eye view of the Loviisa nuclear power plant - Courtesy of Fortum Corporation

The nuclear power industry makes a significant contribution to meeting Europe’s demand for energy, supplying one third of all the electricity consumed in the EU.

Thanks to its very low production of CO2, nuclear energy reduces the EU’s total greenhouse-gas emissions by some 14% a year – more than 700 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to that produced by all the private cars in Europe. Thus, nuclear power contributes significantly to helping the EU meet its commitments made in the Kyoto Protocol and in the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan).

In addition to this, nuclear energy

  • reduces our dependence on oil and gas, mostly imported from countries outside the EU
  • improves security of energy supply
  • remains a competitive source of electricity in today’s liberalised EU energy market.

Europe is a world leader in nuclear technology and services, with an important research sector, which brings along commercial advantages resulting from the export of technological expertise in a global and competitive environment. However, we are facing increasing competition from our overseas competitors, in particular those in Asia.

In the Euratom framework programme, current research aims to establish a sound scientific and technical basis to accelerate practical developments towards the safe long-term management of hazardous radioactive waste, and to enhance key aspects influencing future exploitation of nuclear energy such as resource efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safety and performance characteristics.

Radiation protection

A CT-scanner installation

Radiation protection research aims at optimising the protection of man and the environment from exposure to all sources of ionising radiation, in particular low and protracted doses resulting from:

  • medical applications
  • industrial applications, including nuclear power generation
  • natural radioactivity (radiation of terrestrial origin) cosmic radiation.

Cellular and molecular biological research on the interaction between radiation and DNA, cells, organs, and the body helps us to understand and mitigate the adverse effects of radiation.

Euratom research – a long history

In 2007 the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) celebrated its 50th birthday.

The treaty that established Euratom was signed by the original six Member States in Rome on 25 March 1957, together with the treaty that founded the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner of today’s European Union (EU). The Euratom Treaty is therefore one of the founding documents of modern Europe and the launch pad for European cooperative research in nuclear fission and fusion that continues today.

Euratom is a separate legal entity to the European Community (the EC), but membership and organisation is fully integrated with the EU. Euratom was created to “contribute to the raising of standards of living in the Member States and to the development of relations with other countries by creating conditions necessary for the speedy establishment and growth of nuclear industries”.

The original purpose for the creation of Euratom was to create a specialist market in atomic energy and distribute it throughout the Community, to develop nuclear energy technology and to sell surplus energy to non-Community states.

Euratom has always been a knowledge-based community with research and development activities as one of its central pillars. The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) was created by the Euratom Treaty in 1957 and in the early years all its efforts were directed towards nuclear or nuclear-related research. Since the late 1960s the JRC has diversified its activities to include a wide range of strategic research areas that are of importance to EU policy initiatives.