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Nuclear safety in the Newly Independent States and Central and Eastern Europe

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This Communication evaluates the Commission's contribution towards the improvement of nuclear safety in the Newly Independent States (NIS) and in Central and Eastern Europe and to present proposals for future Community action.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 6 September 2000. Commission support to nuclear safety in the Newly Independent States and in Central and Eastern Europe.

SUMMARY

Context

1. The Commission adopted a communication in March 1998 setting out the actions taken by the Community in the area of nuclear safety in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Newly Independent States (NIS). The communication contained proposals for future orientation. The present communication aims to provide an update on developments in this sector since 1998 and to present the Commission's current approach to this subject.

2. The Commission's Approach

The Commission's approach is based on two main objectives which are fully in line with the policy of the international community:

  • In the short term, to improve operational safety; to make technical improvements to plants based on safety assessments and to enhance regulatory regimes ;
  • In the long term, to examine the scope for replacing less safe plants by the development of alternative energy sources and more efficient use of energy and to examine the potential for upgrading plants of more recent design.

3. The Implementation of the existing strategy

Generally, the Commission works to promote policy dialogue, to provide technical and financial assistance and to ensure a high level of human health protection in the Member States and neighbouring countries.

The instruments used include:

  • The Financial Framework:

* The Phare (for Central and Eastern Europe) and Tacis (for the NIS) Community programmes to provide technical assistance as well as a number of other programmes;

* Euratom loans;

* On an international level, the EU contribution to the Nuclear Safety Account administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD);

* Pre-accession funds to support nuclear safety in the candidate countries. Priority is given to this as part of EU enlargement.

  • The Political Framework:

* In 1992, committees and working parties were set up, bringing together nuclear regulators from the EU, the NIS and countries in Central and Eastern Europe, notably the CONCERT group and the Nuclear Regulators Working Group (NRWG);

*The European Nuclear Installations Safety Group (ENIS) was formed bringing together nuclear regulators and operators from the Member States and candidate countries.

4. Progress to date: In summary, the progress made in nuclear safety in these countries is as follows:

  • Agreement to close non-upgradable units in Lithuania, Slovakia and Bulgaria. The Commission is now working closely with each government to ensure the implementation of the agreed closure commitments and has established three national PHARE programmes.
  • A major contribution to dealing with the problems at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the decision to shut it down on 15 December 2000;
  • Continuous on-site assistance in 14 NIS and in Bulgaria ;
  • Independent regulatory authorities have been strengthened through EU technical and financial assistance, notably through the CONCERT and NRWG group;
  • Increased nuclear safety levels in the nuclear power plants under construction in Slovakia, the Ukraine and in Russia through Phare and Tacis (linked with possible Euratom loans);
  • Improved operating practices thanks to the provision of equipment;
  • Attention has been focused on teh problem of waste management and environmental hazards in Central and Eastern Europe. The situation is being comprehensively documented and imported;
  • The profile of the issues related to the decommissioning of nuclear facilities has been raised to take account of other factors, such as technical, legal or environmental issues;
  • The opening of the Russian Methodological and Training Centre (RMTC) was an important factor in the establishment of a State System for Nuclear Material Accounting and Control in Russia.

Furthermore, the EU has provided support for the development and improvement of energy strategies,including the development of alternative energy sources and improving energy efficiency.

In 1992, the Community helped to create the International Centre for Science and Technology (ISTC) in Moscow, which also operates in other NIS countries to redirect the talents of nuclear weapons experts following the fall of the Soviet empire

5. Budget allocated

Over the period 1991-1992, the EU committed a total of EUR 913 million to efforts in this sector. EUR 192 million in Phare and EUR 721 million in Tacis, including a EUR 100 million contribution to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund.

A total of 950 projects have been financed, 300 under Phare and 650 under Tacis. 450 projects are ongoing and another 200 are being prepared. The financial support likely to be provided by the EU is limited compared with needs.

6. Analysis and future prospects: candidate countries

Nuclear energy generation will continue to play an important part in the overall energy mix in at least six of the candidate countries in the foreseeable future. Seven of the thirteen candidate countries have nuclear power plants either in operation or under construction. Three of the candidate countries, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia, have undertaken to decommission nuclear power units which were considered not to be upgradable at a reasonable cost. The Commission is therefore involved in the implementation of closure commitments on the one hand and in nuclear safety issues such as the modernisation of existing plants on the other.

The Commission has begun to provide financial support for the closure of units in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. The closure will take place in stages. In Bulgaria, Kozloduy units 1 and 2 will be closed before 2003. The decision on closure dates for units 3 and 4 will be taken in 2002 in agreement with the Commission. In Lithuania, Ignalina unit 1 will be closed before 2005 and the decision on closure dates for units 3 and 4 will be taken in 2004. The Commission understands that closure will take place by 2009 at the latest. The two Bohunice VI units in Slovakia will be shut down in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

The Commission estimates that the total support will amount to EUR 150 million for Slovakia and EUR 165 million for Lithuania by the end of the present 2000-2006 Financial Perspective. The Commission has proposed a multi-annual assistance package of EUR 200 million for the period up to 2006. The delivery of half of this amount will depend on the confirmation in 2002 on the Understanding on definitive closure dates for Kozloduy units 3 and 4. This support will come under Phare via EBRD-managed international grant funds established on 12 June 2000 to aid the decommissioning of these three stations. It is essential that high safety levels are maintained during the transition period. With regard to other nuclear safety questions, some of the nuclear reactors are either of Soviet or Western design and can be upgraded to acceptable safety levels. These consist of the Kozloduy units 5 and 6 in Bulgaria, the Cernavoda units 1 (operating) and 2 (under construction) in Romania, two of the units in Bohunice and two others in Mochovce in Slovakia, the Krsko station in Slovenia (jointly owned by Slovenia and Croatia), 4 units in Paks in Hungary, 4 units in Dukovany and one in Temelin in the Czech Republic.

The Commission will develop, together with the candidate countries concerned, define other measures that will have to be taken before further assistance is given:

  • Support for nuclear regulators through the "Regulatory Assistance Management Group" (RAM-G) and Technical Support Organisation Group (TSOG);
  • Short term urgent safety improvements to the reactors that will have to be closed down. These concern the need to maintain safety levels in Iglnalina unit 2 and Kozloduy units 3 and 4 in particular, whilst awaiting their closure. No Community assistance will be considered for projects which could contribute to prolonging the operation of these reactors beyond the provisions of the agreed closure commitments.
  • In specific cases, support for the safety enhancing programmes of VVER 440-213 and VVER 1000 reactors, in the form of regulatory review, project management and operational assistance
  • Co-operation on research under the fifth framework programme ;
  • Off-site emergency preparedness, with regard to public health surveillance in particular ;
  • Strengthening of the regulatory and institutional infrastructure with regard to radioactive waste and spent fuel ;
  • Safeguards projects aimed at preventing illicit trafficking.

7. Analysis and future prospects: the Newly Independent States (NIS)

It has been difficult to agree to a general approach to safety issues with some of these countries, mainly due to the fact that both the Community budget and that of the candidate countries available for nuclear safety projects is very small in relation to needs. There are also differences between the different countries: geographical, industrial or even willingness to engage in this debate, amongst others. Future policy of the Commission has to bear these factors in mind. The levels of nuclear safety in these countries are still a cause for concern.

The Tacis programme, which covers the period 2000-2006, sets out three priorities for the nuclear safety programme in the NIS:

  • The promotion of an effective nuclear safety culture;
  • The development and implementation of strategies for dealing with spent fuel, decommissioning and managing nuclear waste;
  • Contribution to international initiatives such as the G7/EU initiative on the closure of Chernobyl.

The programme provides for support in the application of efficient safeguards systems.

Future EU assistance should aim to:

  • Strengthen the role of the national nuclear safety authorities to encourage improved licensing procedures and to ensure regulatory involvement in all relevant nuclear activities;
  • For on-site assistance, linking NIS nuclear power plants with EU operators;
  • Promote some projects in support of nuclear safety;
  • Support regulatory type work, in particular, safety analyses which are compatible with the remaining lifetime of the reactors;
  • Improve spent fuel and radioactive waste management and encourage the timely preparation of decommissioning;
  • Help to improve the corporate structures of nuclear utilities and industrial nuclear operators in order to bring about a financially sound electricity and nuclear sector;
  • Provide Euratom loans in order to improve nuclear safety, especially reactors;
  • Promote and develop safeguards projects with three major objectives: training of inspectors and plant operators, accountability of nuclear material and implementation of measures at plant level to prevent illicit trafficking.

All measures taken will be subject to technical control and will be technically monitored by the Commission.

8. National aspects of the NIS

Armenia
The Armenian government has agreed to close its plant in 2004 provided that a secure energy alternative is available. The Commission is working with the Armenians with regard to its closure, alternative sources of supply and on-site assistance at the Medzamor nuclear power plant.

Kazakhstan
T
he Aktau nuclear power plant has benefited from on-site assistance since 1994. Moreover, a rather unique case in the NIS, the government decided to decommission the plant in 1999. For the time being, assistance is limited to preparing for decommissioning.

Russian Federation
Russia is the only state of the former Soviet Union involved in all aspects of nuclear power and is therefore of particular importance. Nuclear energy is an important source of electricity and the civil nuclear industry is also a major source of employment. Russia clearly wishes nuclear energy to continue to be predominant in its overall energy mix. It continues to build new reactors and has a policy of prolonging of the life-span of its reactors.

The EU and Russia have co-operated in a number of projects under Tacis. However, unlike the case with other countries, EU financial aid is not vital, even if it is considered as a welcome addition to national funding.

There are fundamental differences between the EU and Russian in their approaches to nuclear safety. This is especially clear from Russia's persistent breaches of its agreement on nuclear safety with the EBRD.

Russia has a policy of extending the life of its first-generation reactors to exceed the nominal lifetime of 30 years. The Commission does not advocate such a policy.

Nevertheless, the Commission does wish to promote increased co-operation with Russia in this field, whilst respecting its national policy. Some of the specific co-operative aspects envisaged by the Commission are: Euratom loan financing, co-operation on nuclear safeguards, co-operation between nuclear regulatory authorities and in radioactive waste management in northwestern Russia, etc.

Ukraine
The Ukraine recieved a grant of EUR 100 million under the Tacis nuclear safety programme 1994-1996. The Commission focused on the following priorities during this period: the establishment of a decommissioning plan for the Chernobyl reactors, support for energy sector reform and for the preparation of the major power replacement project, to ensure that the two new reactors to be built are in accordance with international safety standards.

The Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) is now being implemented at present under a special fund managed by the EBRD to which Tacis contributed EUR 90.4 million over 1998-1999.

Future strategies include the continuation of assistance to Chernobyl, nuclear safety awareness, encouragement to press ahead with energy sector reform and continued co-operation on the completion of new reactors.

9. Analysis and future prospects: Implementation

During implementation, particularly where tenders are concerned, the Commission must take the specific nature of the nuclear sector into account, namely the absence of competition and the necessity to work with public bodies.

Delays in project implementation are significant. The Commission aims to resolve this problem by clarifying the rules and contract types for each area and by adapting contracts in accordance with the complexity and specificity of this sector. Nuclear safety staff within the Commission have been reorganised to improve efficiency and the Commission has proposed that, from 2001 onwards, there should be a single budget heading for financial assistance to nuclear safety in the NIS.

10. Conclusions

Since 1991, the Commission has made an important contribution towards improving nuclear safety in these countries. However, much remains to be done and the Commission must see to it that nuclear safety remains a high priority in these countries. The Commission must also continue to contribute to building an economic and legal environment to ensure that the necessary work can be completed.

Last updated: 10.05.2007
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