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In this Communication, the European Commission presents the global context for nuclear power and the renewed interest in this type of energy. In view of the potential risks that the use of this energy can generate, the Commission proposes to strengthen existing instruments in the area of nuclear non-proliferation.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 26 March 2009 - Communication on nuclear non-proliferation [COM(2009) 143 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication reports on the nuclear situation at global level and proposes solutions aimed at promoting nuclear non-proliferation.
Nuclear energy is attracting renewed interest in view of rising energy demand at global level on the one hand, and a commitment to reducing CO2 emissions on the other. Wider exploitation of nuclear energy may present risks of nuclear incidents or diversion of technology for non-peaceful uses.
In view of these risks, the international community must ensure that the principle of nuclear non-proliferation is respected - particularly the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) norms. The United Nations Convention, adopted in 2005, concerning the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism also has a role to play, as does the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The European Commission supports the principle of nuclear non-proliferation and considers that the IAEA and Euratom should enhance their cooperation in this regard.
The foreign and security policy (CFSP) is the main instrument available to the European Union (EU) to promote nuclear non-proliferation and in particular the European security strategy and the strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Other instruments developed on the basis of treaties contribute to promoting nuclear non-proliferation in third countries such as:
- the Instrument for Stability (IfS);
- the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA);
- the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC).
The Instrument for Stability aims inter alia to assist third countries in developing their capacities to prevent risks related to chemical, biological and nuclear materials. This type of aid will be extended to areas in South-East Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa. Its aim is to develop security in the fields concerned.
The Euratom Treaty also provides a framework for nuclear non-proliferation through:
- safeguards concerning the prevention of the diversion of fissile materials (plutonium, uranium and thorium);
- radiation protection, physical protection and export controls. The Euratom legislation provides for authorisations and notifications dealing with the regulatory control of nuclear materials;
- the Euratom Supply Agency which authorises the conclusion of supply contracts verifies that supply contracts are concluded for peaceful purposes and establishes export authorisation procedures;
- research and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) which are a basis for all Community research programmes in the nuclear field.
Possible ways forward
The Commission proposes the following options as regards nuclear non-proliferation:
- to enhance support for the treaty on non-proliferation and nuclear safeguards, by redefining the international framework, combating illicit trafficking and the introduction of appropriate sanctions in case of violation of commitments;
- extending cooperation with key nuclear countries through Euratom agreements and the conclusion of new bilateral agreements;
- contributing to the development of an international system of guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel by creating a nuclear fuel bank under the control of the IAEA.
Nuclear power is taking a predominant place in the current global context. An increasing number of countries are seeking to implement civil nuclear energy programmes. It is therefore deemed necessary to strengthen international guarantees of non-proliferation in order to safeguard international safety and security.