The newly-created European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) held its first meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, on 26-27 November. The forum aims to promote an EU-wide debate on the role of nuclear energy in meeting future energy needs.
The forum, which will meet twice per year, brings together high level representatives from public authorities, members of the European Parliament, electricity producers, nuclear industry, consumers, finance and civil society for a broad and open discussion on opportunities and risks of nuclear energy.
The ENEF should provide advice to European policy makers on issues such as security of energy supply, incentives for investments, EU legislative issues, public opinion, research and development, knowledge management, safety and waste management. The forum is also expected to work in collaboration with other newly-created bodies the Sustainable Nuclear Energy - Technology Platform and the High Level Group on Safety and Waste Management.
The creation of the ENEF was initiated by the European Council in March, when member states suggested "that broad discussion takes place among all relevant stakeholders on the opportunities and risks of nuclear energy." The ENEF process was subsequently launched by the European Commission in June 2007.
The first meeting of the ENEF, which was inaugurated by Slovak prime minister Robert Fico and Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek, was to identify the priority issues which should be further discussed in the coming months in preparation for the next forum meeting in early summer 2008 in Prague, Czech Republic.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso stated in his welcome address, "We are now standing on the brink of a Third Industrial Revolution: the Low Carbon Age. Nuclear energy can have a role to play in meeting our growing concerns about security of supply and CO2 emission reductions. It is of course not the EU's role to decide for member states whether they use nuclear energy or not. But we can make a significant contribution to the debate in areas such as research and safety and offer a platform for an open dialogue." He added, "The Commission is ready and willing to help launch a transparent debate on nuclear energy and to ensure that the public receives relevant and reliable information on the different options available."
Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said that "a high level of safety, security and non-proliferation is the absolute condition for the use of nuclear energy. Public acceptance is the second important pillar. Building up trust in the available information and increasing confidence in the use of nuclear energy are vital elements for public acceptance in a democratic society".
Currently, 15 of the 27 EU member states operate nuclear power plants, with nuclear energy being the primary supply of electricity in some. Altogether, about one-third of the EU's electricity and 15% of its overall energy is supplied through nuclear.
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