Commission Upbraided for Pro-nuclear Stance

Views on BG | March 1, 2004, Monday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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The controversial issue of nuclear energy and how far it should be promoted in the EU is set to raise its head again this month when the European Commission decides whether to fund a nuclear reactor in Romania.

Green organization Friends of the Earth has sent a letter to all European Commissioners demanding that the decision, set to be taken on 24 March, be postponed.

"Euratom [the EU's nuclear treaty] loans are currently arranged in secret. There is as yet no requirement on the Commission to publicly register loan applications as they are received, nor to hold any kind of public consultation on applications that are in progress", says the letter.

The organization wants to take the matter to the European Ombudsman as it accuses the Commission of withholding key assessment reports and not saying what the money should be used for.

The "decision must be postponed while information about it has been released and can be assessed. As EU citizens, we demand our rights under the treaties to openness and transparency, and to participate in decisions", said Friends of the earth campaigner Mark Johnston.

If the Commission does agree to fund the nuclear plant in Romania - which is likely to become a member of the EU in 2007 - it is set to re-open a general discussion about nuclear safety in the EU as enlargement creeps closer.

Many reactors, no common rules

As of 1 May, thirteen of the twenty-five member states will have nuclear energy but there will be no common set of rules for regulating safety.

In several of the new member states concern about the state of nuclear reactors has been expressed - particularly in the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

They have all promised to take steps to upgrade their reactors or close them down as a condition of EU membership.

However, as there are no common rules from 1 May, there are fears that their Soviet style reactors will not be properly secured.

"There are no rules; they can do nothing if they want", a EU official told the EUobserver.

In 2002, Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio proposed unprecedented powers for the Commission to supervise the safety of reactors.

However, her plans were immediately opposed by France and the UK - big users of nuclear power in the EU - and have yet to be approved.

"Opposition is led by the UK", claimed one diplomat adding, "you could ask why they are against having inspections".

Nuclear treaty

For anti-nuclear green organisations, the whole issue of revising Euratom is thrown into the equation.

This founding treaty of the EU (1957), which has an indefinite lifespan and has never been reviewed, promotes nuclear power in the Union.

And while nuclear issues are so contentious, the issue was never really fully dealt with during the Convention on the Future of Europe in 2002/2003, which drew up the EU Constitution.

This means that the treaty is likely to be tacked on as a protocol to the Constitution - however non-nuclear states, such as Austria, have not given up the fight.

Together with green groups they are hoping that the whole issue of nuclear power in a future EU may eventually be dealt with in a separate intergovernmental conference.
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