Most member states of the EU will have simplified routines to safeguard their nuclear materials under a special deal agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The new arrangements will apply to all EU states except France and the UK, which are recognised as holding nuclear weapons and allowed under the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to maintain strictly separate civil and military nuclear sectors.
Of the EU's 27 member states, the following use nuclear power:
Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. In time, all but France and the UK should come under the new arrangements.
The EU as a whole has a population of over 500 million and nuclear power from 143 reactors provides about one third of electricity.
The rest, where no military nuclear sector is allowed, will benefit from what EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said were "less prescriptive, more customised" safeguard checks once the IAEA has established "sufficient confidence" in the purely peaceful nature of nuclear activities in each country.
The purpose of safeguards is to ensure that nuclear materials for research and power generation are never diverted for any kind of weaponry. Around the world, almost all countries have a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and cooperate with it to maintain detailed inventories and make technical checks to prove the location of all sensitive materials.
In Europe the situation is slightly different because each country has a three-way agreement with the IAEA and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which was created by treaty in 1958 complete with its own safeguards system. In 1992, Euratom and the IAEA agreed revisions to their cooperation so that the agency could put more of its resources to work in other areas of the world with less strong arrangements.
Streamlining IAEA safeguards work around the world is being called for by a number of countries as a way to improve efficiency of the body as it seeks to meet an increasingly serious international role.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News