The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether various public support measures from Romania in favour of the National Uranium Company are in line with EU rules on State aid to companies in difficulty.
On 12 June 2017, Romania notified to the Commission a plan for the restructuring of Compania Nationala a Uraniului SA ('CNU', the National Uranium Company). The restructuring plan foresees around €95 million (RON 441 million) of support to CNU, in the form of grants, subsidies, debt write-off and debt-to-equity conversion. It follows an urgent rescue aid loan of around €13.3 million (RON 62 million) to keep the company afloat, which the Commission temporarily approved on 30 September 2016.
EU State aid rules only allow a State intervention for a company in financial difficulty under specific conditions, requiring in particular that the company is subject to a sound restructuring plan to ensure its return to long-term viability, that the company contributes to the cost of its restructuring and that any competition distortions are limited.
At this stage, the Commission has doubts that the planned restructuring aid is in line with these conditions. In particular, the Commission's in-depth investigation will examine:
- whether the proposed restructuring plan could restore the long-term viability of CNU without continued State aid;
- whether CNU or market investors sufficiently contribute to the restructuring costs, thus ensuring that the restructuring plan does not rely mainly on public funding and that the aid is proportionate; and
- whether Romania is offering appropriate measures to limit the distortions of competition created by the aid.
The Commission will now investigate further to find out whether its initial concerns are confirmed. The opening of an investigation gives interested third parties the opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation,
the acquisition of sole control over Westinghouse Electric UK Holdings Limited of the UK and TSB Nuclear Energy Services Inc. of the US (together "Westinghouse"), by Brookfield of Canada. Westinghouse is active in the nuclear industry and supplies a wide range of products and services covering the entire lifecycle of nuclear power plants. Brookfield is an asset manager, with a focus on property, renewable power, infrastructure and private equity. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the activities of the companies do not overlap. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8818.
On 20-21 March 2018 the European Commission hosted a conference on Addressing Societal Challenges Through Advancing the Medical, Industrial and Research Applications of Nuclear and Radiation Technology.
The conference sought to identify cross-cutting actions that the European Commission, EU countries and other stakeholders can take to maximise the societal benefits of nuclear and radiation technologies, whilst providing high standards of quality and safety to European citizens.
The conference was opened by Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, alongside other senior speakers including Mr Yukiya Amano, the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Director General, and Dr Maria Neira from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Commissioner Arias Cañete said: "Europe is a world leader in developing and exploiting radiation technologies to the advantage of citizens and society. The non-power application of these technologies is a success story Europe can be proud of. The ambition of the European Commission is to build on this leadership position with the goal of improving the quality of life of European citizens, generate employment and economic growth and maintain high standard of radiation protection and safety."
Commissioner Andriukaitis added:
"Nuclear and radiation technology offers immense opportunities in the field of modern medicine, with early diagnosis of diseases and cancer treatment for children being just two examples. Our task is to maximise this potential while at the same time managing the challenges posed by new technologies. Close coordination, information sharing and mutual learning are key elements of this task."
A range of EU policies play a significant role in the present and future of nuclear and radiation technology, including: the Euratom Basic Safety Standards Directive; the Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Directive; the Nuclear Safety Directive; and, more broadly, the EU legislation and initiatives on medical devices, pharmaceuticals and human health. Research and innovation in this area is also supported through the Euratom and the Horizon 2020 research programmes.
The conference facilitated an in-depth discussion with a broad range of experts. The outputs will contribute significantly to the Commission's work in this area, and will lead to actions that will enhance the implementation of the Euratom framework, and support integrated activity across several Commission policy areas.
Following a 26-month effort, Westinghouse Electric Company and its eight European consortium partners successfully completed an EU-funded project, known as ‘European Supply of Safe Nuclear Fuel’ (ESSANUF), intended to diversify the nuclear fuel supply to VVER-440 reactors in Europe. The consortium developed a conceptual fuel design and determined how the manufacturing and supply chain can be re-established to build and ship VVER-440 fuel assemblies, similar to what was done by Westinghouse and ENUSA to the Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant in Finland in 2001-2007. In addition to fuel design, the consortium also set up and verified the associated methods and methodology to be applied for the licensing and use of a new fuel design in the VVER-440 reactors.