Europe funds safety of nuclear neighbours

25 November 2013

The European Parliament has backed a proposed €631 million ($851 million) program to support nuclear safety outside the EU, calling for neighbouring countries to be given priority.

In a series of amendments approved on 20 November, the parliament said that said countries would get preferred funding if they fall into either of two categories: that they want to join the EU and are already getting 'pre-accession assistance'; or if they are eligible for 'European neighbourhood instrument' spending.

The money will come under an EU 'instrument for nuclear safety cooperation', being spent from 2014 to 2020, which will have 5.8% more at 2011 prices than the outgoing 2007-13 program it replaces.

The money will support projects that "support the promotion of a high level of nuclear safety, radiation protection and the application of efficient and effective safeguards of nuclear material in third countries..." The parliament added a commitment that this work should ensure "that nuclear material is used only for the civilian purposes for which it is intended."

The MEP piloting the amendments through the parliament is rapporteur Jan Kozłowski, a Polish Christian Democrat. He stressed "the importance of providing priority access... two candidate, potential candidate and [neighbouring] beneficiaries, especially [given] one candidate, one potential candidate and nine neighbourhood countries have or are planning the construction of research and production nuclear reactors."

Kozłowski said the proposed new instrument was "more transparent, flexible and simplified," than the outgoing program. However, he said there were shortcomings in that its spending needed to better promote economic development, as well as nuclear safety. Underlining the "significance of this industry as an important source of energy," Kozłowski stressed "the need to maintain its economic development, while respecting fully the highest safety standards in the production of nuclear energy. In times of economic hardship further improvement of the sound financial management and the best possible use of EU financial resources should be sought," he added.

As a result, the regulation as amended by parliament lays down more detail on how the instrument's money should be spent. It says this should "include a substantial element of knowledge transfer (expertise sharing, support for both existing or new education and training program in the area of nuclear safety)..."

Also, regulatory bodies should be supported "to ensure their independence, competence and development and for investment in human resources." And cooperation between the EU and non-EU countries should be funded where it builds "expertise, experience and skills development, accident management procedures and accident prevention, strategies for responsible and safe management of used fuel and decommissioning strategies."

Meanwhile the parliament has tried to ensure that the program does not duplicate efforts made by other international organisations and governments. An amendment  said the EU and its member states would "ensure proper coordination and cooperation with multilateral and regional organisations and entities," including the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and UN bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The proposal, as amended, will now be considered by the EU Council of Ministers, representing member states, which will have the final say.

By Keith Nuthall
for World Nuclear News