Multilateral relations in Europe

Europe constitutes the priority field of international action for ASN, which thereby intends contributing to the construction of a Europe of nuclear safety, of safety of management of nuclear waste and spent fuel and of radiation protection.

The Nuclear Safety Directive

Brief history of the EU's competences in terms of Nuclear Safety

In a judgement on December 10, 2002 (affaire C-29/99 Commission of the European Communities vs. Council of the European Union ), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), noting that an artificial distinction could not be established between radiation protection and nuclear safety, recognised the principle of the existence of a community competence in the field of nuclear safety in relation to chapter 3 of the Euratom treaty. Paragraph 82 of the Judgement thus states "In the light of points 74 to 81 of the present judgement, it is not appropriate, in order to define the Community's competences, to draw an artificial distinction between the protection of the health of the general public and the safety of sources of ionising radiation".

Further to the judgement of the CJEU, the European Commission adopted two directive proposals on January 30, 2003, commonly referred as the "nuclear package", one defining the general principles in the area of the safety of nuclear facilities, the other on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. However, the "nuclear package" could not be adopted by the Council of the European Union because several EU member States opposed it.

Consequently, in June 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions recommending that the work to further harmonisation in nuclear safety should be continued, and at the end of 2004 decided on a "nuclear plan of action". ASN actively participated in the work of thead hocGroup created to implement this plan.

Further to the recommendations formulated by this group, on July 17, 2007 the Commission created the European High Level Group (HLG) on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management, which subsequently changed its name to ENSREG (European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group).

Further to the work of ENSREG, the European Commission adopted a proposal of directive on November 26, 2008 defining a general framework indicating the obligations and principles in terms of nuclear safety of nuclear installations in the European Union while at the same time stepping up the role of the national Safety Authorities. The directive was finally approved on June 25, 2009.

A directive on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste was moreover adopted in 2011.

European directive on the safety of nuclear facilities

The discussions on a directive to "establish a community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations" (2009/71/EURATOM), which began in November 2008, continued until June 25, 2009.

The EU member have to set up a legislative framework on nuclear safety (Article 4) and to establish an independent regulatory body (Article 5).

It also sets out the obligations of the nuclear facility licensees (Article 6), insisting on the question of availability of competences (Article 7) and informing the general public (Article 8).

Lastly, it provides for a European IRRS (Article 9) model in accordance with the principles of nuclear safety, to foster "continuous improvement" in practices in this area.

Although it was presented as a "framework" directive setting out the broad principles of nuclear safety, this regulatory text puts an end to a curious situation, namely the absence of European legislation in terms of nuclear safety, whereas the EU, with the EURATOM Treaty, had one of the most advanced legislations in the nuclear field and accommodates nearly 150 nuclear reactors in Europe.

Due to Fukushima accident in March 2011, on the basis of a mandarte given by the Council of European Union, the European Commission presented a revision proposal for the directive in June 13, 2013 and the negotiations will carry on by the mid of the Year 2014.

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Date of last update : 25/09/2017