Euratom Supply Agency marks diamond anniversary

01 June 2020

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the continued operations of the Euratom Supply Agency. When the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) was established in 1958, its founding Treaty of Rome recognised the necessity to ensure a regular and equitable supply of nuclear materials to all consumers in the Community.

The Euratom Supply Agency (ESA), established under the Euratom Treaty in 1960, ensures that all European Community countries that use them receive a "regular and equitable" supply of ores and nuclear fuels, and aims to ensure EU countries obtain their uranium from a diverse range of suppliers without being overly dependent on any one source. All EC supply contracts are legally required to be completed through the ESA.

ESA focuses on enhancing the security of supply of users located in the EU and shares responsibility for the viability of the EU nuclear industry. In particular, it recommends that EU utilities operating nuclear power plants maintain stocks of nuclear materials and cover their needs by entering into long-term contracts with diversification of their sources of supply.

ESA's mandate is to exercise its powers and, as required by its statutes, to monitor the market to ensure that the market activities of individual users reflect the values set out above.

Article 52 of the Euratom Treaty requires ESA to conclude supply contracts for nuclear material (ores, source material and special fissile material) in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6. Contracting parties are utilities, an operator of a research reactor in the EU or a producer/intermediary selling nuclear material (imports into or exports from the EU, as well as intra-Community transfers). When concluding supply contracts, ESA implements the EU supply policy for nuclear materials. ESA also has a right of option to purchase nuclear materials produced in the member states.

On the basis of the Euratom Treaty, ESA also monitors transactions involving services in the nuclear fuel cycle (enrichment, conversion and fuel fabrication). Operators are required to submit notifications giving details of their commitments. ESA verifies and acknowledges these notifications.

As the market is becoming increasingly complex, the remit of ESA was strengthened by the Council Decision of 12 February 2008 establishing ESA's statutes which entrusted the agency with the creation of a nuclear market observatory. This is to provide the European Community with expertise, information and advice on any subjects connected with the operation of the market in nuclear materials and services. It also monitors the market and identifies market trends that could affect security of the EU's supply of nuclear materials and services.

The observatory role of ESA has been further enlarged to cover the aspects of the supply of medical radioisotopes in the EU, following, on one hand, the Council Conclusions "Towards the Secure Supply of Radioisotopes for Medical Use in the EU" (2010 and 2012)  - prepared in response to an increased fragility of the current production chain, which relies on an unsustainably low number of ageing research reactors - and, on the other hand, to strive to obtain the necessary supplies of nuclear material for enriched uranium targets used for radioisotope production.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News