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Research Report

The Nuclear Safety Framework in the European Union After Fukushima

Franklin Dehousse
Didier Verhoeven
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2014
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 36
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 5-5)
    Franklin Dehousse and Didier Verhoeven

    On 11 March 2011, a devastating earthquake struck Japan and caused a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. This disaster confirmed that nuclear reactors must be protected even against accidents that have been assessed as highly unlikely. It also revealed a well-known catalogue of problems: faulty design, insufficient back-up systems, human error, inadequate contingency plans, and poor communications. The catastrophe triggered the rapid launch of a major re-examination of nuclear reactor security in Europe.

    It also stopped in its tracks what had appeared to be a ‘nuclear renaissance’, both in Europe and globally, especially in the emerging...

  2. (pp. 7-10)

    Although sometimes overlooked, the EU’s nuclear sector currently employs about 500,000 people, including those working in the supply chain. It generates approximately €70 billion in revenue per year. It provides roughly 30% of the electricity consumed in the EU.³ This electricity is stable, secure from a supply perspective, CO2-free, and affordable. On the other hand, the insurance costs of possible damage remain hypothetical, and the treatment of waste unresolved.

    Between 1995 and 2012, the share of nuclear power generation followed a downward trend. In many Member States, broader public opinion, especially after the two most serious power plant incidents in...

  3. (pp. 11-21)

    Civil nuclear energy is covered by a specific European treaty, the Euratom Treaty, which established the EAEC. In the 1950s, nuclear energy generated extravagant hopes of unlimited electricity, and was seen as the energy source of the future. However, after the Treaty’s conclusion, the development of Euratom’s activities was brought to a halt by the proximity of civil to defense aspects. For decades, little happened. It was the Chernobyl disaster that provoked a renewal of interest in these activities.10 More legislative texts were adopted.11 Euratom acceded to various international conventions. It concluded bilateral agreements. It also began to offer financial...

  4. (pp. 23-24)

    Euratom and the IAEA have developed extensive scientific and technological cooperation over many years. The partnership started in 1973 with the signature of the agreement between the IAEA and Euratom in connection with the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.58 In practice and pursuant to Article 17, paragraph 1 of the TEU, the Commission represents the EU and in this case the Euratom Community on international forums and negotiates bilateral agreements with international organizations or third countries.

    In recent years, the cooperation between the IAEA and the EU has grown significantly. The EU and its Member States are...

  5. (pp. 25-30)

    A few days after the Fukushima accident, a European response was launched.64 The European Council, in its conclusion of 24-25 March 2011, declared that:

    the safety of all EU nuclear plants should be reviewed, on the basis of a comprehensive and transparent risk assessment (‘stress tests’); the European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group (ENSREG65) and the Commission are invited to develop as soon as possible the scope and modalities of these tests in a coordinated framework in the light of the lessons learned from the accident in Japan and with the full involvement of Member States, making full use of available...

  6. (pp. 31-35)

    In June 2013, the Commission presented a Draft Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 2009/71/EURATOM establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations.92 This draft proposal was accompanied by three Staff Working Documents.93

    The proposed amendments aimed to enhance the regulatory framework for nuclear safety in the EU, in particular by

    strengthening the role and effective independence of the national regulatory authorities;

    enhancing transparency on nuclear safety matters;

    strengthening principles, and introducing new general nuclear safety objectives and requirements, addressing specific technical issues across the entire life cycle of nuclear installations, particularly NPPs;

    reinforcing monitoring and...

  7. (pp. 37-37)

    The Fukushima catastrophe has had a major effect on the future of nuclear energy everywhere, and especially in Europe. An important, and additional element is that, unlike the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl plants, the Japanese plant continues to leak irradiated components nearly four years after the tsunami.

    Japan’s economic fate since 2011 can be seen as a cautionary tale. The instantaneous removal of nuclear energy from its power supply system has been expensive. The trade balance has swung aggressively from surplus to deficit, and this remains a persistent problem. Obviously, the relaunch of the post-financial-crash Japanese economy has suffered...