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Brussels, 25 June 2009

The EU establishes a common binding framework on nuclear safety

Today's adoption by the Council of the Nuclear Safety Directive is a major step for achieving a common legal framework and a strong safety culture in Europe. The EU has thus become the first major regional nuclear actor to provide binding legal force to the main international nuclear safety standards, namely the Safety Fundamentals established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 1 and the obligations resulting from the Convention on Nuclear Safety 2 . The Directive also reinforces the independence and resources of the national competent regulatory authorities.

"Nuclear safety is an absolute priority for the EU. This Nuclear Safety Directive brings legal certainty by clarifying responsibilities and provides increased guarantees to the public as required by EU citizens. It sets binding principles for enhancing nuclear safety to protect workers and the general public, as well as the environment. Continuous development of nuclear safety is a responsibility not just for Europe, but for the world; not simply for us but also for coming generations”, said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The EU has the largest number of nuclear power plants in the world and today, a number of Member States plan investments or life extensions of nuclear power plants in order to meet the growing electricity demand, improve security of supply and tackle climate change. In the context of an enlarged EU there is therefore a need for a common approach to guarantee the highest level of nuclear safety by establishing binding rules with regard to the safety of nuclear installations. The revised nuclear safety Directive, tabled by the Commission on 26 November 2008 3 and adopted today by the Council, is an adequate response to this need. The European Parliament 4 and the European Economic and Social Committee 5 have overwhelmingly endorsed this approach.

The Directive requires Member States in particular to set up and continuously improve national nuclear safety frameworks. The Directive enhances the role and independence of national regulatory authorities, confirming license holders the prime responsibility for nuclear safety. Member States are required to encourage a high level of transparency of regulatory actions and to guarantee regular independent safety assessments.

The EU is the first major regional nuclear actor to provide a binding legal framework on nuclear safety. Europe could thus become a real model for the rest of the world in a context of renewed interest in nuclear energy.

1 :

Fundamental safety principles, IAEA Safety Standard Series No. SF-1 (2006).

2 :

Signed on 24 October 1996 under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

3 :

Commission p roposal of 26 November 2008 for a Council directive (Euratom) setting up a Community framework for nuclear safety (COM(2008)790final).

4 :

European Parliament legislative resolution of 22 April 2009 on the proposal for a Council directive (Euratom) setting up a Community framework for nuclear safety (COM(2008)790final).

5 :

Opinion of 10 June 2009 of the European Economic and Social Committee on the proposal for a Council directive (Euratom) setting up a Community framework for nuclear safety (COM(2008)790final).

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