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New measures to improve nuclear safety
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Published on 13-06-13

The European Commission has proposed comprehensive changes in nuclear safety policy to protect EU citizens and make sure that catastrophes like Fukushima will not happen in Europe.

    New measures to improve nuclear safety

    There are 132 nuclear reactors in operation in Europe today. Our task at the Commission is to make sure that safety is given the utmost priority in every single one of them", said Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

    The UK has 16 reactors that are currently operating and four that are planned to be built.

    The package aims to tackle the following areas:

    •  Safety objective: in case of accidents,Member States shall ensure the release of radioactivity in the environment is practically eliminated.                           
    • EU-wide, legally binding reviews every six years: Member States will jointly agree on the specific topic(s) and the common methodology of the reviews that multinational teams will carry out. Member States are also responsible for implementing the recommendations. In case there is a delay or recommendations are not implemented, the European Commission can organize a verification mission to the Member State.
    • National reviews: Every nuclear power plant undergoes a periodic safety review at least once every 10 years and a specific review in case of a possible life time extension;
    • New Power Plants: All new nuclear power plants are designed in a way which ensures that if a reactor core is damaged, this has no consequences outside the plant;
    • On-site emergency preparednessand response: Every Nuclear Power Plant needs to have an emergency response centres which is protected against radioactivity and earthquakes or flooding and implementing strict accident management guidelines

    Transparency is also an important aim for the Commission. National regulators and plant operators will have to develop a strategy which will define how public would not only be informed in the event of an accident, but also in times of normal operation of the plant. This strategy will have to be published. In addition, citizens will have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process when the licensing of a new nuclear power plant is being decided.

    The directive ensures that National regulatory authorities will be independent in their decision-making and importantly that political, economic or societal interests cannot override safety objectives. National regulatory authorities must also be allocated sufficient funds and expert staff to allow their effective and independent operation.

    Following the nuclear accident in Fukushima in March 2011, the EU heads of state and government asked the Commission, together with the European Nuclear Safety Regulators' Group (ENSREG), to carry out stress tests and to review the EU nuclear safety legislation.

    In addition to lessons learned from Fukushima and the EU-wide stress tests, the proposal is based on various sources of expertise, notably ENSREG, the group of scientific experts established under the Article 31 of Euratom Treaty, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA), reports from non-EU countries such as Japan or the US, etc. It also takes into account the views expressed by stakeholders, including national regulators, industry and civil society.

    Should Member States agree with these new measures during 2014 they will have 18 months to transpose them into national legislation.

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    Last update: 14/06/2013  |Top