atw Vol. 64 (2019) | Issue 5 ı May 310 NUCLEAR TODAY John Shepherd is a journalist who has covered the nuclear industry for the past 20 years and is currently editor-in-chief of UK-based Energy Storage Publishing. Link to reference source: EU Energy Union report – https:// bit.ly/2UKZQAW Proposals to ‘Evolve’ Euratom Treaty Should Be Handled with Care John Shepherd Some weeks ago, as I began to cast around for a suitable subject for this column, I received a telephone call from a contact close to the corridors of power in Brussels who told me to pay particular attention to upcoming announcements on energy policy from the European Commission. I was told the plethora of paperwork that would be produced in the final days of the current Commission’s term of office deserved close analysis. And indeed, just as my editor began pressing me to submit my copy for this issue, the Commission released its latest ‘State of the Energy Union’. The report effectively takes stock of the progress made towards building the ‘ Energy Union’ – and highlights “the issues where further attention is needed”. At first glance, I spotted the welcoming recognition of nuclear power “as a reality in today’s European energy mix”. I’ve been reporting on this sector long enough to remember when nuclear energy never quite seemed to benefit from a fond political embrace in Brussels in order to ‘keep the peace’ between those EU member states who favour the use of nuclear energy and those who don’t. Some would argue it still does not today. The report went on to remind us that half of the (EU) member states rely on nuclear energy, which represents nearly 30% of the bloc’s electricity generation. But then the alarm sounded in my journalistic ears… The report made reference to the Euratom Treaty and said: “As part of a forward-looking agenda on energy and climate policy, there are areas which will need to be further improved to achieve all the policy objectives.” The report revealed that, “in the months to come”, the European Commission will establish “a high level group of experts whose task will be to assess and report to the Commission on the state of play of the Euratom Treaty, with a view to considering how, on the basis of the current Treaty, its democratic accountability could be improved”. According to the report, there is “a recognised concern that the Treaty needs to evolve in line with a more united, stronger and democratic EU”. Outgoing Commission president Juncker has said previously that for “important single market questions”, decisions in the European Council should be taken more often by qualified majority – with the equal involvement of the European Parliament. The energy union report said this is now “particularly relevant in the nuclear area, where decisions under the Euratom Treaty do not involve the European Parliament on the same terms as foreseen in the ordinary legislative procedure of the Lisbon Treaty”. When the Euratom Treaty was signed in 1957, nuclear energy was seen as an energy resource for Europe’s economic development. As the Commission rightly points out, the Treaty provides extensive supranational powers at EU community level. It’s also true to say that the application of powers under the Treaty have evolved over time. According to the Commission, Euratom has also played an “important role in strengthening nuclear safety in new member states and in the EU’s neighbourhood”. That particular comment might still rankle with some states in eastern Europe, that were forced to close down nuclear generating plants (and experience hardship as a result) as a condition of being allowed into the EU years ago. However, the energy union report now suggests “the potential cross-border impact of nuclear safety issues requires – even more today and in the coming years – a legal framework that goes beyond the borders of the member states”. This, I would suggest, deserves extremely close attention. I don’t mean that to imply anything sinister, merely to say our industry and its supporters must be on its guard. To be fair to EU leaders, the energy union report acknowledges there is “a clear understanding that the use of nuclear energy is a national choice to be made by each member state and this will continue to be the case”. But the report continues: “There is a recognised concern that the Euratom Treaty needs to evolve in line with a more united, stronger and democratic EU.” In addition, the report suggests that the incoming European Commission “should also take initiatives to increase the involvement of civil society in nuclear policymaking. The report adds: “On some nuclear matters, the availability of information can be understandably limited, especially in the field of nuclear security. While this is a legitimate concern, issues such as nuclear safety, the management of radioactive waste and emergency planning deserve to continue to be debated as openly as possible in line with existing rules.” The report rightly notes that, in the area of responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, it is of “utmost importance that member states continue to develop comprehensive plans for the management of nuclear waste and implement these plans”. I also would not find fault with the report’s conclusion that, “when cross-border impact is at stake, cross-border consultations between member states should be promoted as well as stronger involvement of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). Talking and cooperating to maximise the benefits of clean nuclear energy, and advance nuclear technologies as part of a wider energy mix for those countries that wish to, is something that the nuclear energy industry has championed on the European and world stage. Problems only arise when attempts are made to frustrate the use of nuclear energy for purely political ends. Therefore, we have to take care that, however well meaning proposals to amend the Euratom Treaty might be, those intentions are not subverted to dilute the authority of the governments, regulators and industry leaders in those EU states that choose to use and advance nuclear. Author We need to remain alert! John Shepherd Nuclear Today Proposals to ‘Evolve’ Euratom Treaty Should Be Handled with Care ı John Shepherd
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