European Commission nuclear safety package a "fraud"

Press release - January 30, 2003

Greenpeace has called on the European Commission to reject misleading proposals, ostensibly intended to increase nuclear safety but hiding their true purpose: to revitalize an ailing and struggling nuclear industry. The so-called 'nuclear package', a loose grouping of legislation on safety standards, uranium imports and nuclear waste management is to be formally considered for adoption at the Commission's meeting to be held in Brussels today.

"It is clear that the main intention of the 'nuclear package'is to promote nuclear power and it has little if anything to do with nuclear safety. On the contrary, it will be used to subsidize a decaying western European nuclear industry and will do nothing to prevent further nuclear accidents", said Greenpeace EU Advisor Ms. Arjette Stevens.

Just last week Greenpeace and other environmental groups exposed the lack of credibility on nuclear safety on the part of the Energy Directorate of the Commission when they revealed an apparent willingness to fund the completion of a Chernobyl-type reactor at Kursk in Russia. In addition to the serious misgivings held by Greenpeace, at least four member states - Austria, Belgium, Germany and Ireland - have questioned the legal basis of part of the 'nuclear package' of legislation (1) - based on Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty (2) and have concerns as to whether the correct procedure has been followed.

"A quick tally amongst Member States shows that the 'nuclear survival package' is controversial. The safety issue and the questions about the legal basis are good examples of this, but there are others. Radioactive waste disposal, for instance, is another matter upon which there is no agreement," added Stevens.

One proposal would allow the export of radioactive waste to third countries outside the EU. The only reason to leave this possibility open is because some of those EU states that have chosen the nuclear option have failed to find acceptable and failsafe ways to manage radioactive waste in their own countries. Greenpeace believes that any country that uses nuclear power should take responsibility for the wastes it produces.

"If it accepts the export of waste to less wealthy countries as a valid disposal option, the Commission would be endorsing international radioactive waste trade which is absolutely unacceptable. Does the EU wish to make Russia, for example, the radioactive waste dump for Europe or will those Member States who decided to use nuclear power live up to their responsibilities?," asked Stevens. "The Commission must come clean. Instead of planning for the revival of a dying industry it should engage its considerable resources to research, develop and promote a 100% clean renewable energy future in an enlarged EU," she concluded.

Notes: (1) At the Environment Council of 9 December 2002 the Austrian, Belgian, German and Irish delegations expressed their doubts as regards the legal basis chosen by the Commission to cover the proposals contained in its communication. Pending a more complete and detailed examination of the substance of the proposals, these delegations stated their intention to reserve their position. (2) The Article 31 Group of Experts - radiation and health experts - was not established to consider the areas of nuclear safety standards, decommissioning funds and radioactive waste management strategies that are the principal matters addressed in the draft directives. While this group may have useful input into radiological protection standards, the issues in question require additional expertise in other unrelated fields. Indeed, in their Opinions the Article 31 Expert Group and the Science and Technology Committee have said they were not in a position to comment in detail on much of the substance of the draft directives. Greenpeace believes Article 31 is not the correct legal basis for both the directives on nuclear safety and radioactive waste management. The only obvious rationale for its choice would be that it merely requires qualified majority voting at the Council level. From this, it appears the Commission is trying to avoid a Council decision that will require unanimity, as would have been the case if the proposals had been made pursuant to Article 203 of the Euratom Treaty.