Brussels, 12 October 2007
Nuclear and non nuclear countries launch first meeting of the new High Level Group on Safety and Waste Management
The High Level Group (HLG), which was created by the European Commission in order to develop common understanding and reinforce common approaches in the fields of nuclear safety and waste management, held its first meeting today. The Group, composed of senior officials from national regulatory or nuclear safety authorities, should develop common understanding that will help the Commission identify priority safety issues, as well as advise the Commission in progressively developing European rules regarding the safety of nuclear installations and the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The European Council of 8-9 March 2007 endorsed the Commission's proposal to create the European High Level Group on Nuclear Safety and Waste management. With the support of various other EU institutions for this idea, the European Commission established the group on 17 July this year.
Commissioner Piebalgs opened the meeting by reaffirming his personal commitment to ensuring that a high level of nuclear safety continues to be the priority in Europe. "It is up to each Member State to decide whether to have nuclear power or not. But the question of nuclear safety and waste management concerns everybody. The High Level Group, with experts from all Member States, will be essential in helping us achieve our common goals in this field".
The participants discussed the Group's working methods and purpose. The members will develop more detailed proposals at the next meeting. Emphasis was also given to the work undertaken by the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA) to establish nuclear safety reference levels at EU level, the Working Party on Nuclear Safety established by the Council in 2005, as well as to the initiatives carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)/ Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In principle the Group will convene several times a year to discuss and follow up the agreed work programme. Expert groups might be established next year to provide technical support for the realisation of the work programme.
The latest Nuclear Illustrative Programme, presented by the Commission on 10 January and adopted last week, underlines the need to develop common instruments in the framework of nuclear safety, including the establishment of a High Level Group on nuclear safety and waste management.
On 8 May 2007 the Council of Ministers drew conclusions proposing possible work orientation and suggesting a list of actions for the Group; the European Parliament subsequently adopted the 50 years of European nuclear energy policy report, where it invited the Commission and the Council to act on nuclear safety, taking note of the of the initiative to establish a High Level Group. Finally, the European Economic and Social Committee also adopted a favourable opinion on the content of the Nuclear Illustrative programme. The Commission took a decision to establish the HLG on 17 July 2007.
Transparency and consultations with different stakeholders will be a central feature of the work of the Group. Following a request of the Council of Ministers, the Group will issue regular reports on its activities to the EP and other interested parties. The HLG is based on the example of previous successful experiences, like ERGEG (The European Regulators Group for Electricity and Gas) and will work on the basis of consensus by identifying its own priorities with a "bottom-up" approach, building on existing experience and avoiding duplication.
The objective is to find a way forward and start to fill the existing EU legislative gap in nuclear safety and waste. To date, the European Commission has already taken a number of initiatives in the field of nuclear safety, waste management and decommissioning, such as recommendations on the financing of decommissioning activities, a Directive on the shipment of radioactive waste and the establishment of a Nuclear Energy Technology Platform.