Further to the Chernobyl accident that occurred on 26th April 1986 and the opening of the Soviet bloc, the G7 summit in Munich in July 1992 defined three priority lines of assistance to the countries of Eastern Europe in the area of nuclear safety:
- help improve the operational safety of the existing reactors
- financially support the improvement measures that can be taken in the short term on the less safe reactors;
- improve the organisation of oversight of safety by identifying the responsibilities of the various entities involved and reinforcing the role and the competences of the local nuclear safety authorities.
Assistance programmes have been set up by the European Commission to achieve these objectives. They constitute the nuclear part of the PHARE (Poland Hungary Assistance for Restructuring of the Economy) programmes, which more particularly addressed the candidate countries for entry into the European Union, and TACIS (Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States), intended for the countries of the ex-Soviet Union.
These two programmes were respectively replaced in 2007 by the Instrument of Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC) which extends to all countries in the world with no geographical limits.
ASN coordinates the programmes conducted in the Ukraine, Vietnam and China and has participated in projects providing regulatory assistance to the Russian Federation, the Ukraine Kazakhstan and Egypt.
These actions are supplemented by other international technical assistance programmes that respond to resolutions taken by the G7 to improve nuclear safety in third countries and which are financed by contributions from donor countries and from the European Union.
ASN thus took part in expert groups reporting to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) tasked with managing multilateral funds to finance the following actions.
- delicensing of nuclear reactors in Bulgaria (Kozloduy 1 to 4), Lithuania (Ignalina 1 & 2) and Slovakia (Bohunice V1 1 & 2);
- installation of a new sarcophagus for Chernobyl unit 4, where the accident occurred in April 1986, and the construction of storage and reprocessing facilities for the spent fuel and waste still present on the site.
- decommissioning of the Russian nuclear submarines withdrawn from services and radiological clean-up of the White Sea naval bases.
Lastly, in the area of nuclear safety ASN participate, within the French delegation, in the Nuclear Safety and Security Group - NSSG of the G8 (G7 + Russian Federation).
ASN observes that significant progress has been made in the three priority axes defined by the G7 and that, as a result of this, the safety authorities of the states that joined the European Union on 1st May 2004 have reached a level where they no longer require assistance.
Nevertheless, in the States of the ex-Soviet Union, the objective will only be reached in the longer term due to the profound changes it implies: adaptation of the structures of the State itself, a change in mentalities to accept the independence of the nuclear safety authorities and establish their credibility, reinforcing of their status and the means at their disposal. The reorganisation of the safety regulation services that took place in Russia in 2008 continues to be the subject of close examination in this respect. An IRRS mission in which an expert from ASN took part was held in Russia from 14th to 27th November 2009.
Lastly, ASN is conducting a reflection with its main counterparts on assistance in setting up safety infrastructures, particularly in the context of the International Nuclear Regulators Association (see INRA), here again with the concern to develop harmonised approaches that take account of the experience of the authorities of the different countries.